Hair Relaxer and Premature Birth Lawsuits

Millions of Black women in the U.S. use chemical hair relaxers or “hair perms” to straighten their hair. The latest medical research has found, however, that the chemicals in hair relaxer products can cause pregnancy complications and lead to premature birth.  Lawsuits are now being brought against the manufacturers of hair relaxers by women who used these products and had a baby born prematurely.

The lawyers at our firm are currently investigating potential new hair relaxer lawsuit cases from women who used chemical hair relaxers or hair perms for 10 years or longer and had a pregnancy that ended with a premature delivery (before 37 weeks). For a free consultation, contact our office today at 800-553-8082.


Chemical Hair Relaxers

A hair relaxer is a cosmetic product that straightens or flattens tight-curled hair. Hair relaxers are primarily used by African American women to make their hair flatter and more manageable.

Hair relaxing, commonly called a “perm,” is done either at a salon by a cosmetologist or at home. The relaxer product is applied to the base of the hair and left in place to “cook.” During the cooking process, strong chemicals in the relaxer product attack the protein structure of the hair forcing it to flatten.

Hair relaxer products contain toxic chemicals. Nearly all relaxers have high levels of phthalates. Phthalates are a unique group of chemicals found in many different types of cosmetics to retain fragrance and add durability. In hair relaxers, phthalates are used to enable the cream or lotion to penetrate the hair strands.

Phthalates are toxic to the human body because they are known to be endocrine-disrupting-chemicals (EDCs). The endocrine system is responsible for the production of hormones such as estrogen. EDCs disrupt the normal functioning of the human endocrine system causing it to over produce hormones.


Di-2- ethyl hexyl phthalate (“DEHP”) is a phthalate chemical that is used in all hair relaxer products. DEHP is an EDC is a synthetic chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment.  When DEHP is absorbed into the body it breaks down into various metabolites. Some of these unique DEHP metabolites are very harmful.

Chemicals In Hair Relaxer Can Cause Premature Birth

A growing number of scientific studies have shown that long-term exposure to the chemicals in hair relaxers can disrupt pregnancy and result in higher rates of premature births (any birth that occurs prior to the 37th week of pregnancy).

One of the first medical studies to examine a possible connection between the use of chemical hair relaxers and pre-term delivery was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999.

The most comprehensive and conclusive study on the subject came in 2015 in the form of a large population-based cohort of hairdressers from Norway with occupational exposure to hair relaxer products. This study found that the hairdressers displayed an 80% increase in low birth weight deliveries.

Another cohort study from Boston published in Environmental Health (2021) found that regular exposure to EDCs in chemical hair relaxer products was associated with shorter gestational durations. The study suggested that use of hair relaxer may partly explain why the rate of premature births is so much higher among Black women.

A study released in 2016 looked at birth outcomes among hairdressers and women in cosmetology school in Charlotte, North Carolina. The study found that these women, who regularly worked with chemical hair relaxer, displayed significantly increased risks for a number of adverse birth outcomes including prematurity, small-for-gestational age, and infant mortality.

Uterine and Breast Cancer Linked to Hair Relaxer

New research has also shown that regular and prolonged use of chemical hair relaxer can greatly increase the risk of both uterine cancer and breast cancer. In fact, the scientific evidence linking hair relaxer to these cancers is stronger than the evidence for pre-term birth.

According to a brand new medical study published in October 2022, long term use of chemical hair relaxer can increase a woman’s chances of developing uterine cancer by 100%. Even more significantly, the study found a correlation between the extent of hair relaxer use and the rate of uterine cancer.

Similar evidence has recently emerged suggesting that the use of hair perms or relaxer increases the risk of breast cancer. A pair of studies that came out in 2021 found that 30% in the rate of breast cancer among women who regularly used hair relaxer.

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

Women who used chemical hair relaxer and suffered adverse health consequences are now bringing product liability lawsuits against the cosmetic companies that manufacture these products. The first hair relaxer lawsuit was filed in October 2022 in federal court in Chicago, Illinois.

hair relaxer preterm birth

The plaintiff, Jenny Mitchell, alleges that she began using hair perm products at the age of 10 and used them continuously for the next 18 years. In 2018, at the age of 28, Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer despite no family history of cancer. In her lawsuit, Mitchell claims that her uterine cancer was caused by exposure to chemicals in the hair relaxer products that she used.

The defendants named in the Mitchell case included international cosmetic company L’Oreal and a handful of smaller companies that manufacture hair relaxer. L’Oreal makes Dark & Lovely®, which is the most popular hair relaxer product on the market.

The lawsuit filed by Mitchell in Chicago is the first of what are expected to be thousands of more hair relaxer lawsuits filed moving forward. The hair relaxer lawsuits could be the next big mass tort in 2023 as women who developed cancer or had a preterm delivery after using hair relaxer come forward.

Potential Settlement Value of Hair Relaxer Premature Birth Cases

Before getting into our estimate for the potential settlement payout value of hair relaxer cases involving premature births, we need to preface this section by noting that this is speculative. The first hair relaxer lawsuit was just filed in October 2022 and the scientific evidence in these cases is literally emerging as we write.

The settlement value estimate below is, therefore, based on a number of very big assumptions about the validity of these cases as they progress forward. The most significant of these assumptions is that the evidence establishing a causal relationship between hair relaxer use and premature birth will be admissible in court.

Assuming the causation evidence in these cases withstands legal challenges, our lawyers anticipate that hair relaxer lawsuits involving premature birth could have a potential settlement value of $300,000 to $2,500,000.

So why is this is estimated settlement value range so wide? The reason for such a wide estimated range is that we just don’t know how things are going to play out in hair relaxer cases involving preterm delivery. Right now, the scientific evidence establishing the necessary causation between preterm delivery and chemicals in hair relaxers is fairly weak. The study results have been less conclusive here compared to the studies linking hair relaxers to uterine cancer.

If we were to rank the various health conditions connected to chemical hair relaxer into tiers based on the strength of the causation evidence, premature birth would be a Tier III injury. Tier I hair relaxer injuries would be uterine cancer and uterine fibroids because the connection to these conditions is supported by the strongest evidence. Tier II injuries would include breast cancer and endometriosis.

Although premature birth is currently a Tier III injury because the evidence linking it to hair relaxer use is less conclusive, this could absolutely change very soon. The science on this topic is still developing and evolving and a new study could come out in 6 months which pushes this into Tier I. If that happens, the settlement value estimate would move towards to the higher end of the range because preterm birth cases have a very high value in terms of injuries.

Contact Us About Filing a Hair Relaxer Premature Birth Lawsuit

Our firm is currently investigating product liability cases alleging that chemicals in hair perm and hair relaxer products are associated with premature births. If you used chemical hair straightener and one of more of your children were born prematurely (prior to 37 weeks), contact our office today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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