CLEVELAND (WJW) – Cleveland stylist and New Millennium Salon owner Evelyn Lewis says when she opened for business 20 years ago, 90% of her clientele used relaxer to straighten kinky coils.
“It changes the part of the hair, and it gives it a permanent straight situation,” she said.
“What is the percent of relaxers you do right now?” FOX 8’s Jennifer Jordan asked.
“15 to 20%” Lewis said.
In October of last year, a study released by the National Institute of Health connected the use of hair straighteners to an increase in cancer, specifically in Black women.
The study goes on to say those who use the products are more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who did not use the products.
“Folks were simply unaware of the connection between these two things,” said attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold.
Sletvold has filed a lawsuit on behalf of her client, Alicia Smith of Euclid.
Smith, 46, who has no family history of cancer, was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2019 after using hair straightening products since the age of 13.
“Given that the dangers associated with the use of hair relaxers were not disclosed by the companies, it has come as a shock to people from coast to coast who have used these products from childhood to adolescents and many of them for decades,” Sletvold said.
Sletvold says under current federal laws governing cosmetics like hair relaxers, companies can hide up to 20% of the ingredients.
“So, you may see a list of ingredients on the side of the box, but some harmful ones may not be listed there because they’re considered part of the fragrance or perfume that goes along with the product,” Sletvold said.
The lawsuit names cosmetics giant L’Oréal and others as defendants.
In a statement released to FOX 8, a L’Oréal spokesperson said, “Our highest priority is the health, wellness, and safety of all our consumers. We are confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no scientific or legal merit. L’Oréal upholds the highest standards of safety for all its products. Our products are subject to a rigorous scientific evaluation of their safety by experts who also ensure that we follow strictly all regulations in every market in which we operate.”
Lewis is continuing to phase-out the use of relaxers altogether.
“I want people to be as healthy as they can be and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause any harm to the body for sure,” Lewis said.
A panel of federal judges recently determined the cases be centralized and tried in Chicago, given the number of plaintiffs throughout the country.
Attorneys say if you believe your reproductive cancer diagnoses stems from hair relaxers, talk to a lawyer to determine if you have a claim.