L’Oréal, SoftSheen-Carson and Strength of Nature lost an appeal to dismiss a Georgia woman’s chemical hair relaxer lawsuit that claims the companies failed to warn the public about toxic chemicals in their products that can cause uterine fibroids.

The Georgia Appeals Court ruled that Kiara Burroughs’ claim can proceed in Georgia state court. Burroughs used chemical hair relaxers for nearly 10 years from the age of six until she was 25 in 2014, according to court documents

Burroughs’ lawsuit said she developed uterine fibroids, and she filed her lawsuit in 2022 when she found out a 2022 study linked chemical hair straighteners and fibroids. Her complaint lists several counts against L’Oréal and the other defendants including failure to warn, fraud, manufacturing defects and general negligence. 

Attorney Danielle Mason represents Burroughs and three other Black women suing L’Oréal in Georgia. Mason’s clients told her it wasn’t about the money. The women, she said, filed lawsuits to hold the companies accountable and prevent the products from harming others.   

“Accountability is always first on the list. And then second on the list is if you can’t make these products any safer, then they need to be removed,” Mason told Georgia Public Radio in January 2024. 

Defendants wanted to dismiss Burroughs’ case partly because federal law preempted her case and she filed it too late for it to continue. Originally, the trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Defendants appealed and the Appeals Court allowed the case to continue for specific counts, including fraud and negligence. 

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Did you develop cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids after using chemical hair straighteners?
You may be eligible for compensation.

L’Oréal, Other Hair Relaxer Makers Face Thousands of Lawsuits

In addition to Burroughs’ state case, more than 8,100 hair relaxer lawsuits are pending in federal court in Illinois. These claims have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation, or MDL. The focus of many of these cases is on cancer — specifically uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer. 

These lawsuits claim defendants purposefully marketed their products to Black women and other women of color and pushed Eurocentric beauty standards focused on straight hair. Furthermore, these companies failed to properly warn the public that toxic chemicals — such as phthalates, parabens and DEHP — in the products could increase the risk of cancer. 

Women began filing lawsuits after the publication of a key 2022 NIH study, known as the Sister Study, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found a link between hair straightening products and uterine cancer. Other studies have also found links between cancer and hair straighteners.  

According to the study, chemicals in hair relaxers are endocrine disruptors and may increase the risk of uterine cancer and other reproductive system disorders. Researchers also said the risk is higher for Black women because they are more likely to be heavy users of these products. 

Attorney Daniel Nigh shared that many of his clients started using these products when they were young. That led to some of his clients having cancer in their 20s, and now they can no longer have children. He believes the science linking hair relaxers to cancer is strong. 

“The Sister Study is very well-powered and shows the doubling of the risk of those three different types of cancer. Certainly troubling, and certainly hard to refute, that hair straighteners are causing those cancers,” Nigh said. 

So far, there are no firm trial dates in the Illinois MDL, and the discovery phase continues. Because these cases are complex, lawyers say it may take a while. 

On June 13, 2024, the Court appointed Professor Maura R. Grossman to serve as special master in the MDL. Part of Rowland’s duties will be to assist in the discovery process and make recommendations to the Court.