A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology says black women who relax their hair have a higher chance of developing fibroids than those who don’t relax. Fibroids are benign tumors that form in the uterus. I’ve been watching this matter simmer for several days on the Internet. While I am surprised that many have attacked the study, its methods, and the people who link to it, the information itself is not shocking.
I stopped relaxing my hair almost 20 years ago because I didn’t see the point of using a product that burned my scalp. It didn’t help that it was expensive and required me to spend more time than I liked in hair salons.
Regardless of what this new study says, it’s clear that putting lye and similar chemicals on the scalp is not a good idea. As much as I hated Chris Rock’s “Good Hair,” the film made one very clear point. The active ingredients found in relaxers can, over time, dissolve an aluminum can.
Researchers also have been sounding the alarm about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, in black hair and skin care products for years. I know I’ve been reading about them for what seems like forever. EDCs have been linked to reproductive health issues, birth defects, breast cancer, and heart disease.
I am not going to wait for more, larger, well-funded studies to prove whether these most recent studies and others like them are on point. I don’t know when that’s going to happen or whether it will happen. I also don’t have a lot of confidence that when the answer finally bubbles to the surface that anything will be done about it. Besides, for many of us, it will be too late.
Unless the manufacturers of these products decide to change them, black women have only two options. We can continue to relax and use beauty products with questionable ingredients, or we can arm ourselves with knowledge and take our money elsewhere.