Silent Springs Institute found that 80 percent of the 18 tested products (chosen based on customer surveys) contain high levels of chemicals that “disrupt” the endocrine system, which regulates metabolism, reproduction, and more. The product test was broken into six different categories: hot oil treatment, anti-frizz/polish, leave-in conditioner, root stimulator, hair lotion, and relaxer.
The study also found that 84 percent of the “detected chemicals were not listed on the product label,” while 72 percent of the products contained methyl paraben and diethyl phthalate (an acid that can emit toxic gases if burned). The highest numbers of parabens were found in hair lotions:
“The hair products tested contained 45 endocrine disrupting or asthma-associated chemicals, including every targeted chemical class. We found cyclosiloxanes, parabens, and the fragrance marker diethyl phthalate (DEP) at the highest levels, and DEP most frequently. Root stimulators, hair lotions, and relaxers frequently contained nonylphenols, parabens, and fragrances; anti-frizz products contained cyclosiloxanes.
Hair relaxers for children contained five chemicals regulated by California’s Proposition 65 [a 1986 law enacted to protect drinking water in the state from contamination from chemicals known to cause cancer, and reproductive issues] chemicals or prohibited by EU cosmetics regulation. Targeted chemicals were generally not listed on the product label.”
Higher levels of parabens were found in products targeted to black women compared to white women, the study uncovered. Additionally, research suggests that exposure to toxic chemicals in hair oils and relaxers could be directly linked to a “higher prevalence” of asthma in black girls and women, as well as early menstruation, fertility issues, obesity, uterine fibroids, and premature birth rates, along with increased cases of breast and endometrial cancers.
“These results indicate the need for more information about the contribution of consumer products to exposure disparities,” the study concludes. “A precautionary approach would reduce the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals in personal care products and improve labeling so women can select products consistent with their values.”
This isn’t the first time that perilous ingredients in black hair care products have been exposed. In 2016, Black Women for Wellness concluded a five-year study that found similar results.