by BLACK ENTERPRISE Editors
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning certain chemicals in hair straighteners.
Written by Jordan Jarrett
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been considering banning certain chemicals in hair straighteners. In March, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Shontel Brown urged the agency to investigate the health risks posed by chemicals in relaxers. The FDA proposed a ruling to ban hair straightener products containing formaldehyde.
The BWHS found that even though uterine cancer is rare, Black women are disproportionately more exposed to these health risks. “A very small percentage of women will develop these cancers from relaxers, but because the use of relaxers is so widespread, even that small percentage would be a high number,” says Stephanie Johnson, the founder and CEO of the Hair Care Company.
Bertrand states that even products that claim to be formaldehyde-free could still contain “methylene glycol,” which, when heated, can still release formaldehyde gas. Essentially, the formaldehyde gas could potentially cause illness, such as higher cancer rates, nausea, vomiting, itching, and headaches. So, finding safe alternative chemical relaxers has been difficult in her studies.
We spoke with an experienced hair salon owner to hear more about how hair salons have changed since the FDA’s proposed ban.
Stephanie Johnson is a Senior cosmetologist, hair care brand owner, and author. She doesn’t think this ban will affect hair relaxers specifically.
“I think it is a good thing for the FDA, but presently, most relaxers do not contain formaldehyde; those are mostly in keratin treatments.”
Johnson states that many products with formaldehyde are not popular among Black women. “When you look at a list of the top products with formaldehyde, none of them are chemical hair relaxers as women of African descent use them; they’re all keratin treatments. So, I am curious to see how the FDA plans on banning chemical hair relaxers specifically.”
However, Johnson states that many Black women today have moved to natural or protective styles, especially since COVID-19. “Many have not come back since COVID; relaxers are not as popular anymore, and a lot of clients are doing their hair at home.”
Many who come into the shop are unaware of or questioning the FDA’s new ruling. “I have two clients that have specifically said they want to stop using chemical hair straighteners due to the proposed ban from the FDA, but the majority are not fazed by the ban.”
Johnson states that one way hair stylists can play a role in advocating for client safety and awareness is to educate their clients and themselves.
“Hairstylists have to shift their thinking from trying to make the client only look good and focus on the health of their hair. In the hair care industry, we need to bring it back to being a profession and start to educate ourselves.” Johnson explains that her goal is to return to the level of respect and professionalism the hair care industry used to have and teach the importance of holistic hair styling.
But how can this proposal change innovation in the hair care industry?
Johnson states that this possible ban on hair straightener products with formaldehyde could lead to the hair care beauty industry finding alternatives. “I anticipate this ban could lead to safer and more effective alternatives. One of my goals is to let women of African descent know there are other options than a chemical straightener, from natural hair to protective styles.”
What is next? We asked researcher and co-lead author Bertrand if the Black Women’s Health Study plans to develop its study further in the future.
“We plan on researching whether the use of hair relaxers could lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. We did not include that initially in the study because ovarian cancer is rare, and we needed a larger pool of participants,” says Bertrand.
“In the next few months, we plan to release our first questionnaire since 1997 on hair relaxers to our next pool of participants, which will include questions on whether the participant had stopped using relaxers and how old they were when they stopped using them”. Bertrand explains that, hopefully, this questionnaire will lead to further research from the BWHS to understand better the effect duration could have on increased health risks from hair relaxers.
RELATED CONTENT: Pressure From Black Congresswomen Leads To FDA-Proposed Crackdown On Toxic Chemicals In Relaxers
Source: Black Enterprise