FDA proposes ban on cancer-causing chemicals in hair relaxers

By Olivia DeSmit

- Last updated on GMT

© wsfurlan / Getty Images
© wsfurlan / Getty Images

Related tags Hair straightening

Certain hair relaxers and smoothers contain formaldehyde or other harmful chemicals, a press release by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley states*. The FDA has announced a potential ban on these chemicals.

The chemicals within these products have been linked to serious health issues, namely uterine cancer, in addition to short-term health issues such as breathing issues.

The proposed ban would remove any hair-straightening chemical products containing formaldehyde and other formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from the market. Other chemicals known to release formaldehyde include methylene and glycol, according to CNN​.

According to a study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute​**, a history of using hair straightener within the past 12 months increased the hazard of uterine cancer by 80%. The study also found that for 4% of women who frequently use hair-straightening products developed uterine cancer by age 70, compared with only 1.6% of women who hadn’t used such products within the past year.

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade organization for cosmetics and personal care products companies, released a statement regarding the proposed FDA ban. “Science and safety are the cornerstones of our industry,” the Personal Care Products Council statement states.

“The PCPC and our member companies support the Expert Panel’s assessment and are committed to ensuring consumer choice and access to safe and effective products that meet the differing needs of individuals and their families. We believe there is nothing more important than the safety of our products and the trust that consumers place in them.

“We commend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its continued effort to ensure consumers have access to safe products.”

The Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety is an independent scientific body that has previously deemed ingredients methylene glycol and formaldehyde in hair smoothing and straightening products unsafe.


* Ayanna Pressley. “After Pressley, Brown Inquiry, FDA Proposes Ban on Harmful Chemicals in Hair Relaxers.” https://pressley.house.gov/2023/10/06/after-pressley-brown-inquiry-fda-proposes-ban-on-harmful-chemicals-in-hair-relaxers/

** Journal of the National Cancer Institute​, “Use of Straighteners and Other Hair Products and Incident Uterine Cancer”.  Volume 114, Issue 12, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djac165​ . Chang, C., et al.

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