Studies indicate that these types of products may increase the risk of uterine cancer. But despite that study, it may be difficult to change due to social pressure and individual preferences.
According to the NIH, a new study from the National Institutes of Health found that women who used chemical hair straightening products had a higher risk of developing uterine cancer than women who did not report using these products. Other hair products, such as hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms, that the women reported using were not linked to uterine cancer.
What Is A Chemical Straightener?
The process of breaking protein connections in the hair is known as chemical straightening or hair relaxing. Straight hair is produced when a predetermined number of links in curly or wavy hair are disrupted.
Permanently straightening your hair with chemicals is a type of chemical treatment for your hair. Depending on how you process your naturally curly or textured hair, you can make it lay flat and lose its curl.
Hair straighteners work on all hair types, from wavy to kinky curly hair. These treatments usually work for at least a few months, or until new hair grows in to replace the hair that was treated. Because of this, these methods of straightening hair are called permanent hair straightening.
Permanent hair straightening can mean keratin treatments, Japanese thermal straightening, or the “perm” straightening process.
Is Chemical Hair Straightening Safe?
In comparison to women who did not use hair straightening products, frequent users—defined as those who used them more than four times in the previous year—were more than twice as likely to later develop uterine cancer.
The brands or contents of the hair products the women used were not gathered by the researchers. The authors of the paper do, however, mention that a number of substances that have been linked to uterine cancer risk (including parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde) have been discovered in straighteners.
Due to increased scalp absorption from using hair products, particularly straighteners, which may be aggravated by burns and lesions from using them, chemical exposure from using hair products, especially straighteners, may be more worrying than from using other personal care items.
Hazardous substances with endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic effects may be present in hair products. Previous research has linked the use of hair products to an increased risk of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer. And now to uterine cancer.
Chemical Hair Straightening And Uterine Cancer
These results represent the first epidemiological proof of a link between using straightening products and developing uterine cancer. More investigation is required to confirm findings in different contexts and pinpoint the precise chemicals responsible for this observed connection.
Black Women And Chemical Hair Straightening
These findings may be even more applicable for black women because they use hair straightening or relaxer products more regularly and tend to start using them earlier than people of other races and ethnicity.
It’s important to understand. Although the study did not discover a difference in the risk of uterine cancer based on race, black women may be more affected because they are more likely to use straightening products.
I remember that during the 1970s, many people embraced black pride and Afros. During this time period, chemical relaxers and such were not in style.
Nowadays, things have changed with black hair styles, and we have a sort of modern hair movement, if that’s what you want to call it. It’s where hair styles are shorter and/or straightened. But now with these new findings, a new movement may be starting to go back to being natural.
And for those who still want straight hair(low health risks), using a flat iron may be an alternative to harsh chemical hair treatments. Folks with natural straightness in their hair has the advantage of being able to style it and even add curls, which most people appreciate because it gives them the option of having a straight or styled look.
How Can You Lower Your Risk?
Avoid using chemical hair products that straighten your hair.
The use of relaxers is a practice that many Black women either won’t or are unable to break, whether it’s out of personal taste, tradition, or in response to outside pressure to have straight hair.
Because relaxers and hair straighteners are regarded as cosmetics, the US Food and Drug Administration has mainly left it up to customers to weigh the hazards of using them.
You can temporarily make your hair smooth by using a hairdryer, blow dryer or flat iron.
You can also keep your hair strong and healthy by keeping it moist, especially if you use tools that use heat to style your hair.
Try not to wash your hair as much as you can because shampoo can take away the natural oils in your hair. You can also try not using shampoo.
You can also use healthier options with products containing natural moisturizing ingredients, such as
- olive oil
- Argan oil is my favorite.
- coconut oil
- Shea butter Shea butter
- oil from sunflowers
What Are Types Of Hair Treatments?
There are different treatments that claim to straighten your hair. Each uses a different chemical formula and a different way to make it.
Some of these treatments come in kits that you can do at home, while others must be done in a salon with professional-grade tools.
Here are the 3 major types of treatments:
A chemical process called “hair rebonding” changes your hair’s natural texture and makes it smooth and straight. Chemical straightening is another name for it.
Most of the time, a licensed cosmetologist at your local hair salon will rebond your hair. In a series of steps, the process breaks the natural bonds in your hair follicle and then rebuilds them in a different way. This makes your hair look different.
With hair rebonding, strong chemicals(disrupting chemicals, harmful products with regular and prolonged exposure) are used to make your hair straight. It takes a few hours to do.
Water basically breaks the hydrogen bonds between your hair’s keratin molecules. Then, a chemical, usually formaldehyde, is used to cross-link the new structure of your hair in a very straight way.
Because of this, the hair looks even straighter than when it is naturally straight.
Most of the time, formaldehyde or aldehyde is used in hair rebonding to break up the bonds in your hair.
Some formulas say they don’t have formaldehyde, but almost all of them give off strong gases that are chemically similar to formaldehyde. Chemicals like methylene glycol and methanal act in this way.
A keratin treatment is a process that makes hair smooth and, most of the time, straight. It might also be called a Brazilian blowout or a Brazilian keratin treatment. It involves putting products on the hair, drying it with a blow dryer, and then sealing it with a flat iron. Your hairstylist will first wash your hair, then apply the keratin treatment onto the wet hair, where it will then sit for about thirty minutes or so.
Keratin is a type of protein that is naturally found in your skin, hair, and nails. A keratin treatment adds more keratin to your hair, which can make it less frizzy, shiner, and stronger. You can get a traditional keratin treatment, also known as a Brazilian blowout, which really straightens out your hair texture, or you can get smoothing treatments, which help de-frizz hair and add shine without disrupting its texture.
Customers complained of burning eyes, strong odor, and burning mouth and nose when formaldehyde was used in Brazilian keratin treatments.
Most of the time, keratin used in beauty treatments comes from animal skin, hair, or nails. Keratin is a natural protein, but these products also have a chemical called formaldehyde and a few other things added to them.
The American Cancer Society says that it is known that formaldehyde can cause cancer. This means that it may cause cancer or help it grow. Formaldehyde may also have other effects on your health.
The acid perm, which is another name for Japanese thermal hair straightening or Japanese Treatment, is more like a traditional straight perm than a keratin treatment.
This procedure may require the most time (5 to 6 hours) in a salon chair, but it is said to last up to 6 months.
Japanese hair straightening makes your hair permanently pin-straight, whereas Brazilian keratin treatment provides temporary straightening by breaking and reshaping your hair’s bonds, resulting in perfectly straight strands until your hair grows out.
Chemical Hair Straightening Conclusion
All methods for straightening hair (relaxed hair) permanently work in the same way:
Your hair gets a chemical solution put on it. The way your hair’s proteins are set up is changed by these chemicals. Do you have bleached hair? If so then one thing to keep in mind is that permanent straightening employs hydroxides or thioglycolate, which are incompatible with bleached hair.
A neutralizer is then put on your hair after a perm or a Japanese thermal straightening process. This neutralizer makes your hair’s protein molecules form new bonds that lock your hair into its new shape.
You’ll let the chemical solution soak into your hair for a few hours, then put on the neutralizer and style your hair.
Many of these chemical solutions have strong smells, and you may be told not to get your hair wet or even sweat too much in the days after the treatment.
Any hair type with damaged, ultrafine, or brittle hair should consult their stylist or hair technician prior to getting a treatment to ensure the treatment will not cause further harm. It is common for hair to break after a permanent straightening treatment. The chemical solution makes your hair lie flat or lose its natural curl by damaging it.
Because of this damage, it may be harder to style your hair and take longer to dry until it grows out and is replaced by new, untreated hair.
The Bottom Line is: The safest thing to do is to stay away from chemicals that can get into your body through your scalp and nose.
Definitions and related info
NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group – “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”
NIEHS Epidemiology Branch – “Although, the study did not find that the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer incidence was different by race, the adverse health effects may be greater for Black women due to higher prevalence of use.. “Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” said Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., an author on the new study and a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch”
Journal of the National Cancer Institute – “Approximately 60% of the participants who reported using straighteners in the previous year were self-identified Black women, according to the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute”
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – “The study data includes 33,497 U.S. women ages 35-74 participating in the , a study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH, that seeks to identify risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions”
Environmental Health Safety – is mostly used to keep workers safe. But safe chemical management has much bigger effects, such as the possible effects of accidents on the environment. When this doesn’t happen, there can be terrible short-term and long-term effects.
Estimated New Cancer Cases – Uterine cancer is not very common. Only 3.4% of all new cancer cases this year are expected to be uterine cancer.
Hair Relaxer – Hair relaxers use chemicals to break and re-form the di-sulfide bonds found in the cortex layer of hair while the hair is held in a straight pattern. The cortex is the part of the body beneath the skin. This is the layer where relaxers work.
Personal Care Products Companies – In response to the study, L’Oréal and the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade group for companies that make cosmetics and personal care products, said that the study did not show that the products or their ingredients directly caused uterine cancer.
Hair Shaft (hair fibers) – The part of the hair that can be seen above the skin is the hair shaft. The cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla are the three layers that make it up. The cuticle is the top layer, and it is made up of dead cells that are tightly packed together. The middle layer is called the cortex. It is made up of living cells that hold the hair’s color.
Hair’s Disulphide Bonds – Heat from a hairdryer, curling tongs, or straighteners, as well as the application of chemicals such as those used in hair relaxants or bleaching, break disulphide bonds.
Public Health Crisis – Includes localized outbreaks of infectious diseases or possible outbreaks of infectious diseases that are likely to happen and pose a major threat to a community or region. A health crisis, also called a public health crisis, is a hard situation or a complicated health system that affects people in one or more places, from a small town to the whole world. Most health crises have big effects on the health of the community, the number of deaths, and the economy.
White Beauty Standards – “women, said they used chemical hair straighteners because they felt societal pressure — including from employers — to wear their hair straight and to try to meet white beauty standards”
Rates Of Uterine Cancer – “Rates of uterine cancer have been rising recently among all women in the United States, but Black women die of uterine cancer at twice the rate that white women do, according to a . report from an expert panel in March”
Black Women’s Health – “Often, when we talk about Black women’s health, and this is well-documented, we do find this very firm connection to structural racism, whether you’re talking about maternal mortality or pain management”
Endometrial Cancer – “Recent studies have shown a possible correlation between hair products used primarily by Black women and several types of cancer, including uterine cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer”
Gynecology – “When we say uterine cancer, most of the time what we mean is endometrial cancer, because 95% of uterine cancer starts in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus,” says , a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MD, who focuses on early detection and treatment of endometrial and ovarian cancers”
Federal Lawsuits Against L’oréal And Other Companies – “Terrell is one of four Black women, three of whom spoke to NBC News exclusively, who have filed federal lawsuits against L’Oréal and other companies, alleging that chemicals in the companies’ hair products caused them to develop uterine cancer or other severe health effects”
Black Women Use Hair Straightening Or Relaxer Products More Frequently – “Although, the study did not find that the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer incidence was different by race, the adverse health effects may be greater for Black women due to higher prevalence of use.. “Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” said Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., an author on the new study and a research fellow in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch”
Health Disparities And More Research – More research is needed to confirm these results in different groups of people, to find out if hair products play a role in health differences in uterine cancer, and to find out which chemicals may be making women more likely to get cancer.
Hair Botox – Hair Botox is actually a deep conditioning treatment in which a filler, such as keratin, is applied to the hair fibers. The treatment fills in any broken or thin areas on each hair strand, making hair look fuller and more lustrous.