FDA Delays Proposal to Ban Formaldehyde in Hair Relaxers Amid Rising Health Concerns

FDA Delays Proposal to Ban Formaldehyde in Hair Relaxers Amid Rising Health Concerns

THE WHAT?   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has missed its own deadline to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair relaxers, a decision that was initially set for April 2024. This chemical is commonly found in hair-straightening products predominantly used by Black women, which have been linked to significant health risks, including cancer.

THE DETAILS  In October, the FDA indicated its intention to introduce a regulation to prohibit formaldehyde in these products following extensive studies that identified a correlation between the ingredients in hair-smoothing products and increased cancer risk. However, as of the end of April, the agency has not released its proposed ban and did not respond to inquiries regarding the delay. This issue gained attention following a significant study by the National Institutes of Health, which found an increased risk of uterine cancer among Black women who frequently use hair relaxers.

THE WHY? The delay has sparked concern among health advocates and affected individuals, many of whom are involved in class-action lawsuits against major cosmetic manufacturers like L’Oréal and Revlon. While Revlon has previously denied any link between hair relaxers and cancer, L’Oréal has stated that its products do not contain formaldehyde and expressed support for the FDA’s proposed ban, emphasizing its commitment to consumer health and safety.

The issue highlights broader concerns about the disparities in marketed beauty products and the potential health risks disproportionately affecting Black women. Democratic Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Shontel Brown have actively campaigned for stricter regulations on such products, citing the cultural and socio-economic pressures that have historically influenced beauty standards among Black women.