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Lawsuit Claims L’Oreal’s Hair Straighteners Cause Cancer

A Missouri woman has sued L’Oreal, along with several other beauty companies, alleging that she developed uterine cancer as a result of using their hair straightening products. Per the lawsuit, her cancer was “directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in defendants’ hair care products.”

The plaintiff, Jennifer Mitchell, has used L’Oreal’s products since she was about ten years old. In 2018, at the age of 28, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Now, she is asking the court to order L’Oreal to pay for damages and medical monitoring.

According to her lawyer, Mitchell is not alone—and it is predicted that there will be similar lawsuits in the future as more women come forward to seek accountability.

Study finds hair straightening products to be linked with uterine cancer

This lawsuit was filed shortly after a study by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which found hair straightening chemicals to be associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer—particularly among Black women.

“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.

The study includes data from 33,497 women between the ages of 35 and 74. After being followed for nearly 11 years, 378 of the women were diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Researchers found that those who reported frequent use of hair straightening products (more than four times in the previous year) were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than those who did not use straightening products—and approximately 60% of those who reported using straighteners in the past year were self-identified Black women.

According to the study, these findings are the first epidemiologic evidence of an association between the use of straightening products and uterine cancer, though more research is needed to identify the specific chemicals causing damage.

One of countless cases

Mitchell, who is Black, has accused L’Oreal of intentionally marketing its hair straightening products to Black women and girls while failing to warn them of the risks despite knowing that their products contained potentially harmful chemicals.

“As most young African-American girls, chemical relaxers and chemical straighteners were introduced to us at a young age,” she said. “Society has made it a norm to look a certain way, in order to feel a certain way. And I am the first of many voices to come that will stand up to these companies and say ‘no more.’”

“Black women have long been the victims of dangerous products specifically marketed to them,” said one of Mitchell’s attorneys. “We will likely discover that Ms. Mitchell’s tragic case is one of countless cases in which companies aggressively misled Black women to increase their profits.”

Have cosmetic products negatively impacted your health? Our attorneys can help

According to Mitchell’s lawsuit, L’Oreal has profited significantly from “unethical and illegal conduct that caused the plaintiff to purchase and habitually use a dangerous and defective product.”

In other words, there are viable claims to be pursued—and if you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to turn after using a dangerous, defective, or otherwise harmful product, rest assured that you don’t have to do it alone.

COPYRIGHT © 2023, STARK & STARKNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 308

About this Author

Jeff Krawitz, Casualty Litigator, Stark and Stark Law firm

Jeff Krawitz is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group and concentrates his practice in casualty litigation focusing on complex injury, coverage issues and bad faith claims. He also has, and continues to, litigate claims arising from motor vehicle and transportation accidents, many of which involve catastrophic damages. His practice also includes the representation of litigants in professional liability claims including those involving medical negligence. Mr. Krawitz has extensive experience in both state and federal courts...