Many beauty products contain harsh chemicals linked to numerous different health problems, including cancer. The irony is that they’re often marketed as “personal care” products, when in reality they do anything but care for your body.
There’s an apparent disconnect between what we put on our skin and how that can affect our overall health. When you put something on your body, those chemicals are absorbed topically and then go into your body. If you wouldn’t ingest harsh chemicals, ask yourself: Why is it okay to put them on your body? To be perfectly honest, it’s not okay.
The underlying issue here is that without demand, companies wouldn’t be making these products in the first place. People love to change or enhance their physical appearance using makeup, hair dye, and other products. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, unless you begin to feel self conscious about your appearance without the use of these products (or if you’re using non-natural products). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for developing your own personal style and encouraging self expression, but are these things really worth risking your health over?
A recent article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that beauty products marketed toward women of colour actually contain higher levels of harsh chemicals. This isn’t the first time a group of scientists has come to this conclusion either; another study conducted by researchers at the Environmental Working Group found that beauty and hair products aimed at black women are more likely to contain dangerous chemicals as well.
The Studies That Revealed Beauty Products for Black Women Contain Harsher Chemicals
Let’s take a look at the more recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology first. Many of the products they looked at were hair relaxing creams and facial products that claim to hold “skin lightening properties,” which are all typically directed toward women of colour.
Though there are some guidelines on these products imposed by the FDA in order to protect people from exposing themselves to harsh chemicals, the regulations aren’t strict enough and people can still purchase products illegally “under the counter” or online.
Some of their findings include that skin-lightening creams often contain hydroquinone (considered a potential carcinogen by the FDA) or mercury. There have been numerous cases of mercury poisoning after using skin-lightening creams, and mercury is a known neurotoxin.
The study provides numerous examples, stating, “In a population-based study of New York City residents, those with the highest urine mercury levels were foreign-born Dominican women of reproductive age, and skin-lightening creams were identified as a source of exposure among highly exposed populations.”
Another popular product that many black women and children use are hair relaxing creams, often containing placenta (potential source of estrogen hormones), which has been linked to premature development. Many hair products designed for black women have been associated with increased risk of uterine fibroid tumors as well as breast cancer.
In regards to the Environmental Working Group’s study, the researchers found that 1 in 12 products marketed to black women were considered highly hazardous. Only 25% of the products for black women were considered “low hazard,” in comparison to approximately 40% of the products aimed at the general population. Keep in ming that even low hazard products don’t mean risk-free; they’re still hazardous to the body.
Similar to the other researchers’ findings, the worst products for black women were hair relaxers, as many contained lye and other harsh chemicals, along with bleaching products. However, even some of the lipsticks, concealers, and foundations meant for darker complexions also scored poorly in terms of chemicals. Some chemical straighteners meant for super curly hair or black women in general were linked to baldness and higher risk of growths in the uterus.
It’s clear that many of the personal care and beauty products women, men, and even children use are filled with chemicals. Whether it’s your deodorant, shampoo, hair cream, makeup, or whatever else, if it’s conventionally made, it likely has some sort of cancer-causing ingredient(s) found within it. The great news is that there are tons of all-natural alternatives as well as recipes to make your own!
Here are some great CE resources to start your research and make your transition toward using more natural products:
Why Do We Chase Unrealistic Beauty Standards?
The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology paper also touches upon the fact that the companies selling these products design ads that idealize white women and create unrealistic and, quite frankly, racist beauty standards.
For example, this Dove advertisement shows how white women are often depicted as being more beautiful than women with darker skin tones in advertisements:
Even celebrity ads and magazine covers will often edit women’s skin tones to make them look “lighter” and “more radiant,” as you can see below:
Why is it that white women are considered more beautiful than other races according to these companies, and why are we buying into these ridiculous beauty standards?
It’s not just about racism. So many people wish they looked different, not to be healthier, but to simply “look better.” In fact, many people consider their physical appearance as being more important than their health, as evidenced by the high demand in beauty products that are filled with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals.
White people use fake tanner to achieve a darker skin complexion, black people wear toxic skin-lightening creams, people with curly hair use hair relaxing creams and straighteners, people with straight hair use chemical-ridden curling gels and get perms, and the list goes on and on. Why can’t we simply be grateful for our physical appearance and learn to appreciate and love our unique differences?
We shouldn’t be supporting these companies that literally prey upon our insecurities and create unrealistic and degrading beauty standards. At the end of the day, these insecurities stem from a place of unhappiness within ourselves, representing a severe disconnect between ourselves and our souls. If you achieved, in your opinion, the perfect physical appearance, do you really think you’d be happy?
Odds are that you wouldn’t, because you’re searching for happiness in the wrong places. Real, sustainable happiness doesn’t come from appearance, or anything within the external world for that matter — it comes from within. The moment you find inner peace and self love, these externalities won’t matter as much because you will finally be happy with yourself. You’ll be grateful for your “flaws” because they’re what make you you, at least on the physical plane.
This brings me to my next point: Why do we identify so much with our physical appearance? Perhaps this obsession with altering our looks and creating this outward persona of ourselves is all in an effort to truly find ourselves and figure out who we really are.
Don’t get me wrong, I encourage self expression and believe that it’s part of what makes us unique and life so beautiful; however, your outer appearance isn’t what makes you you. If you’re not wearing makeup, are you still you? Sure, it’s fun, but it shouldn’t govern whether or not you feel comfortable in your own skin.
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Seriously, even if you lose a finger, are you still you? Yes, because what makes you you isn’t what’s going on outside of you, but rather what’s inside you. So, why would you treat your body poorly? Your body is a gift that deserves to be treated with care, because without it you wouldn’t be here living out your human experience!
Before drastically changing your physical appearance, ask yourself why you want to make these changes in the first place and how it will impact your health. Remember, there’s no beauty product that’s worth risking your wellbeing over.
We need to start embracing our inner beauty and stop giving our outer appearances so much power over us. Sure, it’s an aspect of us, but it’s not what truly defines us. Appearance is important to many people because it’s a form of self expression, which is awesome! However, there’s a fine line between using makeup because it’s fun, and using it to hide your insecurities.
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