It is no secret that many women of color have decided to return to their roots – Afro puffs, kinky twists, kinky curls, waves, braids and bantu knots have all become extremely popular in the last ten years or so. This trend also happens to come during a time of growing speculation that perming or chemically straightening the hair may lead to uterine fibroids in women of color. An important study in the American Journal of Epidemiology sought to determine whether the use of hair relaxers was linked to uterine leiomyomata (fibroids) in African-American women.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow along the uterine wall. They can range in size from as small as an apple seed to as large as a grapefruit. Fibroids can cause abdominal pain, cramps, heavy menstrual bleeding, back pain and frequent urination. It is important to contact your physician if you experience any of these symptoms. The exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, but some theories suggest that they may be related to hormonal changes and genetics.
In the study mentioned above, researchers invited 59,000 African-American women aged 21-69 to document and update their environmental exposure and medical histories every 2 years from 1997 to 2009. While the study found that African ancestry played a role in increasing the participants’ chances of developing fibroids, it also noted that hair relaxers contain numerous chemicals that could play a huge role in the formation of fibroids.
The chemicals used in hair relaxers become absorbed into the scalp through burns and lesions. One type of chemical, called phthalates, has been shown to have “estrogenic effects in cell models and experimental animals,” and urinary monoehtylehexyl phthalate was found in some cases of uterine fibroids. This new information, paired with a pre-existing risk for fibroids, makes a good case for switching to a more natural hair care regimen.
What you can do?
With all of the speculation about whether or not hair relaxers cause fibroids, it is better for a young woman to go for a more natural approach when it comes to hair care. Wearing your hair naturally has some great benefits, such as money saved on hairdressers, a wide range of styles and – every girl’s favorite – the freedom to walk in the rain without protection!
Natural hair styles often minimize excessive use of heat on the hair. Using less heat on your hair is good for overall hair growth and strength, as too much heat can cause breakage and dry your hair out. And this leads to another great reason to become a natural girl: moisturizing with water is essential for your hair’s growth and appearance.
While more studies must still be done in order to determine conclusively whether hair relaxers contribute to fibroids, the possibility has not been ruled out. After learning about the study and the chemicals contained in these products, it may be the right time to contemplate the big chop.
Until more is known about the potential link between fibroids and hair relaxers, my advice is to stay away from the chemicals and to instead try the natural approach; it’s safer, plus your hair will be more versatile. You can wear it kinky, curly or straight – the choice is yours!