Are your hair products exposing you to dangerous chemicals?

Here’s what some hair companies might not want you to know. 

Raise your hand if you like smelling and looking clean. Now raise your hand if you’re willing to be exposed to chemicals associated with asthma, allergies, neurodevelopmental problems, and even cancer every time you use your personal care products. 

We’re not either. 

Yet according to the Environmental Working Group, “the average person in the United States is exposed to chemicals from cosmetics, shampoo, and other personal care products before leaving the house each morning.” 

That’s right, from the time we are infants using diaper cream, to the time we are seniors using diaper cream, we are exposed to carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticisers, degreasers and surfactants. All of which are known to lead to serious illness. 

The New York State Health Foundation reports that “the 12,5000 unique chemical ingredients in these products equate to about one of every seven of the 82,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S.” 

We know what you’re thinking. How is this even possible when we have FDA regulation? Spoiler alert: neither the law nor FDA are checking what’s inside our cosmetics. 

“Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products,” the FDA explains. “Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with the FDA.”  Surprise, surprise.

Wondering what counts as a cosmetic product

  • Skin moisturizers
  • Perfumes
  • Nail polish
  • Eye and facial makeup preparations
  • Cleansing shampoos
  • Permanent waves
  • Hair colors
  • Deodorants 

If you’re like most people, you’ve dabbled in one (or all) of these products before. This type of information is exactly what led to further research into how these chemicals could be exposing us to long term illnesses. 

Chemicals in Hair Products

In 2018, five women wanted to look into the correlation of endocrine disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals found in hair products typically used in the black community.

They studied 18 different hair products, including hot oil treatments, anti-frizz/polish, leave-in conditioner, root stimulator, hair lotion, and relaxers. Then, they published their findings in Environmental Research

It turns out, the hair products targeted toward black women contained endocrine-disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals. 

Quick catchup: endocrine disruptors are agents that are known to interfere with or affect the hormonal system. If your endocrine is disrupted, it can lead to cancerous tumors, birth defects, infertility, and even affect your body’s homeostasis.

After studying these hair products, researchers found they contained 45 endocrine disrupting or asthma-associated chemicals, in every targeted chemical class. 

“We found cyclosiloxanes, parabens, and the fragrance marker diethyl phthalate (DEP) at the highest levels, and DEP most frequently. Root stimulators, hair lotions, and relaxers frequently contained nonylphenols, parabens, and fragrances; anti-frizz products contained cyclosiloxanes,” the study explained. 

They even found hair relaxers for children contained “regulated or restricted chemicals.”

Overall, 72% of products contained parabens and diethyl phthalate. 

Breast Cancer Action explains that parabens are chemicals that mimic the function of estrogen, and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Phthalates are known to cause a range of birth defects and reproductive problems. 

Worst of all, the researchers behind this study found that 84% of detected chemicals weren’t even listed on the product label. 

Products That Will Take Your Breath Away

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) reports that African American women are 20% more likely to have asthma than white individuals. In 2014, they were almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the white population. 

Studies have also shown black women experience more severe symptoms related to their menopause, which seem to increase with age. 

Some experts are  linking these statistics to a higher exposure of poisonous chemicals in hair products.

The Alternatives

In light of all this information, you may be asking “Ok, so, what’s my alternative?” 

Ditch the scary hair chemicals and try some natural alternatives that have been proven to keep hair healthy, shiny, and most importantly, keep you safe.

Some DIY trends include Argan Oil, molasses, and coco creme! Check out this list of 40 natural hair products to find the right match for your hair type. And let us know your favorite natural alternatives in the comments below! 

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