What You Don't Know Could Hurt You: Breaking the Silence on Hair Relaxers and the Risks They Pose to Black Women
Within the world of hair care, there's one issue that remains particularly controversial: whether or not to relax your hair. If you thought the biggest risk associated with relaxers was the possibility of burns, then you'll definitely want to keep reading!
Did you know that hair relaxers, also known as the "creamy crack," have a long history in the Black community? In fact, Black entrepreneur Garrett Augustus Morgan unintentionally created modern-day relaxers in 1909 while trying to develop a solution to reduce friction in sewing machines. After realizing the potential of his invention, he founded the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining company which marketed to Black people.
For many Black women, hair relaxers have been a go-to solution for managing their hair, despite the health risks associated with these products. The pressure to have straightened hair has been a fixture in our community for several generations, often leading to harmful and hurtful comments such as "your hair is nappy" or "your hair is too kinky." Hearing these comments, especially as a young child or adolescent, was enough to make many of us believe that getting a relaxer was the only quick and effective solution. After all, it was only a decade ago, a staggering 80% of beauty supply stores catering to the Black community stocked products specifically designed for chemically straightened hair. Meanwhile, only 20% of products were made for Black women who chose to embrace their natural hair texture.
However, the real, medically proven risks associated with using hair relaxers were never discussed. Now, a class action lawsuit is bringing attention to the potentially deadly consequences of using these products. It's time for us to have an open and honest conversation about the risks of hair relaxers and find safer alternatives to manage our hair. As Black women, we deserve to feel confident and beautiful without sacrificing our health.
What is the class action lawsuit about?
In late 2021, a group of Black women filed a class action lawsuit against several major hair product companies, alleging that their hair relaxers caused them to develop cancer. The lawsuit argues that the companies knew about the dangers of their products but failed to adequately warn consumers or make their products safer. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
What are the health risks of hair relaxers?
During a relaxer treatment, the product is activated by your body temperature, which can lead to burning and inflammation if left on for too long. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there - the chemicals from the relaxer can actually seep into your bloodstream and travel through your lymphatic system. This means that when you urinate, the harmful chemicals from the relaxer can be passed through your reproductive system, potentially causing health issues like fibroids, cysts, and other dangerous elements to enter your body. The most concerning risk associated with hair relaxers is the increased risk of developing cancer. A study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that women who used hair relaxers were more likely to develop breast cancer, and a study by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that Black women who used hair relaxers were more likely to develop uterine fibroids.
Why are Black women at greater risk?
Black women have a unique hair texture that requires more maintenance and styling than other hair types. As a result, they are more likely to use hair products like relaxers, which contain harmful chemicals. Additionally, Black women are often exposed to environmental toxins and pollutants that can increase their risk of developing cancer. Finally, systemic racism and discrimination in the healthcare system mean that Black women are often diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, when it is more difficult to treat.
What can be done to protect Black women's health?
The lawsuit against hair product companies is an important step in holding these companies accountable for the harm caused by their products. However, other steps can be taken to protect Black women's health. For example, switching to natural hair care products free of harmful chemicals can help reduce the risk of cancer and other health problems.
Overall, we believe in empowering Black women to make informed decisions about their bodies and want to emphasize that we're not discouraging anyone from getting a hair relaxer but instead recognizing the obstacles Black women face in the medical field and the importance of having access to accurate information when making decisions about our health, including deciding if the potential risks of a relaxer are worth the desired outcome as there is more to these products than meets the eye. By understanding the risks associated with these products and taking steps to protect your health, you can regain control of your well-being and work towards a healthier future.