Many black women use chemicals to relax and straighten their hair for reasons that range from societal expectations to ease of care. But our society’s disapproval of black women’s natural hair is costly to women — these products are loaded with chemicals linked to early puberty, obesity, asthma, and increased cancer risk.
Granted, most hair, body, and makeup products aimed at women in general contain multiple toxins. However, researchers show black women suffer more health problems linked to hair products than women of other ethnicities. A 2016 study showed black women’s bodies contained more of these toxins than other women’s.
Almost 70 different chemicals known to be toxic to human health are in relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products.
As an example, parabens and phthalates disrupt hormones and are connected to early puberty and pre-term births.
Nonylphenol is linked to obesity and cancer risk.
Formaldehyde raises the risk of miscarriage and respiratory issues.
These products also cause eye and skin irritation, burning and blistering the scalp, damaging hair follicles, and causing hair loss.
We also don’t know how these chemicals react in combination — one product can contain as many as 30 different toxic compounds.
It’s no surprise black women suffer more hormonal disorders connected to these chemicals compared to other women.
Black girls and women suffer from uterine fibroids at a rate two to three times higher than other women due to the effects of hair relaxers. Up to 80 percent of black women will experience uterine fibroids during their lifetime.
Cosmetologists who work with these products while pregnant experience twice the rate of miscarriages.
Although the incidence of breast cancer is lower in black women than in white, black women experience more aggressive forms of the cancer and it is a leading cause of death among black women.
Additionally, studies show a link between the use of hair relaxesr in girls and early puberty.
Only a handful of products in this $500 billion industry are tested for their effects on human health. When they are, they’re found to be the most toxic hair products on the market.
The Black Women for Wellness Report explores the complexity around toxic black women’s hair products, cultural mores for black women’s hair, and yet the positive value of hair salons in black communities.
Although studies demonstrate a link between toxic hair products and hormonal imbalances, it’s important to be mindful of other factors.
The most common is high blood sugar, obesity, and diabetes stemming from a diet based on processed carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, pastries, etc.) and sugars. Obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes raise the risk of early puberty and other hormonal dysfunctions by stimulating the production of excess estrogen.
Diabetes and obesity are most prevalent among African American populations due to a combination of genetics and socioeconomic factors — lack of access to healthy foods, nutritional education, or safe outdoor spaces to exercise among many black communities.
Also, some foods raise estrogen. One study demonstrated babies fed soy formula had estrogen levels up to 22,000 times higher than normal. Also, sex hormones and antibiotics are given to beef and dairy cattle, making these products more estrogenic.
Puberty also begins earlier in populations with vitamin D deficiency. Black people and people with dark skin tend to be deficient in vitamin D due to lack of sufficient sunlight. Supplementing 10,000 IU a day of vitamin D can be helpful.
A whole foods diet that eliminates sugar and limits exposure to toxic chemicals can help prevent hormonal dysfunctions.
Ask my office for advice on how to reduce the toxic burden on your body, support the organs that help remove toxins, and how to reduce your risk of chronic and serious health disorders.