Contrasting Hair Relaxer Trends in Africa and America

In this piece, we explore the subject of hair relaxers and the differences in the conditions surrounding their use in Africa and the United States.

The United States has seen an increase in cancer lawsuits as a result of concerns about potentially dangerous substances. In contrast, certain African nations are seeing an increase in the sales of hair relaxers.

We investigate the causes of these differences and provide insight into the viewpoints of black women who utilize these products. 

Decline in the U.S. Market:

The safety of hair relaxers has been questioned in the United States. In October 2022, a study was carried out by the National Institutes of Health in the United States. It was discovered that women had an increased risk of uterine cancer if they used hair relaxers more than four times a year.

Previous scientific studies emphasizing the connection between women’s exposure to endocrine disruptors served as the foundation for this investigation.

These are the substances that cause uterine and breast tumors by interfering with the regulation of hormones. Consequently, an increasing number of black women in the U.S. are rejecting chemical straighteners and filing lawsuits against manufacturers.

According to the TorHoerman Law, companies like L’Oreal, Just For Me, Motions Hair, and Softsheen-Carson are among the many defendants. Looking at the increasing number of lawsuits, they have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation.

Growth of Sales in Africa:

Sales of hair relaxers are increasing in some African nations, in contrast to the United States.

The Fuller Project reports that from 2017 to 2022, relaxer sales increased significantly in Tunisia, Kenya, and Cameroon. 

Sales have also increased in South Africa and Nigeria. Africa’s youthful population and quick growth make it an attractive market for the cosmetics business.

The middle class and the growing number of millionaires are the contributors to this growth. As a result, companies involved in the hair relaxer lawsuit, such as L’Oréal, produce some of Africa’s most popular brands.

The Influential Factors:

Numerous factors frequently have an impact on black women’s decision to use hair relaxers. Historically, chemically straightening hair has been viewed as a rite of passage.

It is highly influenced by Eurocentric beauty standards that prioritize long, straight hair, rooted in colonialism and racism. Nonetheless, societal acceptance and manageability are also factors in the decision-making process.

Organizations acknowledge this complexity and, instead of holding black women accountable for their decisions, push for corporate and governmental accountability.

A Need for Transparency:

Campaigners emphasize the importance of transparency regarding the ingredients used in hair relaxers. Many black women are not aware that using these products over time increases the risk of cancer.

The demand for the elimination of hazardous chemicals and the disclosure of any possible health impacts has gotten stronger. Research conducted by Level Up, a gender justice organization, revealed that 77% of black women were unaware of the heightened cancer risk.

Chemicals of Concern:

Researchers have shown that hair relaxers contain a number of potentially harmful compounds, such as formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, and bisphenol A. While phthalates and parabens are known or suspected as endocrine disruptors, formaldehyde has been banned or restricted in several nations.

Global regulations on these chemicals differ, and consumers still don’t fully understand the possible risks they pose.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do hair relaxers work?

Hair relaxers contain chemicals, typically sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide, that break the disulfide bonds in the hair. This process weakens the hair’s natural curl pattern, making it easier to straighten.

Can hair relaxers cause hair loss or damage?

Improper use of hair relaxers, such as leaving them on for too long or overlapping applications, can lead to hair breakage, scalp irritation, and hair loss. It is crucial to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and consider consulting a professional hairstylist for application.

How often should hair relaxers be applied?

The frequency of hair relaxer applications depends on individual hair growth and texture. Generally, it is recommended to wait at least 6 to 8 weeks between relaxer treatments to allow new hair growth and minimize potential damage.

Can I relax my hair at home or should I visit a salon?

While some people choose to relax their hair at home, it is generally safer to have the procedure done by a professional hairstylist. They have the expertise to assess your hair’s condition, choose the appropriate relaxer strength, and minimize the risk of damage or chemical burns.

In addition to health concerns, cultural considerations, societal pressures, and the requirement for transparency are all addressed in the discussion of hair relaxers. 

As the business develops, it is critical to give government regulation, corporate responsibility, and consumer education priority to protect the health and safety of the people using these goods.

Also Read: The Magic of The Little Mermaid

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