L’Oréal asks US judge to dismiss ‘unsupported’ hair relaxer claims

By Julia Wray | Published: 7-Jul-2023

The beauty giant was among several cosmetics companies challenging accusations that their straightening products caused cancer

Beauty companies including L’Oréal, Revlon and Godrej have asked a US judge to dismiss allegations that their hair relaxing products caused cancer and other health issues.

Attorneys for L’Oréal subsidiary L’Oréal USA and other cosmetics manufacturers mounted their initial legal challenge to consumers’ product liability claims on 6 July.

The multi-district litigation incorporates 241 cases across 14 defendant groups.

Dozens of cases were filed and consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois, following the October 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”, including, but not limited to, phthalates, parabens, cyclosiloxanes, di-(2-ethylhexyl), octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, lye and formaldehyde. 

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

But in yesterday’s joint filing, which requested US District Judge Mary Rowland dismiss the allegations, the defence lawyers attacked the plaintiffs’ claims as “vague” and based on “unsupported conclusions”. 

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

The defence further stressed that the October article, by Chang et al, expressly concluded that: “More research is warranted to replicate [the] findings in other settings and to identify specific chemicals driving this observed association.”  

The plaintiffs have said they want a trial date set for autumn 2024.

Cosmetics Business has reached out to both L’Oréal and the plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel for comment.

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