Get In Touch
541 Melville Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301,
[email protected]
Ph: +1.831.705.5448
Work Inquiries
[email protected]
Ph: +1.831.306.6725

Hair Relaxers and Uterine Cancer Risk: What You Need to Know

Subscribe to our newsletter (no spam!)

Table of Contents

Hair relaxers have long been a common practice for people seeking to alter the texture and appearance of their curly or coily hair.

However, recent research has raised concerns about the potential health risks associated with these products, particularly their link to uterine cancer.

Hair relaxers contain chemicals, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which have been implicated in adverse health effects.

In this article, let’s explore the relationship between hair relaxers and uterine cancer, examining existing research findings and highlighting the need for further investigation into this important public health issue.

Understanding Hair Relaxers

Definition and Composition

Hair relaxers are chemical products designed to alter hair’s natural texture, typically making it straighter and more “manageable”, in some people’s opinion.

They work by breaking down the protein bonds within the hair shaft, which allows the hair to be reshaped into a straighter form.

The primary active ingredient in most hair relaxers is a strong alkaline compound, such as sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide, which facilitates this chemical restructuring process.

Relaxers often contain other ingredients, such as conditioners, moisturisers, and stabilisers, to help minimise damage during the relaxing process.

History of Hair Relaxers

The history of hair relaxers dates back to ancient Egypt, where a paste made from milk and lime was used to straighten hair.

Various formulations and techniques for relaxing hair were developed over time, with significant advancements occurring during the 20th century.

Madame C.J. Walker, an African American entrepreneur, is credited with popularising hair straightening products for African American women in the early 1900s.

Since then, hair relaxers have become a staple in the cosmetic industry, with many brands and products available worlwide.

Types of Hair Relaxers

Several types of hair relaxers are available, each with its own formulation and application method.

The two main categories of relaxers are:

  • Lye-based relaxers
  • No-lye relaxers

Lye-based relaxers contain sodium hydroxide or similar alkaline compounds and are known for their strong and efficient straightening capabilities.

No-lye relaxers, on the other hand, use alternative alkaline agents such as calcium hydroxide or guanidine hydroxide and are generally milder on the hair and scalp.

Within each category, there are also variations in formulation and strength, allowing for customisation based on individual hair type and texture.

Plus, some relaxers are designed specifically for at-home use, while others are intended for professional application in salons.

Can Hair Relaxers Cause Cancer?

The Presence of Carcinogens

Hair relaxers contain chemicals that can potentially increase the risk of cancer due to their composition and the way they interact with the body.

Common Carcinogenic Chemicals

Some common chemicals found in hair relaxers, such as formaldehyde, phenols, and certain types of sulphates, have been identified as carcinogens or have the potential to become carcinogenic when exposed to heat or other chemicals during the relaxing process.

Absorption Through the Scalp

When hair relaxers are applied to the scalp, these chemicals are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream. Prolonged or repeated exposure to carcinogens has been linked to an increased risk of various types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.

Inhalation of Carcinogenic Fumes

Inhaling fumes generated during the application of hair relaxers can expose the respiratory system to carcinogens, potentially increasing the risk of lung cancer.

Amplification of Risk with High Temperatures

Using hair relaxers often involves high temperatures, which can further amplify the release of harmful chemicals into the air and increase the risk of exposure.

This is particularly concerning in poorly ventilated environments, such as home settings or salons with inadequate ventilation systems, where people may be exposed to higher concentrations of carcinogenic fumes.

Estrogenic Properties

Certain ingredients in hair relaxers have been found to have estrogenic properties, meaning they can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.

Estrogen plays a crucial role in regulating cell growth and proliferation, and excessive exposure to estrogenic compounds has been associated with an increased risk of hormone-related cancers, including as breast and uterine cancer.

Existing Studies on Hair Relaxers and Infertility

Research into the potential link between hair relaxers and cancer has garnered significant attention in recent years.

While hair relaxers have long been popular for altering hair texture, concerns have emerged regarding the safety of these products and their potential carcinogenic effects.

National Institutes of Health Study

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) analysed data from the Black Women’s Health Study, a long-term project focusing on the health of over 44,000 African American women.

The study revealed that frequent use of hair relaxers was associated with a higher risk of uterine fibroids – non-cancerous growths in the uterus linked to infertility and pregnancy complications.

Additionally, the NIH study found that women who frequently used hair relaxing products over four times a year – were more than twice as likely to get uterine cancer compared to non-users.

These findings raised concerns about the potential carcinogenicity of chemicals found in hair relaxers.

Dr Alexandra White, an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the study’s lead author highlighted that this was the first epidemiological evidence linking hair relaxers to the risk of uterine cancer.

While Black women are disproportionately affected by the adverse health effects of hair relaxers due to their higher usage rates, the study did not find that race itself impacted the link to uterine cancer.

Despite these findings, it’s important to acknowledge that the research conducted so far has been epidemiological, meaning it identifies associations rather than proving causation.

Experts advise caution, as the available data suggests a need for vigilance when using chemical hair straighteners.

However, it’s essential to note that this study have not established a direct cause-and-effect relationship between hair relaxer use and uterine fibroids.

Exploring Safer Alternatives to Hair Relaxers

If you are concerned about the potential health risks associated with chemical hair relaxers, you may want to consider alternative hair care options.

Opting for Natural Hair Care

Opting for natural hair is a popular alternative to using chemical hair relaxers.

Natural hair care means stopping the use of chemical relaxers and letting your hair grow out, embracing its natural texture, whether curly, coily, or kinky.

This transition allows you to embrace your hair’s natural state without the need for harsh chemicals.

Many people find that natural hair care not only eliminates the risk of chemical damage but also promotes healthier hair growth.

Plus, the journey to natural hair often fosters a sense of empowerment and self-acceptance as more and more people are embracing and loving their natural hair texture.

While transitioning to natural hair requires patience and dedication, the end result is often worth it for those seeking a safer and more authentic approach to hair care.

Other Hair Care Options

Some other hair care options that you may consider include:

  1. Natural hair extensions – Hair extensions add style, length, and volume to your hair without using chemicals. They come in different hairstyles, textures, and colours, so you can choose the one that best suits your hair type and style.
  2. Wigs – Wigs are another alternative to chemical hair relaxers. They come in different styles, textures, and colours, so you can choose the one that best suits your hair type and style.
  3. Weaves – Weaves involve braiding your hair and then sewing in hair extensions. This technique can add length and volume to your hair without using chemicals.


This website stores cookies on your computer. Cookie Policy