Many black women use chemical straighteners and relaxants as part of their normal routine, whether it’s to meet society’s standards of beauty or simply to make their hair more manageable. However, these products come with a cost as they contain chemicals associated with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and increased cancer risk.
While the majority of all women’s hair, body, and makeup products contain multiple toxic compounds, research seems to explain why there is such a health disparity between black women and women of other ethnicities. A 2016 study showed that black women’s bodies contained more of these toxic chemicals than were present in women of other ethnic groups specifically because they use more hair products that contain these toxins.
Relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products contain almost 70 chemicals identified as toxic to the human body.
For instance, parabens and phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone function and have been connected to early puberty in girls and pre-term births.
Nonylphenol is associated with obesity and increased cancer risk.
Formaldehyde increases the risk of miscarriage and respiratory issues.
Many of these products irritate the skin and eyes, burn and blister the scalp, damage hair follicles, and can even cause hair loss.
One product can contain as many as 30 different toxic chemicals, yet we don’t actually know how these chemicals interact with each other.
The research points to black women suffering more health disorders related to these chemicals when compared to other ethnicities.
Black females are more likely than white or Hispanic females to suffer from disorders related to the endocrine system or hormonal system.
Uterine fibroids, linked to hair relaxers, affect an estimated 80 percent of black women during their lifetime, two to three times higher than in other women.
More studies reveal that cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women, who generally suffer from more aggressive forms of the cancer than do white women.
The $500 billion black hair care industry tests surprisingly few products for toxicity or their effects on human health. Those few products that are tested have been found to be the most toxic hair products on the market.
The Black Women for Wellness Report, a five year study of the black beauty industry, addresses the complex issues surrounding these harmful and toxic hair products alongside cultural expectations for black women’s hair and the positive role that hair salons play in black communities.
Other factors that cause early puberty and disrupt hormone function and balance
Although scientists have discovered a clear connection between these synthetic toxic compounds and hormonal imbalances, there are other contributing factors.
Among the most common is consistently elevated blood sugar levels that result from consuming a diet high in processed carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, pastries, etc.) and sugars. These foods increase the incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Compounds found in these common foods are estrogenic increasing the risk of early puberty and other hormonal disorders.
One study showed infants fed soy formula had estrogen levels 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal (soy is known to mimic estrogen). Additionally, the sex hormones given to beef and dairy cattle along with the antibiotics given to animals may also trigger hormone imbalances.
Diabetes and obesity, prevalent among African Americans, lead to high insulin and excess body fat, both of which stimulate the production of estrogen.
Genetics certainly influence this as well as the fact that many black people in the US do not have access to healthy foods, nutritional education, or safe outdoor spaces to exercise.
For those who live further from the equator, puberty also begins earlier because those populations are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. Studies show that people in the US who have darker skin tend to be deficient in Vitamin D because they don’t get enough sun exposure. In this case, it can be beneficial to take 10,000 IU a day of vitamin D.
A whole foods diet that radically reduces sugar and limits exposure to chemicals can help prevent hormonal disorders.
Contact my office to learn how reducing the toxic burden on your body and supporting the organs that help remove toxins can reduce your risk of chronic and serious health disorders.