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Hairdresser relaxing the hair on an African woman head and also using comb to stretch and apply the relaxer cream through the hair

An Arizona woman recently filed a new hair relaxer lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She claims that after she use certain products, including Dark & Lovely and Optimum, she suffered from serious injuries. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Plaintiff Used Hair Relaxers/Straighteners for Years

The plaintiff states in her complaint that she started using the defendants’ products around 1992 when she was about 14 years old. She continued to use them frequently and regularly up until the time she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus that often appear during a woman’s childbearing years. They don’t usually develop into cancer, but they can cause other symptoms including heavy menstrual bleeding, long menstrual periods, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, constipation, and backache or leg pains.

The plaintiff says she followed the manufacturers’ instructions when applying the hair relaxing/straightening products herself. At other times she went to a professional hair stylist to have them applied. There was never any indication on the product packaging or otherwise that normal use could lead to health problems like uterine fibroids.

Her fibroids got worse, and in January 2021, the plaintiff had to undergo a partial hysterectomy to deal with her condition. She blames these health issues on her regular use of hair relaxers and straighteners.

Hair Relaxers Must Be Regularly Applied

Hair relaxers like Dark & Lovely are specifically marketed to Black and Brown women to alter the curl pattern of curly or coiled hair.  The products are applied to the base of the hair shaft and left in place for a “cooking” interval, during which the relaxer alters the hair’s curl pattern by damaging the protein structure.

After about 4-8 weeks on average, the treated portion of the hair grows away from the scalp, requiring additional relaxer treatment. This leads to frequent and regular use of the products.

Hair relaxers can cause burns and lesions on the scalp, which makes it easier for the chemicals in them to penetrate the skin and make their way to the bloodstream. Recent studies have shown that these chemicals can cause serious health issues for women.

Studies Link Hair Relaxing Products to Health Problems

After examining the use of hair relaxers and straighteners in women involved in the Sister Study, researchers found that over an average of 10.9 years follow-up, women who had used straightening products in the previous 12 months were almost twice as likely to have developed uterine cancer than those who didn’t. The association was stronger when comparing frequent use (over four times in the past 12 months) with never use.

A 2012 study also linked the use of hair relaxers with a higher risk of uterine fibroids in Black women. There is a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids and tumors in Black women than in any other ethnicity/racial group.

The plaintiff brings counts of negligence, defective design, failure to warn, breach of warranties, fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment, and negligent misrepresentation.

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