Why Beauty Products Are Toxic to Women of Color

October 27, 2017

It seems obvious that products designed to enhance beauty shouldn't diminish health. But if you've been a reader for long, you know that there are plenty of toxic chemicals lurking in many beauty products. In fact, according to a report produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 40% of beauty products marked to the general public fall into the "low hazard" category. That's a serious concern, and I encourage all women to look for safe products, preferably those with ingredients derived from nature rather than from chemicals.

However, the numbers become even more concerning when you focus on products marketed to women of color. The EWG analyzed over a thousand such products and found that only 25% fell into the low hazard category.

This is unacceptable. Some of the most toxic products include hair relaxers and skin lighteners, which can include ingredients known to cause cancer. These also reinforce beauty standards that elevate one race over another. Asian women in particular make up the largest audience for skin lighteners, but these products have been found to contain mercury. The FDA has issued warnings against such products, which are often produced overseas and sold illegally in the U.S. They also can contain topical corticosteroids, which are powerful ingredients meant to treat eczema, not to change skin tone.

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Hair straighteners and relaxers tend to be marketed to African-American women and may help to explain why black women are three times more likely than white women to suffer from uterine fibroids. While your hair and your uterus may seem far apart and unrelated, these products often contain chemicals known to disrupt hormones, and prolonged exposure can create a number of reproductive issues, including infertility.

Some of these products also contain lye and harsh chemicals that can burn the scalp, which is not only painful in and of itself but opens the door for more of the chemicals to get inside the body and wreak havoc. These chemicals are designed to break down chemical bonds in the hair, so it's not surprising that they would cause breakdowns anywhere else they contact.

Even lipsticks, concealers, and foundations formulated for women of color score more poorly than those designed for white women. For example, some of the redder lipsticks have been shown to be high in mercury. The researchers encourage consumers to check their favorite products on the EWG's database (www.ewg.org/skindeep), which currently has ratings for over 70,000 products. This is a good place to start when looking for cosmetics and hair care products that truly enhance your beauty rather than harm you. Plus, consumer spending can significantly influence the choices of manufacturers to make safer products in the future.

And of course, I highly recommend the Système 41 skincare line. It's safe and effective for women of all skin tones.

To your health, naturally,




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