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February 11 2020

Two Truths and A Lie: Black Hair Products

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Can you guess which of these three statements about black hair products in the U.S is not true?

  1. Using black hair products like dyes or relaxers will give black women cancer.

  2. Hair relaxers contain hormone-disrupting chemicals called parabens, which are actually there for people’s safety.

  3. Phthalates are chemicals in hair products that do not pose a health hazard.

 

1. LIE

Reports that link some chemicals in black hair products to cancer, infertility, obesity, and even asthma should be viewed very skeptically. They make the claim that because certain chemicals are present in those products and because those chemicals have been linked to cancer or other health concerns, then any products which contain those chemicals will lead to cancer. There is no direct link or evidence of causation.

Also, such studies ignore that other factors may impact a woman’s likelihood of developing cancer such as genetics and home environment. It’s disingenuous to ignore her family history and blame a cancer diagnosis on the hair products in her bathroom. No wonder, industry experts, including federal regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), often challenge and even dismiss these claims.
 

2. TRUTH

Parabens are a family of chemicals commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products including makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving products. According to the FDA, parabens prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. They are also commonly used in combination with other types of preservatives to better protect against a broad range of microorganisms. The FDA maintains that it has no information showing that parabens used in cosmetics cause breast cancer or have an effect on people.
 

3. TRUTH.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals contained in many products to help strengthen, soften, or extend their shelf life. Phthalates are in toys, vinyl flooring, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, blood bags and tubing, and personal care products like nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes. The Center for Disease Control found that they do not pose a health hazard because the chemical is metabolized, excreted quickly and does not accumulate in the body.

 

Chemicals are used in beauty and cosmetic products everyday to make them safer for us and to extend their shelf life. Reports linking those products to cancer are often unfounded and rely on junk science. Instead of being honest, they scare women into discarding the products that improve their lives. 

 




Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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