Study Warns Hairdressers Are Also at Risk for Ovarian Cancer from Chemical Hair Relaxers

Study Warns Hairdressers Are Also at Risk for Ovarian Cancer from Chemical Hair Relaxers

Chemical hair relaxers have recently made headlines for their links to several different types of reproductive cancer, including ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Thus far, most of the attention has been focused on women who have used chemical hair relaxers, but there is another group who is at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, and other hair stylists who regularly come into contact with the cancer-causing chemicals in these products are also more vulnerable to developing reproductive health problems like ovarian cancer.

Repeated exposure to the carcinogens in chemical hair relaxers has left many women to shoulder the physical, emotional, and financial costs of cancer treatment alone. A group of product liability lawsuits are currently making their way through the court system in the form of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Plaintiffs can still join the MDL, although they should secure their own personal injury attorney to represent their individual chemical hair relaxer lawsuit.

Occupational Exposure to Toxins in Chemical Hair Relaxers Increases Cancer Risk

A study of about 1400 Canadian workers, about a third of which had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, found that certain industries and occupations, such as hair stylists and barbers, had a higher cumulative exposure rate to numerous chemical agents which put them at an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Researchers believe that workers like hair stylists repeatedly come into contact with endocrine-disrupting chemicals like those found in chemical hair relaxers and accumulate these carcinogens in their systems over time.

Study Data Indicates Connection Between Occupational Hair Relaxer Exposure and Cancer Risk

They relied on a Canadian database that tracks occupation exposure to certain toxins and chemicals. For those who worked as hairdressers, barbers, or in other comparable occupations for 10 or more years, researchers estimated that the odds ratio (OR) for this group was 3.22. Odds ratios measure the relationship between an exposure and the outcome, in this case, a high cumulative exposure to 18 chemical agents, including known carcinogens found in chemical hair relaxers, such as formaldehyde.

Based on this data, researchers assert that the notable rate of exposure to these 18 chemical agents among hair stylists with ovarian cancer may indicate that this population is at a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. Hair stylists may be absorbing the chemical agents through their skin during repeated contact with chemical hair relaxers as they apply them to clients’ hair. This study’s conclusions are consistent with the findings of other studies that focus on people, usually women, who are exposed to carcinogens through the chemical hair relaxers used on their own hair, which are then absorbed through their scalps.  

Women Who Use Chemical Hair Relaxers Are More Likely to Develop Cancer

Several studies support the conclusion that the toxins in chemical hair relaxers cause a disruption to the body’s endocrine system once they have reached certain levels. Specifically, chemicals that are similar to the hormone estrogen have interfered with the body’s hormone balance, which is regulated by the endocrine system, causing the unchecked growth of damaged cells in a woman’s ovaries, uterus, and other reproductive organs.

Common Cancer Connected to Hair Relaxer Exposure

Thus far, studies have connected the repeated use of chemical hair relaxers to several reproductive health issues, including:

Researchers highlighted the risk of frequently using chemical hair relaxers in an October 2022 NIH report that found women who used these products more than four times a year, which is not an unusually high usage rate, were at twice the risk of developing uterine cancer. This report also cautioned that Black women, who are the primary demographic for chemical hair relaxers, were potentially at a greater risk as compared to other racial groups due to their high usage rates.

Claims Against Chemical Hair Relaxer Manufacturers Seek Compensation in a Multidistrict Litigation

Women who have developed cancer as a result of using chemical hair relaxers are pursuing product liability lawsuits against the makers of chemical hair relaxers, such as L’Oreal. They have accused these beauty companies of breaching their duty of care by failing to warn users about the carcinogens in their products. Despite increasing scrutiny, chemical hair relaxer manufacturers have not recalled their dangerous products.

In total, about 100 claims have been filed, with many more plaintiffs expected to join as the issue’s visibility grows. Due to the large number of personal injury claims based on similar facts, plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate their cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland is presiding over the multidistrict litigation, which is being conducted in the Northern District of Illinois. 

Since taking over the MDL, she has appointed lead counsel for the plaintiffs and the defendants. Plaintiffs can bring their claims to the Northern District of Illinois directly instead of waiting for them to be processed through their local court system before being transferred to the MDL. Additionally, a master complaint has been filed by plaintiffs, detailing the broad strokes of their complaints. Product liability attorneys are working closely with plaintiffs to lay the foundation for liability so they can recover the compensation they deserve.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney About Your Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

Many of the women in the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits are dealing with the long-term consequences of their cancer, including considerable medical bills, fertility issues, pain and suffering, and lost wages. The defendants in the MDL are highly motivated to avoid accepting liability, given the extent of the plaintiffs’ damages and the publicity this issue has received. The best way to protect your right to seek compensation for your damages is to hire a qualified chemical hair relaxer attorney to negotiate your claim.

They will have the legal experience and subject matter expertise to evaluate what your claim is worth and then build a convincing case to secure a settlement that matches that amount. Plaintiffs should not delay in seeking out legal representation to recover compensation for their damages, as the statute of limitations in certain states could impede their ability to pursue a chemical hair relaxer lawsuit.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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