The FDA is Proposing a Ban on Hair Relaxers Containing Formaldehyde—Here’s What You Should Know


Black women have spent many years advocating for the regulation of toxic ingredients in their haircare products and at long last, it seems that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may finally take action.

Last week, The Root reported that the FDA is planning to propose a ban on certain harmful chemicals— including formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals—that are commonly found in hair smoothing and straightening products, such as hair relaxers. For anyone not aware, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, and highly toxic gas that can cause respiratory problems when inhaled, sprayed through the eyes, or absorbed in the skin. It’s used in a variety of household products—from cosmetics to medicines—and is linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. Currently, the FDA only discourages consumers from buying and using hair straightening products containing formaldehyde, according to a fact sheet from the agency.

This ban proposal comes after Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Shontel Brown (D-OH) urged the agency to investigate the safety of chemical relaxers, which recent research has linked to an increased uterine cancer risk for Black women

While announcing the supposed forthcoming ban in a statement, Rep. Pressley called it “a win for public health —especially the health of Black women who are disproportionately put at risk by these products as a result of systematic racism and anti-Black hair sentiment.”

She added, “Regardless of how we wear our hair, we should be allowed to show up in the world without putting our health at risk. I applaud the FDA for being responsive to our calls and advancing a rule that will help prevent manufacturers from making a profit at the expense of our health. The Administration should finalize this rule without delay.”

What Happens Next?

While the FDA has made an important step in finally ensuring the safety of hair relaxers to the public, the rule isn’t in place just yet. In fact, per AP News’ reporting, the notice of a possible rule was only recently added to the FDA’s regulatory process and the agency hopes to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking by April 2024.

And as far as next steps in the process, the agency will have to receive public comments on the proposed rule and then review those comments before deciding if further action is needed.

As stated on the FDA’s website, “Based on the comments, we might decide to end the rulemaking process, to issue a new proposed rule, or to issue a final rule. If we decide to issue a final rule, we publish the final rule in the Federal Register.”

While we all wait to see if the FDA’s proposed ban on hair straightening products containing formaldehyde becomes realized, we highly recommend following @fda on Instagram for all future updates. 

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Camille Nzengung

Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor at The Tease, where she covers all things hair. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches. Send her a pitch:

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