FDA Plans to Ban Hair-Straightening Products Over Cancer Risk Concerns

Hair straightening products are one of the longest-standing products in the hair care industry for people with kinky and curly hair. They can make 4C hair into straight hair in thirty minutes or less. They are staples in every convenience store, but that’s about to change.

Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it plans to ban some chemical relaxers (which people use for hair straightening) because scientists have linked them to uterine cancer, hormone-related cancers, and other health risks.

The chemical relaxers that will be banned are those with formaldehyde (FA) and other similar chemicals that can release formaldehyde in their formula.

What Is Formaldehyde and How Is It Released in Hair Straightening?
Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen released into the air as a byproduct of some natural processes and combustion. The substance is activated when you apply the straightening solution to your hair and heat it through a process that binds the solution into your hair strands. When you heat the solution, it releases something called the formaldehyde gas.

What’s the Risk of Using Formaldehyde
According to a 2022 study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), women who often use hair straightening products are about four times more likely to develop uterine cancer when compared to women who don’t use hair straightening products. While incidences of uterine cancer itself are sporadic, hair straightening products have been discovered to be a significant cause in the rare situations that it occurs at all.
Other hair treatments that the NIEHS looked into during this study were bleach, highlights, perms, and hair dye. The scientists discovered no connection to cancer or other health risks in their prevalent formulas.

What Does This Mean for Hair Straightening Product Consumers?
Black women generally are the ones that are most affected by the health risks associated with hair straightening products. Most hair straighteners are marketed to black women who have naturally kinky hair. As a result, they suffer from most of its effects, and it further contributes to disparities in national racial health.

To highlight how relevant the study is to black women, the scientists involved in the study mentioned that about 3 out of every 5 women who mentioned using relaxers were black women. In addition, black women use hair straighteners from when they are very young, which means they go through a more extended period of exposure than people from other races.