Hair Relaxers and their Effects on Your Health

Anaya Balkcom

As a child, if your mother was planning on styling your hair, there’s a good chance she went to the beauty supply store beforehand to purchase supplies. If you went with her, you might remember the assortment of colored hair beads and barrets, along with the aromas that filled the air escaping from the product bottles. 

Another part of this experience you might remember is passing by the boxes labeled Just for Me, with a picture of a young black girl grinning ear to ear, sporting her stylish hair-do. 

Just for Me sells various hair products, one of them being hair relaxers. Unfortunately, although hair relaxers provided many with an alternative way of styling their hair, it also came with a significant price. 

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Over the course of a decade, people have been straying away from using hair relaxers to improve their hair health. During this time, research started to show that the chemicals used in these products may cause health issues. As a result, more speculation started to pick up on social media, placing these products under the microscope. Unfortunately, the results of this speculation have been proven to be deadly.

According to, “This new research reveals that in a sample of 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women between 1997 and 2009, Black women had reportedly two or three times higher rate of uterine fibroids.”

Chemicals such as phthalates and parabens, amongst other chemicals, are also known as endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are “a chemical compound that interferes with the normal functioning of the endocrine system and the reproductive and other biological processes regulated by it.” According to Oxford Languages. 

The body is able to absorb these toxic chemicals due to its application through the scalp. Additionally, burns, as well as other damages to the scalp, also aggravate the scalp during this absorption process. 

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 According to the National Institutes of Health, “We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” said Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study.” 

A product once used to provide versatility has now threatened the lives of all who have used it. A product that was once a trusted household name and rite of passage among many has now provided a problem bigger than its solution. 

When interviewing  teacher Janise Mitchell, who was once an avid user of the product, about her current feelings towards the situation, she stated, “Since the product was on shelves across the country, I assumed the FDA tested these products for our safety. However, when I discovered this product advertised to the black community was causing cancer, fibroids, and death, I was highly disappointed and disturbed that our government failed to protect us.”

A current university student Morgan Thomas also used the product, and although she used it for a limited time, she also had a remark about the situation. “I found this revelation to be extremely disheartening. It makes me wonder what other products in our day-to-day lives are harmful to our health.” 

Many of those who once used the product share the same sentiment of shock and horror toward the discovery. Another previous user of the hair-relaxing product, Tamika Jones, stated, “I’m astonished that a product created in the 1900s for our hair is now linked to cancer. Especially since we have been informed for centuries that our natural hair was deemed unacceptable and that straight hair was more professional and accepted.”

Since word has gotten out about the dangers of hair relaxers, more women of color have started to proudly wear their hair naturally. Showcasing the beauty of our God-given hair.

Categories: Health, science

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