These Hair Products Could Be Increasing Your Cancer Risk Study Finds

Contents:

Is Your Hair Routine Risking Your Health?

Cancer is no joke, so though we deal with information about hair care, we will discuss “The Big C” from time to time particularly when we come across evidence to suggest that hair care practices and products are giving rise to cancer. Today is such a day when we must delve into the abyss.

Imagine finding out that a routine you have had for years is increasing your risk for cancer. Well, here’s your spoiler alert because there is scientific evidence to show that your hair dyes and chemical straighteners may increase your risk of cancer. It seems nothing is safe.

By now some of you might be exasperated since it seems every month there is some kind of alarming health news. It seems there is always some type of report suggesting our products are killing us.

Previously phthalates were being identified as carcinogenic agents found in in relaxers and talcum powder has also been shown to have some correlation with abnormal cell growth.

We even looked at how a popular wash-n-go favourite might be carcinogenic. Yet we deem it part of our responsibility to inform our community about this most critical development that directly affects us.

What’s The Latest News?

Alexandra White PhD, head at the National Institue of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)  with special responsibility for the Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, along with colleague and co-author of the study, Dale Sandler PhD, conducted a study to examine the likelihood that hair products cause an increase in the development of breast cancer.


The study in question consisted of 46,709 female participants in the “Sister Study.”  An online publication in the International Journal of Cancer, released on December 4, 2019, has published the following findings:

  1. Permanent hair dye may increase breast cancer risk
  2. Chemical straighteners may increase breast cancer risk
  3. Semi-permanent or temporary dye use recorded little to no evidence of increased cancer risk.
  4. Black women were over three times more likely than white women to develop cancers from the use of permanent dyes and chemical straighteners.

The findings were covered by authoritative sites including Science Daily, Medical News Today and Medscape.

Consequently, in response to whether or not women ought to refrain from dyeing or straightening their hair, Dr Sandler had this to say:

We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk. While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Unpacking & Making Sense Of It All

The study purports that of the total number of participants in the study, those women who use permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not use these products at all.

The participants who used permanent dyes up to a year before being enlisted in the study were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer issues. Use of the permanent dyes for touch-ups every 5-8 weeks was shown to be associated with a 60% increased cancer risk in black women.

Curiously, this risk only presented an 8% increase in cancer risk in white women. It seems the only way to limit the potential for developing cancer if you use dyes, is to ensure it is not a permanent dye, but a temporary or semi-permanent one.

With regards to the use of chemical hair straighteners, the research findings revealed that this accounts for a 30% increase in breast cancer risk for those who indulge in the practice of chemical hair straightening.

So Many Questions…

I don’t know about you but I always marvel at how everything seems to affect people of colour and specifically black people at an alarmingly higher rate than it would any other ethnicity.

Now I do not want to give room to the conspiracy theories, but why is it that everything that happens, every chronic illness and lifestyle-related complications mostly affect black people?

Asians and Caucasians seem to use dyes just as often or even more than we do if we are to go by their depictions of themselves in the mainstream media that is controlled by them. Is it that the media offers a disingenuous portrayal of them purely for marketing purposes?

Is it that white women dye their hair less frequently? Is it that greater care is taken to ensure that their products are safe? Is it that our genetic makeup does not agree with most things? Is it that by virtue of the fact that our community buys the mammoth’s share of products on the market, so we end up registering higher numbers than other races? Or is it that our use of products is not in keeping with how the manufacturers stipulate as acceptable use?

As it relates to chemical straighteners, did the study mean relaxers only or was it inclusive of Keratin treatments, Vigorol and hair botox? There are just so many questions but more studies are needed in this field to answer them.

Final Considerations

It is tempting to shrug it off and say the findings are not conclusive since the researchers inserted the term “may”; as in it may cause cancer and not a definite it “will” cause cancer.

Still, the truth of the matter is that we cannot afford to take lightly anything that suggests that our practices or frequently used products are playing a detrimental role in ill health for us.

If anything, we ought to continue to be vigilant so we can monitor these various studies, see about conducting our own studies and agitating for legislation to ensure that manufacturers are held accountable to for the products that they market to us and ensure that they use safer alternatives.

About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

About Marsha Buchanan


As a Jamaican girl raised in a devout church family headed by my mother, I have always had my natural hair, no chemical processing. After years of mistreating it , often ignorant of that fact, I began my healthy hair journey in January 2013 in fact, I have seen to it that my entire household falls in line where this is concerned. When I am not poring over some hair blog or forum I spend my time teaching English to rowdy high school students (ok maybe I have some little sweethearts in the mix), mothering the most adorable two year old on this globe, or rushing to meet the deadline for a writing project on Elance. In my spare time I enjoy a stroll along the beach with my doting husband.

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Comments

    1. Ariane Dent
      Ariane Dent

      no I haven’t relaxed my hair in over 15 yrs. I flat iron my hair and use Henna to die my grays.

      1. Denise Sargeant-James

        How does one get henna to completely cover gray hair? I’ve tried several suggested methods but none work to date.
        Is there a natural way to truly cover grey hair, come to think about it?

        1. Alma Ruddock

          Yes absolutely. Henna alone won’t do it. Youve got to mix henna with Indigo also sometimes called Vasma to get shades of brown and black in order to blend grays away. Take a look at this video – https://blackhairinformation.com/hair-care-2/hair-treatments-and-recipes/cover-grays-henna-indigo/

          She does hers in two steps but I have done it myself in a single step with great success too. Plus you can purchase them both together on
          Amazon. The longest part of the process is waiting for the dye release overnight in order to get good color but the coloring process is a breeze.

  1. Valerie Johnson
    Valerie Johnson

    I think burns during relaxing allow the chemical to seep into the scalp and hence the bloodstream…are the people in the study using professional services or are they doing it themselves? Are they applying a base to the scalp and hairline like Vaseline first or are they applying the relaxer directly? So many questions.

  2. Linda Chitoshi Onifade
    Linda Chitoshi Onifade

    Lots of products cause cancer these days and the list gets bigger each year. Even contraceptives are included on that list. I am waiting for the research on weaves to come out soon. Then it will be, you can’t relax your hair, you can’t dye it and you can’t use weaves or extensions as they contain products that cause cancer.

  3. chgorose

    This was an interesting article. My question is what about women that have used these products in the past, but have stopped? Does the cancer risk decrease or does it remain the same? Is this study still ongoing? Because I’d be really interested in learning the answers to the questions that were posed in the article.

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