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Beauty Products Marketed to Women of Color Contain More Toxic Chemicals

First we learned that beauty products marketed to women of color contain harmful ingredients. Now, new research in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has confirmed this, noting that women of color are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals in beauty products compared with white women.

And not only that, but black, Asian-American and Latina women spend more on beauty products than white women because of societal pressure to conform with white Western beauty standards, Dr. Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.

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For example, women of color purchase products like skin-lightening face cream, which often contain topical steroids or the toxic metal mercury, and hair straighteners or relaxers are likely to contain estrogen, which can trigger premature reproductive development in young girls and possibly uterine tumors, Zota noted in the statement. The authors also warn that repeated exposure to chemicals in beauty products and in the environment can accumulate and interfere with healthy reproduction and development.

Apparently, 1 in 12 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women in the U.S. contains highly hazardous ingredients according to research released in December by the Environmental Working Group.

More than 1,100 products marketed to those who identify as black women in the U.S., including the Caribbean and other areas, were analyzed, revealing that less than 25 percent of the items scored “low” on the hazard scale. For some comparison, 40 percent of products that are marketed to the general public are classified as low-risk.

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“If a black woman is choosing products marketed to their demographic, they have fewer healthier options,” Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group noted.

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The worst offenders were hair colors, bleaching products and hair relaxers, which a study conducted at Boston University has linked to an increase in health risks. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has a searchable database that provides information on the safety or lack thereof of more than 64,000 cosmetic products. The group hopes the report will encourage black women to push the companies they buy from into putting more thought into the ingredients that go into their products.

The authors of the recent study issued a call to health care providers to make their patients aware of the hidden dangers in some of their most commonly used beauty products and talk to them about possible resulting health risks. This can’t keep happening.

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