Plaintiffs—mainly Black, Hispanic and mixed-race women, bringing claims in the hair straightener MDL have put forward a Master Long Form Complaint -- Case: 1:23-cv-00818, which was filed on May 15 states that L’Oréal, and several other manufacturers of hair relaxer products:
- Exposed Plaintiffs to brutally toxic products without warning;
- Systematically misrepresented and continue to misrepresent the significant health impacts of hair relaxer use, all while targeting women of color and taking advantage of centuries of racial discrimination and cultural coercion which emphasized—both socially and professionally—the necessity of maintaining straight hair.”
- Advertised their hair relaxer products as, inter alia, “organic,” “safe,” “botanicals,” “natural,” and “ultra nourishing” in newspapers, magazines, and media predominantly consumed by Black and Brown women. The advertisements, commercials, and packaging for Defendants’ hair relaxer products feature almost exclusively women of color with smooth hair texture.
- Amplified institutionalized systems of discrimination that have minimized the cultural identity and heritage of women of African descent.
- Exploited for profit this deep-rooted connection between hair and identity in how they chose to market their hair relaxer products.
- Purposely targeted children to increase sales and ensure generations of dedicated consumers.
Hair Straightener Lawsuits
One of the first to file a lawsuit against L’Oréal and other hair straightening manufacturers is Rugieyatu Bhonopha, a California woman. According to the Dallas Legal Examiner, Bhonopha began using hair relaxer products since was 13 years old, and used them from 1996 until 2008. At age 35, she was diagnosed with 16 fibroids in October 2019 and underwent a myomectomy. In 2022 she had a miscarriage and four more fibroids were found. Bhonopha’s lawsuit states that her fibroids were caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in the hair care products.
Erika Williams filed a complaint in February in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against several hair relaxer manufacturers, including L’Oreal USA and its Soft-Sheen Carson subsidiary, as well as Godrej Sun Holdings, Strength of Nature, LLC, Dabur International, Namaste Laboratories, Beauty Bell Enterprises and its House of Chatham, LLC subsidiary. Williams claims she developed uterine/endometrial cancer as a direct result of her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in their products.
Another California woman filed a complaint in April against the manufacturers of African Pride, Soft & Beautiful and Dark & Lovely.Gloria Harris says she began using various hair relaxer perm kits from the late 1980s until 2021—30 years of chemicals applied to her scalp. Harris has been diagnosed with uterine cancer.