31 Jan, 2023

What Chemical Hair Straighteners Cause Cancer?

Author Todd A. Strong

Many of the leading brands of chemical hair straightener contain chemicals that may cause cancer. The primary chemicals associated with an increased cancer risk are sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, sodium thioglycolate, formaldehyde, cyclosiloxanes, parabens, diethanolamine, phthalates, benzophenone-3 and triclosan.

Many of the most popular brands on the market, including L’Oréal products, contain one or more of these potentially hazardous chemicals.

Young pretty woman with long silky straight hair in black clothes covering eyes with red hair straightener over dark background
Young pretty woman with long silky straight hair in black clothes covering eyes with red hair straightener over dark background

If you develop serious health issues after regular use of a chemical hair straightening product, you may need to know what chemical hair straighteners cause cancer, and whether you have a case for damages.

Why Are People Filing Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuits?

A recent study found a link between chemical hair straighteners and serious health conditions. With medical opinions to support their claims, many able to draw connections in their own cases were prompted to seek financial compensation through personal injury lawsuits. Some diseases linked to the use of these hair products include uterine cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

If you are a regular user of chemical hair products, and have developed a condition like breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer, a product liability lawyer will be able to tell you if your situation qualifies for a lawsuit. Product liability attorneys keep themselves up to date on recent judicial trends and case law, as well as research that may help your chances of recovering compensation if it turns out that a cosmetics company’s negligence caused your cancer or condition.

Since these same products have been shown to cause uterine fibroids and endometriosis, be sure to let your attorney know if you have suffered from either of these conditions as well. They may qualify as a stand-alone basis for your lawsuit in certain situations, and will almost certainly help your case if cancer developed as well.

Is There a Link Between Hair Straightening Chemicals and Cancer?

There is a link between certain chemicals used in hair products and hormone-sensitive cancers, like breast and ovarian cancer. Recently, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study that adds uterine cancer to that list as well. In fact, women who have used a hair straightener in the past year risk increasing their chances of developing uterine cancer by around 80%. More frequent usage increases the risk accordingly. Many consumers who use these products do so regularly and over long periods of time. 

The study consisted of women who had never been diagnosed with cancer, but who had at least 1 sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Using a hair straightener product more than 4 times per year actually showed to increase the risk of uterine cancer by 250% when compared to someone who didn’t use those products at all.

While other hair products contain EDCs, or endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, those products were not shown to cause uterine cancer. Chemical hair straightener products are the only ones shown in these recent studies to increase women’s uterine cancer risk.

What Chemical Hair Straighteners Cause Cancer?

Many of the leading brands of chemical hair straightener contain chemicals that may cause cancer. The primary chemicals associated with an increased cancer risk are sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, sodium thioglycolate, formaldehyde, cyclosiloxanes, parabens, diethanolamine, phthalates, benzophenone-3 and triclosan.

Many of the most popular brands on the market, including L'Oréal products, contain one or more of these potentially hazardous chemicals. 

If you’ve developed one of these types of cancer or other serious medical conditions after using a hair straightener, and your attorney has determined that you may have grounds for a lawsuit, you’ll need to discuss your chances of winning with him or her. There are quite a few factors that could affect your chances of winning the lawsuit, such as your family history and any other exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. An experienced product liability lawyer may work with other expert witnesses to draw the appropriate connections between your use of chemical hair straighteners and the development of your medical condition.

What Damages Can You Seek If Using a Chemical Hair Straightener Caused You Cancer?

Once you’ve determined that your situation qualifies for a lawsuit against one of these product manufacturers, you’ll need to determine how much to ask for in a personal injury lawsuit. There are two different types of damages that you can pursue – special damages and general damages.

Special Damages

Special damages are easily quantifiable expenses you’ve incurred due to the actions or negligence of the defendant. They include things such as medical bills, lost past or future income, or anything that can be directly attributed to the condition in question. Your attorney will help you gather evidence to support the amount of special damages you’re suing for.

This amount will be hard for the defendant to argue against because you’ll be able to use bills, records, and tax documents to calculate both what costs you’ve incurred thus far, and what you could have expected to earn in the time you were unable to work due to the diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

General Damages

General damages are harder to quantify. They can include pain and suffering, mental and emotional trauma, and even lost experiences and opportunities. Because you don't have a bill to show as evidence of the dollar value of your pain and suffering, an experienced personal injury and product liability attorney will be crucial to ensuring you are awarded the damages you deserve.

General damages are harder to quantify, but bring you the potential of a much larger amount of damages awarded. A sympathetic jury could choose to award quite a bit to a person who has lost the ability to have children in the case of endometriosis, or has been sent into premature menopause on top of extensive painful surgeries in the case of uterine cancer.

What Cancers Are Caused by Chemical Hair Straighteners?

As scary as it is to find out that a product you may be using regularly could cause you to develop cancer, you need to know what types of cancer or other serious conditions you may be prone to. The most common cancers or serious medical conditions that can be caused by hair products or straighteners are: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the more common types of cancer diagnosis, and can be caused by the chemicals in hair straightener products. There are several primary types of breast cancer currently identified, and the treatment process you are subjected to will vary based on the type of cancer diagnosed and also the stage at which the cancer was detected. 

Most women will have some type of surgery as part of their breast cancer treatment plan. The two main types of surgery are breast conserving surgery and mastectomy. These options each have benefits as well as pitfalls, such as required follow-up procedures.

In breast conserving surgery, the cancer and a portion of the surrounding tissue will need to be removed, but an attempt will be made to save as much of the original breast tissue as possible. This type of surgery is almost always followed by radiation to ensure that all cancerous cells have been eradicated.

In a mastectomy, either single or double, the entire breast is removed along with some surrounding tissue in order to ensure that all cancerous cells have been removed. Sometimes a mastectomy is the only option because of the type of cancer diagnosed, size of the tumor, or previous exposure to radiation treatments that would prevent radiation treatments that would be required after a breast conserving surgery.

In either case, there may be the added expense and pain of having reconstruction surgery following the cancer treatments. Your attorney will consider the costs of all these procedures, in addition to the amount of pain and suffering caused by your illness, when he or she determines the amount of damages you should sue for.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovaries are made up of 3 different types of cells, and each type can develop its own unique types of cancer, which can be caused by chemical hair straighteners. There are several treatments available for ovarian cancer, depending on the type of cancer diagnosed, and the severity of the cancer when it’s detected.

Most cases of ovarian cancer require some sort of surgery to remove the tumor. Chemotherapy regimens, as well as radiation, are commonly used alongside surgical removal of the affected tissue in order to prevent the cancer from spreading or to fight a cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body.  

If your ovaries must be removed as part of your treatment plan, you will need to remain on a course of hormone treatments indefinitely after surgery.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer has recently been associated with chemical hair straightener products, but not yet with other haircare products. There are two primary types of uterine cancer. The first is endometrial cancer, which is most common and starts in the lining of the uterus. The other type, uterine sarcoma, is rare, and starts in the muscles surrounding the uterus.

Most people diagnosed with uterine cancer will need to have surgery as part of their treatment plan. There are also chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy treatments involved, especially if the cancer has progressed to a later stage and spread to other parts of your body.

If during the process of planning for, or performing, the hysterectomy, it is determined that your ovaries will need to be removed as well, you will also end up having to deal with menopause, which will happen once your body stops producing estrogen and progesterone.

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus and can also be caused by chemical hair straightener products. Just because they aren’t cancerous doesn’t mean they aren’t problematic, however.  

Uterine fibroids have been known to cause a lot of pain, heavy bleeding, and abdominal cramping. Failure to treat uterine fibroids can cause them to increase in size and number. Most treatment plans for uterine fibroids will include a prescribed course of medication, or possibly hormone treatments. However, some cases require surgical removal of the fibroids themselves, and in extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be called for by your treating physician.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis, which can be caused by chemical hair products, is a condition in which tissues similar to those inside the uterus begin to grow on the outside. The symptoms of endometriosis vary depending on severity and length of time left untreated.

Symptoms typical with this condition include additional pain in the lower abdomen before and during periods, pain during or after sex, painful urination or bowel movements during your period, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, heavy bleeding, or in cases where the condition is left untreated for too long, infertility.

The only way to be certain of an endometriosis diagnosis is with a laparoscopic surgical procedure under general anesthesia.  

How an Attorney Can Help

If you have one of these conditions, and believe a chemical hair straightener product to be a significant contributing factor, seeing an attorney as soon as possible is a wise choice. If your attorney determines that your condition likely qualifies you for a lawsuit against the chemical hair straightener manufacturer, he or she will proceed with building a strategy for your case to ensure you have the best possible chance of success.

Your attorney will know what chemical hair straighteners cause cancer, but is going to need to gather an extensive medical history from you, and potentially your family members. He or she may use this information to help rule out the possibility that other contributing factors are present or that they are, at least, significantly less likely to have caused your condition than the frequent use of what you had considered to be a safe over-the-counter product.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.