The dependency of African Women on Hair relaxers is truly worrisome especially as most women are not well informed about the chemicals present in these relaxers. Women relax their hair at least once every month and this ritual continues mostly for the rest of their lives. Being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in small doses for a long period of time is whats absolutely scary. Hair companies do not print all the chemicals present in black hair products, if they did they’d probably go out of business. I realize there isn’t a lot of advocacy on this issue which is also interesting as i would assume people would want to know more about what they put in their hair, and once they know its harmful, would want to spread the message across to others. I always hypothesized that the use of relaxers, in the long run would cause some sort of ailment. But like all scientific hypothesis, it has to be tested. Seeing I’m just a young Scientist with no fancy lab or high tech equipment to call my own, i decided to do what scientists do best which is to find some sort of evidence..but this time using good old Google. I’m happy to say i found a recent study on this.
A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology has linked hair relaxers to uterine fibroids, as well as early puberty in young girls.
Scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the two- to three-times higher rate of fibroids among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers.
Women who got their first menstrual period before the age of 10 were also more likely to have uterine fibroids, and early menstruation may result from hair products black girls are using, according to a separate study published in the Annals of Epidemiology last summer.
Three hundred African American, African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women in New York City were studied. The women’s first menstrual period varied anywhere from age 8 to age 19, but African Americans, who were more likely to use straightening and relaxers hair oils, also reached menarche earlier than other racial/ethnic groups.
While so far, there is only an association rather than a cause and effect relationship between relaxers, fibroid tumors, and puberty, many experts have been quick to point out that the hair care industry isn’t regulated by the FDA, meaning that there’s no definite way to fully know just how harmful standard Black hair care products really are.
Fibroids are tumors that grow in the uterus. They are benign, which means they are not cancerous, and are made up of muscle fibers. Fibroids can be as small as a pea and can grow as large as a melon. It is estimated that 20-50% of women have, or will have, fibroids at some time in their lives.
From lessons in Epidemiology, i learnt that A might be associated with B but not the cause of B. In this case the study found that there is only an association rather than a cause and effect relationship between relaxers and fibroid tumors. In lay terms this means relaxers are associated with fibroid tumours but relaxers are not the reason why people get fibroid according to this study.
Until more research is done in this area we cant dispel anything with confidence. My hypothesis remains a hypothesis until someone spends years looking into this. PhD thesis anyone?
By Ify Aniebo
Image source: http://akorra.com/2010/03/21/9-reasons-to-avoid-perms-and-relaxers/