At this point, it’s no secret that many of the hair care products marketed towards Black women can pose harmful health effects. In fact, it was only recently that we were able to fully understand the extent of damage that chemical hair relaxers can have on a person’s body.
ICYMI, a shocking study published in October by The National Institutes of Health found that the use of chemical hair straighteners or relaxers, which is used more frequently by Black women, is associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer. And, while the study notes that uterine cancer is “relatively rare,”—only accounting for roughly 3% of all cancer cases—it has been on the rise in the U.S., with the greatest increase among Black women.
In light of this study, the racial justice campaign group, Color of Change wants to put an end to toxic hair products being marketed towards Black women. To do just that, the organization has started a petition calling on Target and other major retailers to remove and audit any potentially toxic hair products from their shelves.
The petition is directed towards executives at Target, Giant, Food Lion, and Shop Rite with the hopes that by pressuring these major retailers who sell the harmful products, the companies that make, develop, and source relaxers will actually consider changing their ingredients.
“We’re going to the retailers because they have a responsibility for the products they’re selling to people,” Color of Change’s Vice President of Corporate Power, Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, told WWD. “Especially corporations like Target, who do huge Black History Month and HBCU activations — this is a space where they can really put their money where their mouth is. It’s not about marketing to Black people, it’s about selling products that are safe to Black people.”
She adds, “If you’re working in place where you’re unable to wear your hair the way it grows out of your head, and use relaxers as a cost-effective way to keep your hair ‘presentable’ so that you don’t get fired, you’re putting yourself at an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. That’s another complicated intersection in this conversation, is that Black women are not able to win either way.”
In the last few months, we’ve already seen lawsuits filed against big beauty giants like L’Oreal—the company behind the well-known relaxer brand, Dark & Lovely—over their hair relaxing products. In October, Missouri resident Joni Mitchell sued L’Oreal and several other companies, claiming that her uterine cancer was “directly and proximately” caused by chemicals found in their hair care products.
If you’re interested in taking action and joining Color of Change’s fight for accountability from beauty retailers, make sure to sign the petition here. And for more information about Color of Change, be sure to visit their website.