L'oreal Chemical Hair Straightener Cancer Litigation Update

Popular French cosmetic company L’Oréal is one of the leading cosmetic companies in the world. It reveled in an 8% growth in its business last year, maintaining a market share of more than €228 billion. One of L’Oréal’s products is hair straighteners/relaxers. This product is a lotion or cream that makes extremely curly hair easier to straighten by using chemicals to “relax and straighten” the curls.

Lawsuits have been filed by a growing number of women who used these hair straightener/relaxer products and subsequently developed severe health conditions, such as uterine cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. They argue that the chemicals in the products were responsible.

Defendants in these lawsuits include L’Oréal. However, other companies that sell hair straightener/relaxer products have been sued as well. Some of the brands sued include:

  • L’Oréal
  • Soft Sheen/Carson (including products like Dark & Lovely and Optimum)
  • Dabur International
  • Namaste (Olive Oil Girls)
  • Strength of Nature Global (including products like Just for Me, Soft & Beautiful, and Motions)
  • Godrej Consumer Products
  • PDC Brands
  • Parfums de Coeur

February 2023 Update

On February 6, 2023, The Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted a motion filed by plaintiffs in four cases to centralize the hair relaxer products liability litigation. When the motion was filed, nine actions had been filed in four districts. As of the date of the ruling, 44 new cases were filed in 15 additional districts.

The defendants objected to the consolidation on the grounds that multiple competing defendants that marketed varying formulations were named in the lawsuits, making the cases too dissimilar. However, the court observed that the majority of plaintiffs used multiple competing lines of the products, and nearly all named L’Oréal as a defendant.

In justifying this decision, Judge Karen K. Caldwell pointed to previous litigation, including In re: Androgel Products Liability Litigation. In that case, plaintiffs used multiple testosterone replacement products from competing defendants. The court ruled that requiring plaintiffs to separate claims involving individual defendants would be too “procedurally complicated.”

The court cited an October 2022 study led by the National Institute of Health, which found that women who frequently used chemical hair relaxers had more than double the risk of developing uterine cancer compared to women who did not use the products. This study did not implicate any specific brand.

The litigation is MDL 3060 In re: Hair Relaxer Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation. It has been transferred to the Northern District of Illinois and assigned to The Honorable Mary M. Rowland.

November 2022 Update

Multiple lawsuits have been filed in U.S. federal district courts by women alleging that the chemicals in the hair relaxer/straightener products caused them to develop diseases later in their lives, including uterine cancer and uterine fibroids. They maintain that there was no indication on the products’ packaging that would give them notice or reason to believe the products were harmful to their health and would cause a multitude of health issues.

November 2, 2022 Update

Illinois resident Timika Smith filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against L’Oréal, Soft Sheen/Carson, Strength of Nature, Godrej Son Holdings, PDC Brands, and Parafums de Coeur who sold the hair relaxer/straightener products that she used. She began using the hair relaxers in 1987 and used the product for 30 years. In July 2017, at age 39, Smith was diagnosed with uterine cancer and endometriosis. Smith has no family history of uterine cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy in September 2017.

October 27, 2022 Update

Florida resident Mahogany Lee filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Georgia against L’Oréal, Strength of Nature, Soft Sheen/Carson, Namaste, and Godrej Consumer Products that sold the hair relaxer/straightener products that she used. She began using the products at 14 years old in 1993 until 2013. Lee was diagnosed with uterine fibroids in 2009. She had a myomectomy to remove the fibroids in May 2009, but they returned 3 years later. In November 2020, she had a hysterectomy and can no longer have children. She had no family history of uterine fibroids.

October 26, 2022 Update

Florida resident Keaira Gamble also filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Georgia against L’Oréal, Strength of Nature, Soft Sheen/Carson, and Namaste who sold the hair relaxer/straightener products that she used. She began using the hair relaxer products when she was six years old in 1994 and used them until 2012. Gamble was diagnosed with uterine fibroids in September 2011. She had a myomectomy that same month to remove the fibroids. She was also diagnosed with endometriosis. In 2019 her fibroids returned, and a cyst appeared on her left ovary. Gamble’s mother had fibroids as well, but her mother also used hair relaxers.

October 21, 2022 Update

Missouri resident Jenny Mitchell brought a lawsuit against L’Oréal, Soft Sheen/Carson, Dabur International, and Namaste from whom she bought the hair relaxer/straightener products. This was the first lawsuit. She brought the suit in the Northern District of Illinois. Mitchell began using the hair relaxer products in 2000 and used them until 2022. In August 2018 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and her family has no history of uterine cancer. She had a hysterectomy in September 2018. Mitchell can no longer have children.

More cases are expected to be filed against L’Oréal and other companies for selling their hair relaxer products that subsequently caused these health conditions including uterine cancer.

Primary Allegations Against L’Oréal

Hair relaxers/straighteners use chemicals that “relax and straighten” the curls. Phthalates are chemical compounds found in these products. It is a known endocrine disrupting chemical, which interferes with the function of the endocrine system of the body.

The endocrine system is responsible for helping to maintain body homeostasis or balance. It regulates the nervous system, metabolism, and reproductive system. A slight disruption to this can cause serious health conditions. Further, one of the phthalates in the products (Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate or DEHP) is known to be a toxic artificial chemical that is known to cause serious health conditions.

These chemicals have been known to cause conditions such as:

Research studies have reported adverse health risks caused by the phthalates in hair relaxer/straightener products.

This study found that using hair relaxer products was associated with a higher risk of uterine cancer in comparison with individuals who never used the products.

This study found a connection between hair products containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (including hair relaxers) and an increased risk of breast cancer in African American women.

This study found an increase in the risk of uterine fibroids (uterine leiomyomata) and the use of hair relaxers in African American women.

Background on L’Oréal Lawsuits

Hair relaxer/straightener products are commonly used hair products. Usually a cream or lotion, these products use chemicals to “relax and straighten” curly or wavy hair. The market for these products in 2021 was very robust and is expected to increase significantly by 2030.

Complaints against many companies that sold these products were initiated this fall. The plaintiffs allege that they used these hair relaxer products and subsequently developed uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, and/or endometriosis. They allege the following:

  • Failure to warn
  • Design and/or manufacturing defects
  • Negligent failure to warn
  • Negligent design and manufacturing
  • Negligence and/or gross negligence
  • Negligent misrepresentation
  • Fraud
  • Fraudulent concealment
  • Breach of warranties
  • Failure to recall
  • Medical monitoring

Plaintiffs maintain that they used the hair relaxer/straightener products according to the instructions and had no knowledge of the dangers the products carried. They demand compensatory, economic, and punitive damages as well as their attorney fees and costs of bringing the cases.

Plaintiff firms acquiring hair straightener cases can expect a high volume of interest in this litigation. Case Works helps law firms quickly scale with expert qualification, intake, signup, case development, and on-going case management and communication services. Contact us today to discuss your firm’s needs and how our turnkey solutions can make the front-end of your firm’s intake process highly efficient.