STUDY: Hair products linked to early puberty in Black girls
By Daunte Henderson,
I knew it was something in the water, but maybe it’s something in the relaxer, too.
Ever wonder why our girls are growing up so fast? Black Women for Wellness (BWW) offers some valuable insight into this issue. The grassroots non-profit committed to the empowerment, health and well-being of Black women and girls recently released a 60-page report, Natural Evolutions: One Hair Story, documenting the dangers of the cosmetology industry.
Their report from research conducted between 2009 to 2013 focused on the ingredients used in your favorite products. Products that will leave you looking fly for weekends on the town, but also cause early puberty onset, respiratory damage and fertility issues to name a few.
The beauty industry benefits from the Black dollar in a major way. We spend over nine billion dollars a year, nearly twice as much as any other ethnic group.
In an industry where we’re the buyers, we also need to become the consumers of information. You’ll probably want to read the labels of your favorite products after reading these telling statistics.
Keeping your baby girl a baby might be a problem if she gets a relaxer. Pre-pubescent girls reported earlier signs of puberty when using the pro-duct that’s supposed to get everything straight.
According to the report:
“Girls who reported using chemical hair oils and hair perms were 1.4 times more likely to experience early puberty after adjusting for race, ethnicity, and year of birth. In addition, other studies have linked early puberty to hair detangler use by Black girls. In one of the studies African American girls as young as two years old started showing signs of puberty after using products containing animal placenta found in many detanglers and conditioners.”
Did you know that the same fluid used to embalm the deceased is also in your local beauty shop?
Formaldehyde is a common substance found in many disinfectant products used in salons, as well as embalming fluid. The grave substance also accounts for a number of health issues in Black women, especially those who work in the cosmetology industry and are pregnant. According to a survey, formaldehyde is responsible for increased chances of miscarriages and respiratory issues for shops using products containing the compound.
While fibroids can be genetic, studies have shown that uterine fibroids are linked to hair relaxers, a popular choice for many Black women. The report states:
“A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology determined that the use of hair relaxers is linked to uterine fibroids in Black women and girls, something that is estimated to affect 80 percent of Black women over their lifetime. The study, which interviewed more than 23,000 premenopausal African American women from 1997 to 2009, found two- to-three times higher rates of fibroids among Black women.”
As statistics report, Black people, women especially, are suffering. Do you wonder why? In an industry where we have the largest buying power, we’re also the most at risk. Studies and industry professionals say it’s because we were never thought of in the first place.
Rosemary Powell-Webb, master beautician, says the products aren’t for us to begin with. “[Nine out of 10] of these products aren’t made specifically for Black people. They’re geared towards the mass population, anything but Blacks.”
She says that each situation is different, but as a whole more education is needed in our community. This beautician has been licensed for 43 years and strongly believes that each person needs to analyze their own hair and use the best products to suit their situation. Powell-Webb believes that our people need to become less brand oriented and more education oriented.
“If we can get past the price part we can get the right products to make our hair healthy. We need to worry about the style last.”
Black beauty and barbershops are one of the few places where Black people control the atmosphere from every aspect. Black entrepreneurs provide a much needed service in neighborhoods that are often deprived of basic resources. The ‘shop’ is a cornerstone in many Black communities. Your stylist/barber doesn’t just “do your hair,” they’re your mother, father, uncle, doctor, relationship coach and every other thing. The emotional ties that we have with our beautician/barber are often very close ones. You know we don’t let everybody do our hair. In order for this close relationship to continue we need more education about the products that make us look and feel good.
As owner of Museum Walk Barbershop in Chicago, Demario Mitchell says, “The barbershop (and beauty shop) is one of the only places in America where Black people interact with each other on every level.”
Everything from business to consumer, brother to brother, old person to young person, the experience is quintessentially Black in every aspect. Let’s keep this pillar in the Black community – and our girls and women – healthy by educating ourselves on the products we use.