Which cosmetic products are harmful to our health?
Researchers have found that beauty products for women of color contain higher levels of harmful chemicals than products marketed for Caucasian women. Hair relaxing and skin lightening creams seem to be the worst culprits.
Some are now saying that the pressure to conform to a more Western beauty standard is quite literally toxic. These beauty standards call for lighter skin and less tightly coiled hair. Cosmetic products are necessary to achieve both these physical characteristics, and these products aren't the safest. Also, women of color tend to use more products than Caucasian women do in order to lighten their skin or straighten their hair. A study by the Perception Institute states that one in five black women feel that they have to straighten their hair for work, while only one in ten Caucasian women feel the same way.
Previous studies have already suggested that Caucasian women expose themselves to up to 168 chemicals in cosmetics every day. This already sounds like a lot, but women of color use much more than Caucasian women do. Also, it's not just the amount that's problematic, it's the chemicals and substances themselves.
A number of hair straightening products contain chemicals called parabens, which mimics estrogen and can therefore mess with women's body systems. Parabens can induce early puberty in young girls or even cause tumors in the uterus. Another type of chemical called pthalates have been found to impact the reproductive systems of mice.
Skin lightening creams contain a substance called hydroquinone, or inorganic mercury. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this substance may be a carcinogen and can cause skin cancer in higher doses. A woman that regularly uses lightening cream, therefore, is at risk of developing cancer.
Mercury is an ingredient in skin lightening creams as well. As we all may know by now, mercury can be harmful if you ingest a certain amount or more. Even a moderate amount of mercury can already lead to a number of types of cancer.
We may feel secure buying cosmetics from known brands and established stories, but these products aren't always safe. Some may even be breaking FDA guidelines.
It's easy to say, of course, that these women don't actually need to use these products. After all, they're just cosmetics, and they're certainly not a necessity. However, it can also be argued that the use of these products don't simply stem from vanity. Beauty products for women of color allow these women to look a certain way that makes them fit with Western beauty ideals more. Thus, they're more likely to fit in and less likely to get discriminated against.
Hopefully, the ways in which beauty products for women of color affect health will receive more attention in the near future. Women of color could use better policies regulating cosmetic products that hit the marketplace. In the meantime, it's important that women of color inform themselves about how safe the cosmetics they use are. Knowing which substances to look out for can help women make safer cosmetic choices.
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