Beauty Products for Black Women More Likely to Cause Cancer

Young black woman during makeup session

A recent study shows beauty products for black women contain more harmful ingredients than products marketed at the overall population.

A recent analysis found that beauty products for black women contain more cancer-causing chemicals then products designed for the white population. Researchers at the Environmental Working Group analyzed the labels of 1,177 personal care products and cosmetics targeting African American women.

EWG team developed a rating system to score those products based on the number of potential harmful ingredients they contain.

The Findings

The analysis revealed nearly a quarter of the black beauty products had a good score. By contrast, 40 percent of cosmetics aimed at general population had good scores.

Co-author of the study Nneka Leiba noted black women have fewer alternatives when it comes to healthy skin care and beauty products. What’s more, Black women tend to use more these products because of marketing. So, they may, thus, up their risk of disease over time.

Even though black customers represent just 13 percent of the U.S. personal care market, they are account for a whopping 22 percent of annual sales. The business is worth in the U.S. alone $42 billion every year.

Researchers also found that the number of high-risk products was virtually the same for both black and white women. Black women, on the other hand, has fewer options when it came to low-risk products.

EWG investigators found 280 products contained parabens, which are chemicals that disrupt the hormonal balance. About 30 items which included foundations and hair styling products had imidazolidinyl urea which releases a toxic chemical called formaldehyde. The compound can trigger skin rashes, burning sensations, nausea, and even skin cancer.

Hair relaxers, on the other hand, were the worst of the lot. They scored 8.1 out of 10 with the maximum score being the most hazardous. Hair dyes and bleaching products arrived second on the list with a mean score of 7.9.

Other Experts’ Opinion

Experts who weren’t involved in the study said the findings are not surprising. Past research had suggested that hormone disrupting chemicals in these black beauty products may account for the high incidence of breast cancer among black women.

Experts called for an awareness campaign to let black women know what’s in their favorite personal care products so they can make informed decisions. Researchers acknowledged that the link they found needs more research. It is worth noting, however, that black women stand no chance in the face of lobbyists and marketers if they are not informed.

Robin Dodson, of the Silent Spring Institute who was not involved in the study commented on the findings. Dodson noted that there is little data on the impact of harmful ingredients in cosmetics on black women’s health.

“I think we’ve always had that hunch but they were able to say that,”

Dodson said.

She praised the new analysis for trying to fill a gap in the existing knowledge related to the products marketed to specific segments of the population. Nevertheless, she added that the analysis may not be accurate since it focused just on labels. Dodson explained she has often come across chemicals that didn’t feature on labels during her work at the institute.
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