The current black hair care market is saturated with fad hair growth products, miracle elixirs and tragic hair straightening processes that are leaving black hair in a state of crisis. Many black women use a plethora of hair care products that contain chemicals that can interfere with their hormones and researchers are now warning consumers just how harmful their trendy hair care routines can be.

They noted these chemicals could be a reason why black women have higher rates of certain hormone-related health conditions than other women in the United States.

For example, black women begin puberty at younger ages, and they have higher rates of hormone-linked problems such as preterm birth, uterine fibroids, and infertility than other groups of women. Their rates of breast cancer and endometrial cancer are also on the rise, according to the scientists at Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass.

“Chemicals in hair products, and beauty products, in general, are mostly untested and largely unregulated,” said study author Jessica Helm.

“This study is a first step toward uncovering what harmful substances are in products frequently used by black women, so we can better understand what’s driving some of the health issues they’re facing,” she added in an institute news release.

Helm and her colleagues analyzed 18 different hair products used by black women, including hot oil treatments, anti-frizz hair polishes, leave-in conditioners, root stimulators, hair lotions and hair relaxers.

A total of 45 endocrine disruptors were detected in the products, with each product containing between six and 30 of the chemicals. In past studies these endocrine disruptors have been associated with a variety of ills such as asthma, reproductive disorders, birth defects and cancer, the researchers said.

Eleven products contained seven chemicals prohibited in the European Union or regulated under California’s Proposition 65. Hair relaxers marketed for children had the highest levels of five such chemicals, the report said.

Parabens, fragrances, nonylphenols and diethyl phthalate were widely found in root stimulators, hair lotions, and hair relaxers, while cyclosiloxanes were more often detected in anti-frizz products.

All the products contained fragrance chemicals, and 78 percent contained parabens. Eighty-four percent of the chemicals detected were not listed on the product label, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, companies aren’t required to disclose everything that’s in their products, so it’s hard for consumers to make informed choices,” said study co-author Robin Dodson.

While the chemicals detected by the researchers aren’t unique to hair products used by black women, the levels in these products were generally higher than in other hair products, the researchers said.

“Black women are overexposed and under-protected from toxic chemicals,” said Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of the nonprofit group Black Women for Wellness. “This study is evidence that hair products are an important source of toxic chemicals, and that we need to remove these risks to protect black women’s lives and prevent harm.”

Our hair should not be a death sentence. Take precautions and read the back of product labels. Do the research on daily topical products you apply to your hair and skin every single day. Moving toward this type knowledge will be of great service to you in the end.

Find out more about black hair care and tips on

SOURCES: Silent Spring Institute, news release, April 25, 2018

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