For the past few years there’s been a spotlight on black women’s shift from using chemical relaxers to straighten our hair to taking care of our hair as it naturally grows from our scalps. The natural hair movement has seen significant growth and interest in the black hair care community worldwide. However, not at the complete detriment of chemical relaxers as there is still a worldwide community of women who are growing and maintaining healthy relaxed hair. Whether you’re living the cut life of growing your hair out to long lengths, black women are making efforts to preserve their edges and make more conscious efforts to maintain healthy hair.
According to Nielsen, Black women in America spend and estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products. Black women are estimated to spend six times more on hair care products that their non-black counterparts. Statistics have also revealed that the UK black hair care market is an estimated £4.2 billion. These are huge numbers despite our lack of representation in ad campaigns.
For decades and even today a large number of the hair care products used by black women in the UK, made especially to cater to the needs of our hair texture, have been imported from the US. Now, a new study by scientists at Silent Spring Institute is placing the spotlight on the dangers of a host of ingredients frequently used in hair products targeted at black women. Although it is no clear who sponsored this study, as past studies have been sponsored by competing hair product makers. This particular study is being highlighted as being the first to measure the concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals in black hair care products.
This study was brought to my attention through a BBC News segment with the study author and scientist Jessica Helm, along with author, hair coach and blogger Tolu Okogwu of My Long Hair Journey (one of my favourite resources for black hair care). You can check out the clip by clicking the link below.
The study focused on 18 hair products consisting of six product categories: hot oil treatments, anti-frizz/polish, hair relaxers, leave in conditioners, root stimulator and hair lotion.
Now, the most important things to note are the ingredients that are harmful and the effect they have on the endocrine system. If you’re unfamiliar with what the endocrine system is and does, it basically includes all the glands in your body that makes hormones. These chemical messengers play a key role in making sure your body works in the way it was designed to. If your endocrine system isn’t healthy, one might have problems developing during puberty, getting pregnant, managing stress, sudden weight gain, easy weigh gain, weak bones or lack of energy due to too much sugar staying in the blood instead of moving into your ells where it’s needed for energy. Keep in mind that harmful ingredients in personal care products aren’t the end all and be all of what causes health complications, but it is very good to be aware of what you are putting on and into your body.
In the study, 66 chemicals were tested in the categories of: UV filters, cyclosiloxanes, glycol ethers, alkylphenols, ethanolamines, antimicrobials, bisphenol A, phthalate, parabens and fragrances(which are commonly listed as fragrance as the last ingredient on products rather than the actual name of the fragrance). If you’d like to see the full list of chemical names and the quantities found in the tested products, check them out here.
Studies like these are useful in knowing what to be on the lookout for and what to avoid when purchasing hair care products. It is also useful to note that the study mentioned how these chemicals can be found in hair care products for other races but were seen in higher quantities in products for black women making it more important to look at the links between theses chemicals and the health complications.
Ultimately the best solution for this problem is to use more natural and organic products and to educate ourselves as black women on ingredient names to be able to effectively read ingredients lists to know what to look for and what to avoid. We’re fortunate enough to be in a time where we are privy to so much information and a lot of things are a google search away. Also, there are so many black owned and black women owned hair care brands across the globe changing the sphere of the black hair care industry and creating natural and organic products that aren’t harmful to our bodies.
In the coming weeks I’ll be helping us all to make better choices in our hair care by breaking down how to read ingredients lists, sharing resources to help you learn the names and purposes for commonly used ingredients both good and bad, as well as sharing lists of hair care brands from across the globe that cater to black hair. I will also share some DIY products that you can make fresh in the comfort of your own kitchen since what better way to know what’s going into what you consume than something you’ve made by yourself.
Feel free to leave a comment on what you’d like me to research for you to give you better understanding of what you’re using and what you’d like to use on your hair.