Report linking hair products to health issues causing a stir

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Report linking hair products to health issues causing a stir

Related tags: Hygiene, African american

Black Women for Wellness issued a comprehensive report this week that connects consumer and professional use of hair products to an array of health concerns, from skin and eye irritation to cancer.

Widely read popular media are already covering the report, including lifestyle site MadameNoire and Time Inc.’s Essence.com. Running for 60 pages, the report shares facts, figures, stats, graphs and contextualizing content.

It’s based on years of data that the non-profit began gathering in 2009 and shows that health issues Black women experience “have direct links to the toxic chemicals we frequently come into contact with.”

In the press

Media are covering news of the report in various ways. Writing for MadameNoire, Charing Ball put the health scare upfront, titling her article, New Report Links Fibroids, Respiratory Illnesses To Toxic Chemicals In Many Black Hair Products. While other sites hint that even if concern is mounting, neither consumers nor the industry are likely to make any drastic changes following the report from Black Women for Wellness.

Sabrina R Perkins closes her essence.com item about the report by asking  “With black women spending 9 billion [in US dollars] on beauty products—which is twice as much as any other ethnic group—these findings are grave and eye-opening, and rather scary. Are the new findings making you think twice about your next purchase?”

Data points

Some of the data presented in the report from Black Women for Wellness show a link between hair relaxers and uterine fibroids. The reports points to “a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology…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.”

Young women’s development is impacted too 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.”

The report also shares insights into consumer behavior. During focus groups, cost was frequently a factor when women were deciding which hair care products and services to purchase.  “The focus groupthat had only women over 40 was the group most likely to spend extra moneyfor a healthier product. One participant said, ‘You can’t put a price on yourhealth. Your health is priceless.’”

A changing market

Consumer perceptions and expectations are changing as more and more research implies that conventional product formulations are unsafe.

A Berkeley study out this month establishes how swiftly so-called hormone disrupting chemicals like parabens leave the bodies of teenaged girls​ when they stop using personal care product formulated with those ingredients.

And consumer trust is damaged when industry giants are held accountable, like last month when Johnson & Johnson was found liable for fraud, negligence, and conspiracy in a case linking talc to cancer​.

Brands have an opportunity here to develop innovative products that meet consumer’s personal care needs and, at the same time, allay their health concerns. That said, the market may not be ready. The organic skin and hair care startup Brown Crayon Project​ is nearing the end of a crowd funding endeavor on Kickstarter that got off to a promising start but has stalled days before the cutoff, just a few thousand dollars short of its goal.  

The full report from Black Women for Wellness, Natural Evolutions: One Hair Story, is available here​.

Related topics: Market Trends, Hair Care

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