For black women, hair can be a major issue. Natural hair is often perceived negatively in both the romantic and professional world. Women are under a great deal of pressure to undergo chemical straightening and other hair treatments. But are these black hair products safe?
The chemicals used in hair products can be toxic, even in products described as natural or organic. Even though many harmful ingredients, such as lye, have been removed from most products on the market, a number of other chemicals still remain.
Why are these chemicals so dangerous? Many of them can disrupt endocrines or estrogen. These chemicals are known as EDCs. They have been linked to a wide range of conditions, including breast cancer, heart disease, and altered function of the immune system.
These products are especially dangerous when used by young children. When used by children, they may cause the early onset of puberty. This can lead to a number of social and emotional problems, difficulty in school, and long-term health problems. Asthma is becoming increasingly more common in black children, and it is suspected that black hair products are the culprit.
Many assume that because products are able to be legally sold, they must be safe to use. Unfortunately, that is not actually the case. The hair product industry isn’t subject to stringent regulation and the research done on toxic black hair products is limited. In many cases, advocacy organizations have had to conduct this research independently.
This puts black women in a very difficult situation when it comes to hair products. Because so many products on the market are toxic, they cannot be used safely. However, because natural hair is still perceived in a negative light, many women are tempted to use them in spite of the risk.
One of the most popular solutions to this problem is wigs. Many women opt to keep their natural hair short, and wear a variety of wigs over it. There are a number of wigs on the market that are designed for long-term use. Lace-front wigs, which are sewn in, are especially popular.
Many other advocacy groups have tried to change the public perception of natural black hair. Women have opted to wear their hair in natural styles to show how beautiful it is, and documentaries have demonstrated how harmful many of the myths about black hair can be.
Advocacy groups are also working hard to remove harmful products from the market, and to evaluate the risks that commonly-used chemicals pose. The Black Women for Wellness advocacy group spent five years researching the harmful effects of black hair products. (http://www.bwwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/One-Hair-Story-Final-small-file-size-3142016.pdf) They found that products used by major beauty salons caused a wide range of problems, including chemical burns, respiratory problems, and some serious skin issues.
One of the most frightening things uncovered by this research was the impact that toxic hair products could have on unborn babies. The study found that children as young as two could start experiencing signs of puberty — likely because of the animal placenta that many black hair products contain. Children were also more likely to be short and chronically unhealthy.
In order for the issue of toxic black beauty products to truly be resolved, businesses, the government, and advocacy groups will all need work work together. Harmful products must be removed from the market, protective laws must be passed, and public opinion must change.
Black women should not have to suffer for their hair any longer. They need safe products and healthy alternatives to chemical straightening. Everyone will need to work to make sure that toxic hair products become a thing of the past.
Stephany Lehman is a skin care and natural health enthusiast. She helps to run a site, AriaStarrBeauty.com that shares her passion and commitment to organic skin and beauty care.