The Perm Culture Has Been Linked To Epidemic Of Fibroids in Black Women

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The results of a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology have some black women thinking about going “au natural” when it comes to their hair. A published paper from researchers at Boston University linked hair relaxers to uterine fibroid tumors in women and early puberty in young girls.

Led by Dr. Lauren Wise of Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the increased rate of fibroid growth among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers.

In the study, among African-American women who had reported being diagnosed with uterine fibroids, a majority of them also admitted to having had chemical relaxer treatments at some time. According to researchers, such hair products may contain hormonally active chemicals, like parabens and phthalates that have been known to cause negative effects on cell models and animals and are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. The article proposes that these chemicals can be absorbed into the skin via lesions from chemical burns.

According to the study, 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 that these young, black girls are using. This is reportedly at an earlier age than other racial groups including African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women in New York City. The women’s first menstrual period (menarche) 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 these racial/ethnic groups.

While so far, there is only an association rather than a cause and effect relationship between relaxers, menarche, and fibroid tumors, as Tamika Fletcher, co-owner of Natural Resources salon in Houston, pointed out in a Fox Report, the hair care industry isn’t regulated by the FDA so there’s no telling what black women are putting in their hair and how harmful those products may be.

Source: Do Hair Relaxers Cause Fibroids in Black Women?

Medical Journal of Epidemiology

“Hair relaxers are used by millions of black women, possibly exposing them to various chemicals through scalp lesions and burns. In the Black Women’s Health Study, the authors assessed hair relaxer use in relation to uterine leiomyomata incidence. In 1997, participants reported on hair relaxer use (age at first use, frequency, duration, number of burns, and type of formulation). From 1997 to 2009, 23,580 premenopausal women were followed for incident uterine leiomyomata. Multivariable Cox regression was used to estimate incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals. During 199,991 person-years, 7,146 cases of uterine leiomyomata were reported as confirmed by ultrasound (n = 4,630) or surgery (n = 2,516). The incidence rate ratio comparing ever with never use of relaxers was 1.17 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 1.30). Positive trends were observed for frequency of use (Ptrend < 0.001), duration of use (Ptrend = 0.015), and number of burns (Ptrend < 0.001). Among long-term users (≥10 years), the incidence rate ratios for frequency of use categories 3–4, 5–6, and ≥7 versus 1–2 times/year were 1.04 (95% CI: 0.92, 1.19), 1.12 (95% CI: 0.99, 1.27), and 1.15 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.31), respectively (Ptrend = 0.002). Risk was unrelated to age at first use or type of formulation. These findings raise the hypothesis that hair relaxer use increases uterine leiomyomata risk”

Lauren A. Wise, Julie R. Palmer, David Reich, Yvette C. Cozier and Lynn Rosenberg

Correspondence to Dr. Lauren A. Wise, Slone Epidemiology Center, Boston University, 1010 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 (e-mail: lwise{at}

  • Received June 15, 2011.
  • Accepted September 9, 2011.

48 thoughts on “The Perm Culture Has Been Linked To Epidemic Of Fibroids in Black Women

  1. I have been perming my y own hair since I was a teen. I am 55 now. I always coat my scalp with Vaseline first. Just a suggestion, I need my perms or I can’t comb my hair at all after 6 weeks! Lol…


  2. Perming definitely is dangerous, what happens to the brain is my bigger concern, and eyes, but most important for me is the study of the application of nail extensions. The poisons in those nails should be researched- I know a shop owner whose Worker’s were consistently experiencing miscarriages…


  3. I can’t agree 100% with this article. I know plenty of women who get relaxers who do NOT have fibroids, including myself. But as a healthcare provider, I know that excessive amounts of processed foods, farm raised animals, pesticide sprayed vegetables/fruits, high sugar diets, lack of essential vitamins/minerals, lack of water intake, and high fried foods diet can cause an environment for fibroids and other toxins to feed off of and grow. We all need to be transformed from the inside/out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know a lot of people who have smoked for years but haven’t contracted lung cancer. Some people are more susceptible than others


  4. I do believe this research is very true.
    My menstrual cycle started when I was 9 years young til stopped when I was 45 due to a hesterectomy to remove fibroids from hell.
    Never had a chance to have babies.
    Started heat relaxers when I was 28. I have gone Natura now for 8 years.


  5. The truth lies between the woman who relaxes her hair and feels no pain and the other woman who later finds out that her problems were cause by relaxers. Thanks will go to anyone who will always try to educate and help our black ladies from becoming victims. It’s not how much we can stand against each other on this matter but the truth is , Is there an element of truth on what we are saying ? or is there an element of truth that black women have problems with their hair ? The choice is your . Being in the cosmetic field for over 15 years i will say go “au natural” Than say waiting till some one conducts a study and say relaxers are a problems to the hair then you stop. Stop now and go natural.


    • Who says cosmetics field? Do you mean your a mua? You can’t be a Cosmetologist, which means you don’t understand the science or how to read a study. It clearly states that the Parabens are what they suspected was the link. News flash…there are no Parabens in relaxers haven’t been for years… Now Make Up? They are packed with all kinds of preservatives. Look at how it breaks out women’s faces. They literally eat lipstick every day.. that is not made for human consumption yet how much of it is ingested when you eat,drink, or just lick your lips? We are talking about a 20 min process that is done 3-4 times in year.. Vs. Make up that is worn dor 16 hours a day almost every day of the year. .


  6. I recently attended a seminar on Alzheimer in central London, hosted by a pharmaceutical concern seeking to do clinical trials. I was quite surprised to see the number of black women candidates present. Further, the number of black people nominating sisters, aunties, mothers etc for these trials. It left me wondering if dementia related activities are now becoming a predominated black thing, specifically black females. Some of these women were in their early forties.

    Before someone screams ‘white women get Alzheimer too’. This is true. It’s just that there was a dis-proportionate higher number of black females represented at the seminar.

    Most black women commence relaxation of hair in their teens and getting younger as the years go by. There are now things called kiddy/baby relaxers. Perhaps someone should conduct a study on the long term effects of pouring caustic soda on one’s scalp, covering with plastic and heating it up.


    • Mam Im a chemist and professional hair product formulator. Tou extremely mis informed if you think “relaxers” are applied and covered with plastic caps and put under heat… You odvious have NEVER applied or had a relaxer applied on you. It only goes on for max 20 min from the first section to the soothing process. What you are talking about are Thiogloclates which are for Perms or “Curls”.. or colors Semi, Demi, or Permanent. This processes require cap and heat. Not relaxers..You should read my post for clarity and not propaganda. I will tell you this. I decided not to make a color line for my brand because of some of the ingredients recommended to reduce the molecular weight concerned me to the point that I passed. Now if you want to investigate that then I should.


  7. I have read and done research. I have fibroids and whether they are a direct result of the chemicals I used to use or not, I would rather not continue gambling with my health. I went natural 4 years ago. Best decision of my life. No more high expenses of maintaining my hair and people around me love it. Some have gone natural just because of mine and realising how low maintenance it is. I am more confident in myself and my self esteem has gone from 5 – 9 out of 10. Just my one pence thoughts.


    • HI. THANKS SO much for putting this out to our women and girls. I did cell cosmetics for over 10 years In Africa before Living to the US. Still Her, I still had that desire for the profession I love so much .  . I did sit down with some top chemist and we talk about Africa women hair . I have  a product in the market for hair . Since you have gone Natural , To say thank you I will like to mail some to you . Send me your address. It’s for people who are going naturalThanks Fontem  Valentine


      • I need to know what I can put on my natural hair to make it easier on me idk what to do but I’m tender headed I was getting aggravated and almost permed it til I read this.


  8. This is an out right lie. I have actually read the whole study. There was no connection period. It is propaganda! Unfortunately, the Politics of hair is at play here. The major white owned companies that make “Natural Hair” products, are main players exploiting this urban legion start by people who were addressing a much deeper issue of self- hate. Unfortunately by falsely accusing their own sisters of being “Creamy Crack Dealers” that reinforced the self hate.

    These major white owned companies now have paid bloggers and sell out stylists who are contributing to this form of economic genocide. They are behind the natural hair movement trying to destroy the last bastion of black economic independence we have for decades now. The black salon industry is all we have left. These people are only posting the “hypothesis statement” of the study. You must understand how Scientific Studies are Structured.
    1. Is your Problem

    2. Is your Hypothesis

    3. Is your experiment to prove the hypothesis true or false.

    4. Give your conclusion on the results of the study. Which didn’t even examine the ingredients of any relaxers at all!

    I am astounded that we in the industry have let this misinformation stay out here so long. I have downloaded the complete study. You can find it yourself. Read the conclusion it will shock you, but not me. Because I formulate haircare products and i already knew this.

    Spoiler alert! The whole study hypothesis was based on the possibility of Parabens from preservatives entering the blood stream due the irritation from the active ingredients (soduim hydrocide), not the sodium hydroxide itself as the cause, but as a possible carrier. Well Relaxers now are and have been Paraben free for years now…There is no connection period. In fact the conclusion points to two other possible causes. Pesticides and hereditary connections… go figure.


    • I to am a hairstyle. I think this is questionable? I suggest to all of my clients get your relaxer twice a year. Do not over due the chemicals all that listen has long healthy hair. There’s nothing safe not even food so what do you do? Fibroid has been around in black women long before relaxers. I am a black women a hairstylist for over 35 years I have natural hair n I to have fibroid.


      • You say that as though you yourself have never placed chemicals in your head but you have fibroids. For someone who suggest everyone else put relaxer in their hair at least twice a year (FOR THE PAST 35 YEARS!) I find it quite hard to believe that you yourself have been natural your entire life. In fact I would go so far as to say the only reason that you do have natural hair is because the chemicals that you once used gave you those fibroids. Even the contradictory of all your clients get relaxers while you rock a natural hair style is suspect in itself.


    • I had a vision about this way before I seen this…a few months ago. Its true the thing is to find out which companies and relaxer it is….I was diagnose with fibroids in 2004 when I became pregnant I had no clue what it was or that I had it as a result I miscarried. Sometime to think about. I am not selling natural products or anything. I just want to share….God gave me a vision about this topic!


    • Thank you for your informed clarity. I was starting to question this research as well, you made a valid point about the breakdown of a resesrch. People need to understand how that works as well reading the entire document before making conclusion about the matter.


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  10. I WILL NOT doubt about your study about African women on their hair. I sold cosmetic for almost 10 years or more and what I found was dismayed . When it came to relaxers almost all the relaxing products in the African market were adulterated with some other products to have a lage amount of relaxer . Who know what the end product will be to the human body. …….just as you said. Thanks


  11. And what effect of birth control have on black women or white ? l do agree that burning from chemical
    Is dangerous abuse of chemical is as bad as drug abuse I’m concerned about the no-lyes which was designed for soft mixed texture hair to remove curls or wavy hair not type 4or5 and that’s when your putting your client in danger .I’ve seen scalps just so damaged I refuse to do them the first layer of the scalp is so damaged


  12. The same results could be found among the same black women using the microwave on a regular basis, or the foods eaten or water consumed or other radioactive exposures. There are many black women with chemically relaxed hair and do not have fibroids.
    Stop spreading propaganda to promote the sale of natural hair products. Sick of it.


      • Myself and many other black women have been relaxing their hair for years and do not have fibroids or other complications. If it’s used by professionals only many of the ill effects may not be observed. Many black women apply the chemical themselves and leave it in longer than the recommended time. Many are not skillful enough to avoid application to the scalp hence their complication. I have been relaxing my hair for more than 20 years, so have many friends and associates with no problems.
        Nothing wrong with sporting a natural hairstyle, I even braid from time to time. Some of the styles I actually like. This study does not scare me to quit relaxing. This study is not convincing as it does not cover the issue of proper use and recommended frequency.
        We should be happy that black women have many hairstyle options .


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