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Fashionable brunette in floral dress.

Black woman without any hair relaxer.     Source: Foremniakowski / Getty

In the past decade, the popularity of hair relaxers has declined significantly. Since the creamy crack isn’t flying off the shelves like it used to, the hair relaxer market is nearing extinction.

According to Forbes, Kline & Co., a market research firm, found that hair relaxers sales have declined drastically. Their findings show that  sales went from about $71 million in 2011 to $30 million in 2021. More women continue to move away from using relaxers because “clients prefer more natural hair styles and turn to styling products or styling appliances as alternatives,” Kline & Co. director Agnieszka Saintemarie said.

The major concern that Black women have had about hair relaxers are the health risks we make ourselves vulnerable to. The chemicals used in hair relaxers, like formaldehyde, are linked to breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that 4.05% of women who use hair relaxers were diagnosed with cancer. They also found that 1.64 of women who never used relaxers developed cancer by age 70. This study followed  33,497 participants for 11 years and 378 women of the participants were diagnosed with uterine cancer.

“Our findings suggest that women should consider their use of hair products in light of the fact that the chemicals in straightening products may influence their risk of developing uterine cancer,” lead author Alexandra White told Forbes.

Despite The Documented Health Risks, Dangerous Chemicals Are Still Used In Hair Relaxer

Since Black women make up 60% of the consumers for hair relaxers, this is much needed information for us.

“Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” author Che-Jung Chang told NPR.

Advocacy groups the Environmental Working Group and  the Women’s Voices for the Earth have filed a petition in hopes of a federal ban being place on formaldehyde being used in all hair products in hair salons. While at-home relaxer kits have strayed away from using the dangerous chemical, relaxers sold to salons have not.

“Most of the hair straightening treatments we worry about are marketed for professional use only,” EWG spokesperson Monica Amarelo said.

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