A recent study showed that beauty products marketed to women of color have higher amounts of toxic chemicals - parabens and phthalates are just a few of the culprits. With so many toxic ingredients making their way into hair and skin care products, it should become a common practice among consumers, especially Black women, to read product labels before taking anything off a shelf.
Silent Spring Institute conducted a study measuring a range of hormone-disrupting chemicals in products used by Black women. The research linked chemicals like parabens and phthalates to health defects such as reproductive disorders, congenital disabilities, asthma, and cancer. Compared to other groups of women, Black women experience puberty at a much younger age and have the highest rates of hormone-mediated problems including pre-term birth, uterine fibroids, and infertility.
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when compared to White women, Black women have higher levels of phthalates and parabens in their bodies. This draws concerns of what could be the driving force behind these health-related issues.
Lead author of the study Jessica Helm, Ph.D., a scientist at Silent Spring, said the primary objective of the study was to find a correlation between black women’s health and the personal products used. “This study is a first step toward uncovering what harmful substances are in products frequently used by Black women, so we can better understand what’s driving some of the health issues they’re facing.”
Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness, a nonprofit that conducts research and education on toxic chemicals in personal care products through its Healthy Hair Initiative, stated in an interview, “Black women are over-exposed and under-protected from toxic chemicals.” “This study is evidence that hair products are an important source of toxic chemicals and that we need to remove these risks to protect Black women’s lives and prevent harm.”
As with anything, education is the first step. Become familiar with product labels and know the toxic chemicals to look for. Parabens, nonylphenols, and diethyl phthalate are some names to monitor. These chemicals are frequently found in root stimulators, hair lotions, and hair relaxers.
Parabens and phthalates were the most common chemicals found in the tested products. Parabens can impersonate the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells and has been linked with certain forms of breast cancer and breast tumors. Diethyl phthalate is commonly found in plastics to help the material mend when burned hazard toxins are released. Long-term exposure to this chemical may have damaging effects on the nervous system.
When you come across products with these ingredients, toss it out and opt for natural plant-based products which are safer options for Black women. Jessica Helm recommends, “when choosing a product, know which products are made with plants or that are fragrance-, phthalate- and paraben-free.”
As Black women, we need to be conscious of our everyday exposure to toxic chemicals. Our mission at The Black Travel Box is to make sure that safe and accessible hair and body products are always available to you when journeying around the world. We use natural and safe synthetics to provide safe and effective products for travelers of color. After all, when you're traveling, the last thing you need to be worrying about is what is in your products and instead focus on the fun adventures ahead.
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