Growth Update!
Monday, February 08, 2010 | 6 comments

It's been two months since the last update! Sorry for the hiatus, lovelies. We'll be updating more frequently now. Anyway, I am one month away from my first year ful...

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Court case against Carson/L'Oreal The Optimum relaxer caused Isabella Broekhuizen to go bald and forced her to break off her US modeling career. Now she is back home in Maastricht, the Netherlands fighting for justice.


Isabella Broekhuizen was diagnosed with chemical burning caused by sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in lye relaxers. She sues because her aspiring modeling career is over, her bald and burnt scalp still hurts and she has to wear hair-prostheses for the rest of her life. Here is her story.

Isabella this is quite a story. How old were you when you first started to use relaxers and what were your reasons to straighten your hair?
I was 12 years when I started to use relaxers. I straightened my hair because I thought it improved my looks.

So you were quite familiar with the process when you used the Optimum relaxer. So what went wrong that day? Was this the first time that you relaxed your hair yourself?
No it wasn't the first time I relaxed my hair myself. So I think it was the brand. Optimum was probably too strong.

What exactly did you? Can you explain what happened?
I used the relaxer same as usual.

What do you mean the same as usual. Can you be a little more specific?
I used the relaxer the same way everybody does. I added it to my roots, close to my scalp to make it as straight as possible, from roots to ends. Then I wanted to let it sit for a couple of minutes like the directions said. According to the box I could have left it on for 13 to 18 minutes but it started to burn immediately. I thought the relaxer wouldn't straighten my hair if I rinsed it out instantly so I left it on for 4 minutes. After that I could not take it anymore and rinsed it out.

Did you neutralize?
No. There was no neutralizer in the box. I suppose any other brand includes a neutralizer in a home use kit. The Optimum instructions said rinse with warm water and condition afterwards.

When did this all happen? How long is this ago?
In 1996.

When did you realize you were loosing your hair and how did long did it take to loose all of your strands?
I realized I was losing hair after a couple of months and within a year I was completely bald.

I suppose you go crazy when you see that you are losing lots of hair. What did you think was causing you losing your hair and what did you try to do against it?
I realized it was caused by the relaxer and I did go to hospital. They gave me a heavy dose of vitamin A.

You went to 3 different doctors. What did they say? What was causing the itching and what caused you to go bald?
About 60 doctors examined me in total. Each on of them diagnosed me with chemical burning caused by sodium hydroxide. This ingredient also caused itching. It was a main ingredient in the Optimum relaxer and as I understand now in lye relaxers in general.

How is the lawsuit going?
Preparing a lawsuit and going for justice is not easy. It is also a fight for justice.

When is the trial? It's true that L'Oreal wanted to settle for 50.00 Euros?
There is no date for the trial yet. I hope it will be as soon as possible. It is true that L'Oreal tried to settle for 50.00 euros.

When and why did you give up modeling? Did you try modeling with wigs?
I gave up modeling in 1998. I was in too much pain. No, I didn't try modeling with wigs.

Do you work now?
No, I don't work now, according to authorities I am not physically fit to work.

Does your head still itch? Isn't there a chance that your hair will grow back? Do you really have to wear wigs for the rest of your life?
My head still itches and I still have wounds. There is no chance that my hair will ever grow back. So, yes, I have to wear wigs (actually hair prostheses) for the rest of my life.

What do you think if you look back?
If I knew then what I know now, I would have never used Optimum.

Can you explain what you mean?
Sodium Hydroxide is a main ingredient in lye relaxers, the main ingredient in no-lye relaxers is Calcium Hydroxide. These are quite strong and harmful ingredients but necessary to straighten hair.

Are you saying that if you knew then what you know now you would use another brand, a no-lye relaxer or no relaxer at all?
I think I would do something else with my hair. Like Braiding or weaving. If I could change anything I would take the whole relaxing experience away, so I would have no more pain, no more prostheses to wear, no more doctors to visit, no more worries, no more thoughts that bother me day by day by day.

Are you against the use of relaxers?
No, I'm not against the use of relaxers but I think its very important to inform people about the hazards of using them. I really wasn't aware that relaxers were so hazardous that one could get injured for live. No one ever told me that they were hurt by the use of a relaxer. All I heard was ''it burns a little but it will be over before you know it." So I truly never saw any harm in relaxing my hair. And even now when I try to warn people, they don't listen. They act like nobody has ever has a problem with relaxers and that something like this won't happen to them. That's why I think the product needs a more explicit warning, especially for home using. A warning like those on the cigarette boxes. It explicitly says that cigarettes can cause long cancer etc. Relaxers need a warning like that. It should be clear what the implications can be. Because believe me, If only I had known, I would have been very alert and way more careful.




13 comments

Caramel Mimi says
December 10, 2007 at 2:17 PM

WOW... I'm glad I stopped using relaxers.

Anonymous says
December 10, 2007 at 4:52 PM

I had a minor chemical burn about 17 years ago. It was an old perm that had separated and my edges were on fire. That didn't stop me from using relaxers but I have been natural for about 7 years now. Sometimes I think of going back but now I don't think I ever will. Good luck lady. You're still beautiful.

Belle Cheveux says
December 10, 2007 at 7:44 PM

Yes, she still is beautiful. Relaxer makers really should put a bigger warning on the front, not a small one on the back.

Nykya says
December 10, 2007 at 11:07 PM

...I guess the lesson here is to take precautions. I'm still wondering why a Home-Kit didn't have a Neutralizing shampoo? I wish this woman the best on her journey to heal.

Anonymous says
January 5, 2008 at 3:12 PM

I USED TO RELAXED MY HAIR MYSELF BUT WHEN I USED OPTIMUM I NOTICED THAT I LOST TOO MUCH HAIR . SALLY RECOMMENDED THIS RELAXER VERY MUCH SO I BOUGHT IT. I WAS CRYING WHEN MY MOTHER AND I SAW TOO MANY HAIR FALLING FROM MY HEAD. I THOUGHT THAT I BECAME BALD. I USED THIS RELAXER 2 TIMES. BECAUSE I WAS THINKING THAT I WAS DOING SOMETHING WRONG. THE 2 TIMES WAS THE SAME THING . I CHANGED THE RELAXER AND I CUT MY HAIR VERY SHORT.TODAY IM USING SILK ELEMENTS AND MY HAIR IS BEAUTIFUL. I WS IN SHOCK WITH THIS STORY BECAUSE IT COULD HAPPENED TO ME.

Anonymous says
May 7, 2008 at 6:59 PM

I think we all need to realise that the problem is not exclusively the brand, but relaxers in general. All relaxers are capable of causing such damage. I once got some relaxer on my window ledge, when I wiped it off the paint came off!!!! I stopped relaxing after I was left with burns my scalp. Thankfully I was not left with any bald patches. We tell ourselves that putting these harmful chemicals on our heads are safe, yet our burning scalps are telling us otherwise.

Anonymous says
September 20, 2008 at 7:50 AM

what's "long cancer", Belle, can't you spell?

Anonymous says
September 20, 2008 at 7:50 AM

what's "long cancer", Belle, can't you spell?

Anonymous says
September 20, 2008 at 7:50 AM

what's "long cancer", Belle, can't you spell?

Belle Cheveux says
September 20, 2008 at 5:27 PM

Thanks for the comment and yes I can spell. I didn't write the article if you must know. This was the original article from the website I got it from... FYI.

Happy hair growing :)

Sabrina says
November 23, 2008 at 9:19 PM

Wow about 8 months ago i permed my hair as i have done in the past and my hair was so broken and damaged from the perm i felt sick.

I have always cut my hair very short and i was growing it to see how long my hair would grow. After that perm i made the decision to go natural. About 2 1/2 months later i cut all the permed hair off and started over.

As a younger girl i remember researching Madame C.J. Walker the woman who created the products very similar to perms and the cause for creating the products we see on the shelves today. THe goal was to blend in more. Black women need to embrace their natural hair not only to keep it but to help our next generation to have more confidence.

I believe woman's hair is her beauty. What happened to this woman is beyond 50.00 euro. This woman is scared for life because at 12 years old she thought that a perm would improve her looks. The company should pay her medical bills, pain and suffering, and give her a living stipend at the least.

Who knows she could have been the next Trya Banks with millions and all of this was robbed becase of her desire to improve her looks, something that didn't need to be improved, and because of the lack of consideration by the company. I hope this never happens to anyone else and this woman sees the justice she deserves.

Ashley says
June 24, 2009 at 12:58 AM

wow thats really sad. i hate this had to happen. and i hope that people become more cautious of what they put in their hair after reading this story. i've recently begun transitioning to natural but if i woulda known this sooner i woulda probably did it way earlier. i've tried at home lye relaxers cause my mama seen in a book they were better, but we had to buy our own neutralizing shampoo because it was just a jar of perm. i think it was 'smooth touch'. or something like that.

Lisa says
July 21, 2009 at 3:16 AM

My God, I'm glad I stopped using chemicals on my hair. This should scare anyone from using perm every again, and if it doesn't I guess they have to learn the hard way.

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