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Pressure to ban hair discrimination grows after new study links straighteners to cancer

Hair-straightening chemical products linked to increased uterine cancer risk in new study
Hair-straightening chemical products linked to increased uterine cancer risk in new study 03:16

DUNCANVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — A new study linking uterine cancer in women to using hair-straightening chemicals has sparked a deeper conversation about the pressure some Black women face to straighten their hair.

"I've always been like, 'Oh I need, you know, the creamy crack,'" Brittany Huntley said. "Like, I need it to be straightened." Huntley said she's been getting relaxers since she was 3 years old. It made it easier to manage her hair. 

But in college when she transitioned back to her natural hair, she had some problems at the bank where she worked as a teller.

"They told me had I had my hair like that when I first interviewed with them, they would have not hired me no matter how qualified I was," Huntley said.

She isn't the only one who says society pushed her into straightening her hair.

"By no means did I think my hair was lovely and wonderful, you know? It was always a challenge to fit in," Shatea McBride said about her personal experiences with her hair.

She said she's been getting relaxers for years.

"I'm not doing this for me, I'm doing this for my circle...the world," McBride said, "so I can fit in and look just as good as the next person."

It's something that's been passed down generations.

"When I was in charge of her hair, I use to make sure it was straight," McBride said when talking about her daughter. "We got perms on a regular basis. I didn't mind the creamy crack at all."

Hearing so many stories about people being discriminated against based off of their appearance of their hair led to the creation of the Crown Act, which prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.

"I'm an advocate of the Crown Act," hairstylist and owner of Good Day Hair Salon LaTarah Edmond said, "Because as a hair stylist I see women, and men, children boys and girls, wearing their hair all types of styles."

Latarah Edmond with Good Day Hair Salon in Duncanville says she's seen people in her salon worried about their hair choices.

"Some of my clients have expressed like in the workplace how it's affected them being able to get promotions," Edmond said. "We've seen in the news where students are not able to graduate because they may be wearing locs."

The Crown Act was created in 2019 and has been passed in 19 states including California, Louisiana and New Mexico, but not Texas.

Over 400,000 men and woman have signed a petition pushing for the Crown Act to be passed in all 50 states.

"Because we deal with such a diverse clientele as far as how they wear their hair, all different ages groups, it impacts us as hair stylists," Edmond said.  

This past summer, the city of Austin became the first city in Texas to pass the Crown Act. Harris County followed soon after. 

There's hope that more cities, including Dallas and Fort Worth, will join soon.

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