The FDA is considering banning certain hair-straightening products, such as chemical relaxers and pressing agents, due to health risks linked to substances like formaldehyde. About half of products targeted at Black women contain these chemicals, compared to just 7% for White women. Using these products is associated with a higher risk of certain cancers, particularly among Black and Latina women. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Shontel Brown have called for an FDA investigation, although implementing a ban through the proposed rule may take time.

Chemical hair straighteners, predominantly marketed to Black women, contain formaldehyde and related compounds linked to hormone-related cancers. Some long-time users are suing major beauty companies over cancer claims. The FDA’s proposed rule, though not product-specific, could impact a wide range due to formaldehyde’s common use. A National Institutes of Health study showed nearly a 150% higher risk of uterine cancer for women using specific straightening chemicals. Uterine cancer is rare but increasingly affecting Black women. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Shontel Brown support the FDA’s proposal for public health, especially for Black women disproportionately affected. Millions, especially those with coarser hair, start using chemical relaxers and straighteners early and continue throughout their lives. Some, like Rhonda Terrell and Jennifer Mitchell, sued major beauty brands, claiming their products led to their cancer diagnoses. Rhonda Terrell began at eight and continued until her early forties, battling uterine cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the cancer returned. Jennifer Mitchell, who started in third grade, was diagnosed at 28 and needed a full hysterectomy. Companies like L’Oreal, embroiled in lawsuits, assert their products’ safety. The proposed FDA rule is a significant move towards addressing health risks linked to these hair treatments.