A study released October 2022 by the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies found the use of chemical hair straighteners (e.g., lye-based relaxers) is associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer. So what does this mean?
Toxic hair products are killing our communities.
During the past few years, several studies have linked the use of everyday hair products to life-threatening health conditions. A December 2019 study conducted by the NIEHS found that, among Black women, the use of permanent hair dyes every five to eight weeks was associated with a 60 increased risk of breast cancer compared to an 8% increased risk for white women. A 2022 study conducted by found that frequent and long-term use of lye-based relaxers also increased the risk of developing breast cancer. A 2022 study conducted by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners found that permanent hair dyes, lye-based relaxers and other popular hair products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that can trigger the growth of cancer cells and the development of other health issues, including diabetes, fibroids and preeclampsia. At a time when Black women are dying from breast cancer, uterine cancer and pregnancy-related complications at significantly higher rates than white women, this is incredibly alarming!
For Black women, the use of chemical hair straighteners and hair dyes is not a matter of personal preference, but a matter of survival. Black women who wear their natural hair proudly during job interviews often receive lower marks for “professionalism and competence” compared to those who straighten their hair. Wearing your natural hair proudly might mean forgoing career advancement and professional development opportunities. A 2019 Dove Survey found Black women are 83% more likely to be judged for their appearance and 150% more likely to be sent home from work because of their natural hair. Black women are penalized for simply existing as themselves and embracing their kinks and coils.
Anti-Black hair sentiment is nothing new. In the 18th century, the Tignon Laws required Black women in New Orleans to wear a tignon — a scarf or handkerchief — over their elaborate natural hairstyles to signify that they were members of the enslaved class regardless of whether they had been freed. In the 19th century, enslaved Black people and freed Blacks who had less kinky, more European-textured hair and lighter skin received better treatment. In contrast, those with Afro-textured hair were subject to more harsh and even dangerous working conditions (e.g., fieldwork).
Ultimately, the hair care industry built its multi-billion-dollar empire on the pressure that Black women face to adhere to eurocentric beauty standards and have used some deceptive marketing strategies to convince our communities to purchase harmful products. Around 50% of products marketed to Black women contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. And many of the Black models featured on the relaxer packaging recently shared that they never had chemically treated their hair. Corporations have been selling Black women lies, and now our communities are dying because of it.It’s time the hair care industry reckons with its anti-Blackness. But without pressure from major retailers who sell these harmful products, these companies will never change their ingredients. Join Color Of Change in demanding that Giant Food and other major retailers take action to protect Black women and remove all toxic hair care products from their shelves!
Below is the statement we will send to Giant executives:
Here is the Petition:
Dear Giant Executives:
In 2022 alone, three studies have confirmed the link between popular hair products (e.g., lye-based relaxers and permanent hair dyes) to life-threatening health conditions, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, diabetes, and preeclampsia. While the hair care industry is well aware of the risks associated with their products, around 50% of all hair products marketed to Black women contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals responsible for these harmful health outcomes.
In failing to hold these corporations accountable by removing these products from your shelves, your corporation is complicit in the harm caused to Black women. This is inhumane and must stop.
We demand that you all conduct an audit of all toxic hair products and remove those associated with poor health outcomes from their shelves. As two of the largest retailers in the country, your corporations can emerge as leaders and hold the hair care industry accountable for changing its toxic ingredients. You can and must do better for your Black customers and Black communities.