Hair relaxers, also known as hair straighteners or hair smoothing products, are popular grooming products that use chemicals to alter the natural texture of hair, making it easier to style and manage. But can these products potentially cause cancer? This question has long been a concern for many people, especially since several of the ingredients found in hair relaxers have been linked to cancer in some studies.

In this article, we’ll explore the potential connection between hair relaxers and cancer and provide some tips on how to use these products safely.

About hair relaxers

Hair relaxers contain a variety of chemicals that can be harsh on the hair and scalp, including sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, and thioglycolic acid. These chemicals work by breaking down the hair’s protein structure, allowing it to be reshaped into a new, straightened form. While hair relaxers can be effective in achieving the desired straight hair look, they can also cause irritation, dryness, and breakage if not used correctly.

But beyond these immediate side effects, some people wonder if hair relaxers can also cause more serious health problems, such as cancer.

What are the potential cancer risks of hair relaxers?

One concern about hair relaxers is that they may contain carcinogenic chemicals that can increase cancer risk. Carcinogenic chemicals are substances that have the potential to cause cancer in humans or animals. Some of the chemicals found in hair relaxers, such as sodium hydroxide and guanidine hydroxide, have been classified as potentially carcinogenic to humans by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer).

There have also been some studies linking the usage of hair relaxers to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. For example, a study that was published in the International Journal of Cancer discovered that women who used hair relaxers had a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who didn’t make use of these products.

Are hair relaxers safe to use?

Despite the potential cancer risks, hair relaxers are generally considered safe to use if they are used as directed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider hair relaxers to be toxic or harmful when used as directed. However, it’s important to follow the instructions on the product label and to use caution when applying hair relaxers, as they can cause irritation and other side effects if not used properly.

Tips for using hair relaxers safely.

If you do decide to use hair relaxers, there are a few steps you can take to help ensure your safety:

  • Follow the instructions on the product label carefully.
  • Wear gloves when applying the product to protect your hands.
  • Avoid getting the product on your skin or in your eyes.
  • If you have sensitive skin or a history of allergies, you may want to consider using a hair relaxer that is specifically formulated for sensitive skin.
  • Use a deep conditioning treatment after using a hair relaxer to help nourish and repair your hair.
  • Avoid applying heat to your hair immediately after using a hair relaxer, as this can further damage your hair.

Consider using natural alternatives to hair relaxers, such as heat-free hair straightening methods or natural hair straightening products made with ingredients like coconut oil and keratin.


While there is a potential connection between hair relaxers and cancer, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between these products and cancer risk. In the meantime, hair relaxers are generally considered safe to use if they are used as directed, and caution is taken to avoid irritation and other side effects.

There have also been some studies that suggest a potential connection between the increased risk of uterine cancer and the use of hair straighteners.

If you are concerned about the potential chance of uterine cancer from hair straighteners, it may be a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for advice.