Judge rules that hair relaxer litigation against L’Oréal and Revlon can proceed

By Alessandro Carrara | Published: 15-Nov-2023

An Illinois-based US District Judge deemed that sufficient facts had been presented by the plaintiffs to support their allegations

A US judge has ruled that the majority of claims in a multi-district litigation, which alleges that hair relaxing products from a number of beauty companies caused cancer, can proceed. 

It comes after the brands, which include L’Oréal and Revlon, filed a request to dismiss the allegations in July this year.

Attorneys for the companies challenged the product liability claims, with defence lawyers stating that the plaintiffs’ allegations were “vague” and based on “unsupported conclusions”.

“The master complaint… does not identify any specific product that contains an EDC [endocrine disruptor], provide any details regarding the frequency or duration of their use, or describe when or where plaintiffs used the products,” the initial filing read.

However, Mary Rowland, the Illinois-based US District Judge handling the case, denied a majority of the defendant's requests for dismissal.

Rowland said that sufficient facts had been presented by the plaintiffs to support their allegations.

Dozens of cases were filed and consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois, with the overall litigation incorporating 241 cases across 14 defendant groups.

It follows the October 2022 publication of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, observing an association between hair relaxers and uterine cancer.  

The first claimant to sue L’Oréal, Jennifer Mitchell – who was diagnosed with cancer of the womb in 2018 – said she had used L’Oréal's products since she was 10 years old.

Claimants’ lawyers said the defendants’ current hair relaxer products contain “harmful, toxic and carcinogenic ingredients”.

They specifically singled out phthalates, which they flagged as an endocrine disruptor (EDC), “known to interfere with natural hormone production”.

Cosmetics Business has reached out to L’Oréal and Revlon for comment.

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