Women of Color More Exposed to Chemicals in Cosmetics

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FACT: Black Women Are Heavy Users of Beauty and Care Products

A new commentary from well-known environmental and occupational health experts revealed the high tendency of women of color to be exposed to higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals compared to white women.

And why is this so? The authors of the commentary have a good explanation attached to this new finding.

According to Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health, and Bhavna Shamasunder at the George Washington University, the co-authors of the commentary, the dictate of the society to fit in with the Western and European definition of beauty plays a great influence on the women of color to hoard more beauty products than white women. In fact, Black, Latina and Asian-American women spend more on beauty products than the national average.

Zota said, “Pressure to meet Western standards of beauty means Black, Latina and Asian American women are using more beauty products and thus are exposed to higher levels of chemicals known to be harmful to health.”

The commentary was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Health Hazards of Chemicals in Beauty Products

There is nothing wrong with buying beauty products. But some beauty products contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to women’s health. And sad to say, women of color are at risks of exposures to toxic chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products, because basically they are more likely to buy them.

Zota cited that women of color buy products like skin lightening face creams, which often contain hidden ingredients such as topical steroids or the toxic metal mercury.

Black women are known to suffer more anxiety about having “bad hair” and are twice as likely to experience social pressure to straighten their hair. However, hair straighteners or relaxers contain estrogen and can trigger premature reproductive development in young girls and possibly uterine tumors.

Aside from that, other studies show that beauty and personal care products contain multiple, hidden chemicals that are linked to endocrine, reproductive, or developmental toxicity. They can be especially dangerous for women age 18 to 34, the authors say.

Marketing efforts have also pushed black women to use douching products with messages about uncleanliness and odors. The products contain harmful chemical known as DEP, which may cause birth defects in babies and has also been linked to health problems in women.

At the same time, research suggests that low-income women of color are more likely to live in an environment with high levels of pollutants. Thus women of color are not only heavy users of beauty products but may also be exposed to toxic chemicals simply by living in a more polluted home or neighborhood.

Suggestions from the Authors

Regarding health hazards associated with the use of beauty and personal care products, the authors suggest that reproductive health professionals must be prepared to counsel patients who have questions about such exposures. In addition, health professionals can also promote policies that will protect women, especially women of color, from harmful chemicals in cosmetics and other personal care products.

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An African-American woman wearing a facial mask for whitening purposes.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.