BYU students react to study connecting hair-straightening chemicals and cancer

BYU students react to study connecting hair-straightening chemicals and cancer

A to study published by the National Institute of Health has found a correlation between chemicals used in hair-straightening treatments and uterine cancer, and some BYU students say the treatments remain popular because of social pressure to conform.

Statistics show that chemicals found in hair-straightening treatments are linked to an increased risk of uterine cancer, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health. (Made in Canva by Ariel Harmer)

The study, published last month, followed 33,497 American women ages 35 to 74 for nearly 11 years. The report said that during that time, 378 of the women were diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The researchers found that, of those cases, women who reported using chemical hair-straightening products more than four times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as those who did not use the products.

Kallee Hinton, recent graduate of Paul Mitchell The Provo SchoolSaid there are three common methods to straighten hair. The flat ironing method, which is the most common, uses heated plates to press down sections of hair to straighten it.

Second, the hot comb method uses a heated metal comb to brush sections of hair and straighten them.

The third technique, often called a chemical relaxer, uses chemicals instead of heat to straighten hair.

“A chemical relaxer is a technique you would use if you have very curly or wavy hair that you would like to straighten for a longer period of time, rather than putting heat on your hair every day,” Hinton said.

According to the NIH study, most chemical relaxers contain chemicals such as parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde, which may contribute to increased cancer risk.

Hinton said she learned about some potential risks associated with the chemicals in hair straighteners while she was in cosmetology school. She said she was taught that some people might have allergic reactions to chemicals, but there are barrier creams cosmetologists use to prevent adverse reactions. However, she said chemical treatments have other potential effects.

“If not done correctly, or by a professional, it could lead to scalp burns or even hair loss,” he said. “These are strong chemicals, so you just have to be careful and know what you’re doing to avoid those situations.”

BYU student Flor Woodard loves her curly hair, but says it was hard to appreciate when she was younger. A study published by the National Institute of Health has linked hair straightening chemicals to cancer. (Photo courtesy of Flor Woodard)

According to BYU student Flor Woodard, who has naturally curly hair, people may turn to chemical relaxers because of beauty standards that idealize straight hair.

“I grew up in North Carolina, and there the standard of beauty was straight blonde hair,” she said. “As a very young girl, I wanted straight hair.”

Woodard said she learned to embrace and love her hair after moving to New Jersey, which has a more diverse population, and seeing more people with hair like hers. She said that these people helped her realize that beauty does not necessarily mean being the same as others.

BYU student Elise Mackley, who also has naturally curly hair, said she straightened her hair with a flat iron for years because she didn’t know how to style it.

“It takes a lot more work and knowledge to take care of curly hair,” he said.

Mackley added that the fight is likely to be more difficult for people of color because they are less represented in the media.

“I’m white, so it’s easier for me to appreciate my beauty because I see it represented more often,” she said.

Woodard said another cultural factor pressuring women with curly hair to use chemical relaxers is the common misconception that natural hair is unprofessional. She said that growing up, people used derogatory terms like “diaper” to describe curly hair.

“People say, ‘You can’t have an Afro at work, it’s not professional,’” Woodard said. “Well, why not? That’s my hair.”

According to the website of the Official Act of the CORONA, Creating an open and respectful world for natural hair, discrimination based on hairstyle is a common experience in the United States, particularly for black women. the CROWN 2019 Research Study for Women reported that black women were 80% more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work, and that black women were 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the place from work because of her hair.

BYU student Kayla Sherald grew up in a predominantly African-American community in Brooklyn, New York. As a black woman, she said she started relaxing with her hair when she was five years old, like most of her classmates.

Sherald said that some of his peers didn’t use straighteners and that he always admired his hair. She said that she never realized her hair would look like this if she didn’t use straighteners.

“Since I had never seen my natural hair, I grew up with the assumption that my ‘real’ hair was meant to be kept away and that only some people had hair good enough to be natural,” she said.

For Sherald, the process of using the chemical relaxer was always painful. She said her mother applied it from a box she bought at the local beauty store and applied it in her kitchen at home, that’s how most of her friends relaxed her hair too .

Sherald said the process took about an hour and she was always excited for it to be over because it burned her scalp.

Sherald said it can be difficult, as a minority at BYU, to feel like you belong, and there is ongoing pressure to straighten your hair.

“Nobody has to say it directly to know what the ideal is,” he said. “As a convert to the Church, the art spoke for itself. As a student, the faculty speaks for itself. As a member, the leadership speaks for itself.”

Sherald said she straightened her hair during her time at BYU because she felt that if she settled, she would be more accepted. She said that she has learned to appreciate her value and that of other students.

“You have to take charge and take a firm stand on your destiny,” he said.

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