Despite the ongoing crusade for toxic-free beauty options, Black women are still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to our hair and health. A recent study highlights what we have been hearing for years: Black hair products are the most toxic on the market.
The study, “Measurement of endocrine disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals in hair products used by Black women”, found 45 toxic chemicals in 18 commonly used hair products, including hot oil treatments, leave-in conditioners, relaxers and hair lotion. Even more alarming is that a whopping 84 percent of those detected chemicals, which have been linked to asthma and hormone disruption, were not even listed on labels.
While brands were not named, the products tested were purchased in 2008 based on a survey of most frequently used hair products by women in New York City. Parabens and diethyl phthalates, which have been specifically linked to cancer, early puberty and preterm births, were found in 72 percent of the products tested. Two no-lye relaxers for children contained five chemicals that are either regulated by California’s Proposition 65 or prohibited by EU cosmetics regulation, including a phthalate associated with obesity, heart problems and low fertility. In addition, all tested products contained some form of fragrance chemicals that are also associated with higher toxin levels.
These chemicals don’t just get washed away, either. They are absorbed directly into our scalps and our skin and actually build up in our bodies.
I’m all for beauty, but damn, our products should not be killing us. With Black women outspending all other demographics on beauty — by upwards of 90 percent — we have the power to change and affect not only what we put on our bodies, but also what shows up on our shelves.
In light of findings, the authors of the study are calling for new research and more regulations on beauty products. In the meantime, keep reading those labels and seeking out products that are specific about being paraben-, phthalate- and toxic-free.