Hair relaxers, commonly used by Black women to straighten their hair, have been linked to reproductive disorders and cancers. Despite these health risks, they continue to be marketed aggressively.

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has studied the chemicals in hair products for over 20 years. Her research has established a strong connection between these chemicals and health problems in Black women. Recently, the FDA proposed banning formaldehyde in hair relaxers due to its link to cancer and other health issues.

Studies have shown that hair relaxers contain endocrine-disrupting substances that can lead to early menstruation and various reproductive health issues, such as uterine fibroids, infertility, and cancers. Black women face higher rates of these conditions compared to other women, including a form of breast cancer that results in a 28% higher death rate than in white women.

Many scientists, including Dr. James-Todd, have personal experiences with hair relaxers, recalling the harsh smell and burning sensation. These memories have driven them to investigate the long-term health impacts of these products.

This growing body of research highlights the urgent need to address the safety of hair relaxers and their impact on Black women’s health.

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