Research reveals fibroid link with hair ‘relaxer’ use

By The Ligali Organisation | Mon 4 June 2012

African Pride?: Scalp damage from chemical hair straightener burns (Image from African Health Magazine)

A ten year study into the effects of chemical hair straighteners on African women has revealed an increased risk of uterine fibroids, as well as correlation between early puberty in young girls.

Results of the pioneer study which was published through the Oxford University Press and made available in the American Journal of Epidemiology (January 2012) involved the following of over 23,000 premenopausal women for incidents of uterine leiomyomata.

Amongst other criteria participants reported on was their age when first using hair straighteners, the type of formula applied and the frequency of burns they received. It is widely accepted that millions of African women who expose themselves to chemical straighteners may be absorbing potentially harmful chemicals like parabens and phthalates into their blood stream through scalp lesions and burns.

The study which proves correlation and asserts causality has faced strong opposition from those determined to continue the ‘relaxing’ process despite the negative effects of these chemicals which can also be absorbed through the skin.

This resistance which is believed to be symptomatic of sufferers of body dysmorphic syndromes is similar to the manner in which some users seek to normalise the practice of using carcinogenic skin whitening (bleaching) products to achieve an imagined but unsustainable cosmetic goal.

Tragically many younger women are initially opposed to using chemical hair products but often adjust this view after being introduced or culturally indoctrinated into the ‘relaxing’ process by their mothers and an older generation seeking to conform to a beauty aesthetic unnatural to themselves.

Child Abuse: Good Hair?

Toxic industrial compounds

Controversial ‘beauty’ aids designed to alter the natural features of their users often contain potentially harmful active ingredients like parabens and in particular phthalates, a toxic industrial compound widely used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.

Yet whilst these chemicals can be absorbed into the skin, more damage is done with the use of chemicals hair straighteners due to the way they burn the scalp, exposing the body to their negative health effects.

Analysis of the data collected revealed that whilst the risk of fibroids was unrelated to the age at first use or the type of formula used, the systematic exposure to phthalates through scalp lesions significantly increased their risk of developing uterine leiomyomata. It also showed that those women who used the chemicals more than seven times during a year developed uterine fibroids more often.

Fibroids are tumors that grow in the uterus in women of childbearing age. Their growth is dependent on estrogen production. Research suggest they occur several (up to nine) times more often in African women than european women. Uterine fibroids are the single most common indication for hysterectomy. Up to half of women with fibroids have no symptoms until between the ages of 30 and 50 years depending on their size, position and condition.

Soul Singer Conya Doss: Battled with Fibroids – “As I started talking to women about fibroids, I found out that basically every African American woman I know has had them and out of all of us I’m the only one who hasn’t had a hysterectomy.”

External Links
Hair Relaxer Use and Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata in African-American Women
New Study Links Relaxers To Fibroids
African Health Magazine
Singer Conya Doss Opens Up On Her Battle with Fibroids

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