Hair straightening has been a popular beauty trend among black women for decades, but in recent years there has been increasing concern about the safety of these products. In particular, a lawsuit filed in 2020 alleges that many hair straightening products marketed to black women contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen.
This article will explore the potential risks associated with straightening black women’s hair, as well as the ongoing lawsuit and what it may mean for the beauty industry.
What is formaldehyde, and why is it used in hair straightening products?
Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is commonly used in a variety of beauty products, including hair straightening treatments. The chemical is used as a preservative, but it also helps to straighten and smooth the hair. When applied to the hair, formaldehyde reacts with the hair proteins to create a chemical bond that straightens the hair.
However, formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen, meaning that it can cause cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde can cause cancer in animals and has been classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This means that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.
Lawsuit Alleging Dangerous Levels of Formaldehyde in Hair Straightening Products
In 2020, a hair relaxer lawsuit was filed against several major beauty companies alleging that their hair straightening products marketed to black women contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde. The lawsuit was filed by the Black Women for Wellness Health Collective and the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. It states that the companies falsely advertised their hair straightening products as formaldehyde-free when in fact, they contained dangerous levels of the chemical.
The lawsuit also claims that the companies knew about the risks associated with formaldehyde but failed to warn consumers. This, the lawsuit argues, has led to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems among black women who have used these products.
The Companies respond and FDA regulations
The companies named in the lawsuit have denied the allegations, stating that their products are safe and have been extensively tested. They also point out that formaldehyde is a common ingredient in hair straightening products and that the levels used in their products are safe.
The US FDA regulates these products, and it states on its website that in regards to hair straightening products containing formaldehyde: “When used as directed and with proper ventilation, hair smoothing products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are safe for use on the hair.” This means that it is not banned in the USA, but manufacturers must indicate that the product contains it in their labeling.
The potential risks of straightening black women’s hair
While the outcome of the lawsuit is yet to be determined, it is clear that there are potential risks associated with straightening black women’s hair. Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde, as well as other chemicals found in hair straightening products, can lead to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems.
Other chemicals commonly found in hair straightening products, such as sodium hydroxide, can also cause skin irritation, burning, and itching. Some straighteners can also cause hair damage and hair loss, leaving the hair with a dry and brittle texture.
The use of hair straightening products among black women is a long-standing tradition, but there are increasing concerns about the safety of these products. In particular, a lawsuit filed in 2020 alleges that many hair straightening products marketed to black women contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde. While the companies named in the lawsuit deny the allegations, it is clear that there are potential risks associated with straightening black women’s hair.