Truth Exposed: Hair Products are Making Black Women Sick

Truth Exposed: Hair Products are Making Black Women Sick

New research has revealed many hair products used by black women and children contain toxic ingredients that affect the body’s hormones and most of them aren’t even listed on their product labels.




Known as EDCs, or endocrine-disrupting chemicals, these toxic ingredients disturb the body’s endocrine system by mimicking naturally occurring hormones, which can overstimulate cells, block naturally occurring hormones from binding to cell receptors, or alter hormone metabolism. Over time, these disruptions can lead to the development of diseases like obesitydiabetes and even certain types of cancer.

Prior research had already found that black women had higher levels of these toxic ingredients in their urine than white women. Also, black women also experienced higher rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as more aggressive forms of breast and endometrial cancers.

Two non-profit organizations set out to document the extent to which EDCs are present in hair products used by black women and children.

They focused their research on the concentrations of 66 EDCs in 18 popular hair products. The products spanned 6 categories, including hot oil treatments, relaxers, hair lotions, leave-in conditioners, root stimulators and anti-frizz products. They selected the products most frequently used by black women, based on surveys,  along with products used only by black women. The products were first purchased for research in 2008 and researchers noted that their formulations may have since changed. But more recent comparisons indicate that most of the products still currently list the same ingredients.

Here’s what they found:

  • EDCs were present in all of the products tested
  • 84% of the chemicals found in these products went unlisted on their labels
  • Parabens and phthalates were detected in 78% of products
  • Eleven of the 18 products tested contained chemicals prohibited under the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive or regulated under California’s Proposition 65
  • Hair relaxers marketed for use by children were among the products that tested positive for regulated or restricted chemicals
  • Chemicals detected in products at higher concentrations were more likely to be listed on labels than those detected at lower concentrations.

So what can we do to avoid possibly jeopardizing our health? Unfortunately, label reading can be misleading if low concentrations of EDCs aren’t even being listed, but it still pays to do some research on your favorite products. You can find tests and reviews through consumer sites like the Environmental Working Group and the Good Guide.

We know it can seem hard to give up products that make your hair do what you want it to do, but it doesn’t have to be. Hairfinity founder, Tymeka Lawrence shared “As a black woman, it was very important to me to create safe and effective products for women of color as well as women all over the world. We created our products without formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, PEG, and synthetic colors a in response to unacceptably high levels of toxins found in hair care. With studies like this out there, it’s a move we’re glad we made because you shouldn’t have to choose between your hair or your health.” 

*In addition to the temporal limitation noted, the study is also limited in that it only documents the concentrations of EDCs in 18 products used by black women. Further, the researchers did not study all the chemicals in these products that might have health effects, instead focusing on chemicals with established links to the endocrine system and asthma.