I really believe that my black hair care products were causing my body to show signs of hormonal imbalance and possibly even killing me. I know it may sound a little extreme but think about it, how many women you know are struggling with fibroids, fertility issues, diabetes, obesity, early menopause, irregular cycles, heavy cramping, fatigue, anxiety, or even chin breakouts? These could all be signs of hormonal imbalance. I’m sure you know at least one person in their 30s with these symptoms.
I never really paid attention to what my body was telling me until that year my friend passed away from stomach cancer. Around that time, my brother was diagnosed with brain cancer and ended up needing surgery. I remember thinking how young they both were, and I remember feeling shocked because of how it seemed to have happened out of nowhere. Honestly, I think it made me want to be more health conscious. If you’ve been following me, you know my mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 14yrs old. So my fear of losing people close to me or even me getting sick runs pretty deep. But never enough that it made me want to change until a few years ago. After that horrible loss, I really needed answers, so I did what we millennials do best, I went to google.
When I first started searching google for answers, the goal was to just learn what my body was trying to tell me. I ran across some interesting articles and studies. A lot of them were discussing the risk of cancer and how it was linked to household products and personal care products. I also found that more and more Americans are experiencing asthma and respiratory issues and more women are experiencing hormonal imbalances.
It’s not surprising that cancer is common, I know with new research the death rates has dropped, according to cancer.org. But in my opinion it’s still way too many people being diagnosed with it. I’m sure it’s a lot that can contribute to cancer developing in our bodies and I am not saying that the cause is the personal care products we use. But I would like to believe that making a few lifestyle changes can at least limit the exposure to some of these chemicals, illnesses and diseases in this world.
At this point most of us are aware that the products on the shelves have chemical ingredients in them, but I don’t think we’re aware of what that really means for us long term. I have to believe that all those chemicals that are being mixed together to get the perfect formula for the perfect scent, or the most powerful cleaning agent, must have some type of side effects. Some chemicals are probably not even tested, and we know for a fact that some are even banned in other countries. When I was experiencing skin irritation, headaches, coughing, fatigue and sometimes dizziness after using those products, what exactly was my body trying to tell me?
Why I Limited The Black Hair Care Products I Used
I believe my body was trying to tell me, that it was rejecting something. My body was slowly showing me signs of hormonal imbalance and it might be linked to the black hair care products I was using, as well as the household cleaning products I used. Recently, more researchers have been speaking out about this. Creating articles about the studies that are being done, educating us on what some of these chemicals can possibly be doing long-term to our bodies. From my understanding, it's still not enough research to completely link these chemicals to hormonal imbalance, asthma, fibroids, or fertility issues. But they're just sharing some observations.
Now I don’t know every hair product on the market or their side effects, I’m just sharing my experiences as a black consumer. I used to choose the brands that marketed to my hair texture. But that doesn't mean this is just effecting black women, we are all in trouble. This seems to be a worldwide problem, our homes, our products, our food and our environments are probably making us sick.
It’s a group called Bench to Community, and you can find them online and on Instagram. The community is made up of researchers, advocates, breast cancer survivors, and hair stylists who have came together and have committed to research to help us eliminate the harmful exposures to chemicals that’s in hair and other personal care product formulas. I was reading something on their site that said, “black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.” I think the reason for that, is because we use a lot of products in our hair to get the desired style and look we’re going for.
Let me ask you, do you think we really need all those creams, and anti-frizz spays? Probably not. But, if you’re like me, you love a good smelling product. When it comes to hair products, I was always looking for the best smelling ones that actually worked on my hair, the creamier the better. Our hair loves moisturizers, conditioners, shampoos, gels, etc. Wash days is like spa days in my household.
Remember when “no sulfates” became popular? A ton of brands started switching the formulas and adding that to their product packaging. Then it was “all natural, no parabens and no phthalates”. At the time, I never even really knew what any of that meant, I just knew my hair was natural, the product said natural, and it smelled great, so it must be good for my hair. But how do we really know if these ingredients are really natural?
What are Parabens
In case you’re not aware, parabens are a hormone disrupting chemical that’s used in some products to help mold and bacteria from being able to grow. It acts as a preservative to help prolong a product’s shelf life.
From my personal research, I learned that parabens have been removed from a lot of popular hair products, because of it’s possible increase of breast cancer risk. When parabens enter the blood stream, they can mimic hormone estrogen. Which could possibly encourage dangerous cell growth.
Try to avoid ingredients such as propylparaben, methyl 4- benzoate, and anything that pretty much end or begin with "paraben" or "benzoate". Because most likely these ingredients are some form of paaraben, and our skin or hair probably shouldn't be absorbing it. Another thing you usually see when a bottle says “no parabens” is no phthalates.
What are Phthalates and what problems do they cause
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that basically make plastic flexible and durable. Some types of phthalates has been known to affect the reproductive system in animals, but it's not clear about the human health effects. It’s been considered an endocrine disruptor and can possibly cause damage to liver, kidneys, reproductive systems and even lungs.
These chemicals can be found in hair sprays, soaps, detergents, shampoos, nail polishes, deodorants and more. I definitely appreciate the companies that have switched to a safer alternative. But some still use these, so I try to avoid products with ingredients that says phthalate, or DBP, dibutyl, benzyl, and of course sulfates.
Why avoiding sulfates in shampoo became so popular
Sulfates can strip away too much moisture in our hair, and I think black hair care products learned that we need moisture so our hair won’t become dry and brittle. Sulfates is a chemical so it is possible to experience skin irritation or redness when using products with these ingredients.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a common one i’ve seen. It makes products foamy, increases cleaning power. I used to love me a good foamy good smelling cleaning product or shampoo. But my skin didn't love it.
Fragrances Are Really No Longer Allowed Unless I’m Adding It
Fragrances is just a group of some known and unknown chemicals put together to make a product smell like something else. It can be like 100 different ingredients making that one fragrance. Fragrances was one of the hardest things for me to let go. I love smell goods, so much, thank goodness I now know about natural scents and essential oils. If you haven’t learned about the secret power and benefits of those wonderful natural scents in a bottle, I did a article on it you should check it out here.
However, my biggest issues with fragrances is the respiratory irritation I used to get when using it. It contributed to so much of my coughing and breathing issues. The chemicals that make up fragrances according to “force of nature” website, can be allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins and a possible carcinogen. Meaning it could be increasing our risk of cancer. Not all carcinogens or people exposed to them our vulnerable to cancer, I guess we're learning that some exposure may increase our risk of cancer.
How Do These Products Contribute To Hormonal Imbalance
These chemicals can possibly be confusing our endocrine system. The endocrine system coordinates the tissues and organs of the body, according to endocrine.org.
I love this site, because it really educates me on how our endocrine system work and how it’s connected with our hormones.
I really hope I am not butchering this explanation, and I do encourage you to check out their website and videos to learn more on your own. But basically the EDC’s aka endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemical mixtures that interfere some how with our hormone functions. It can be found in food, food packaging, sprays, pesticides, air pollution, personal care products, and can even enter our bodies through medical equipment.
What are EDC's?
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemical mixtures that interfere some how with our hormone functions.
Eating organic options, avoiding plastics, and canned goods can really help limit the exposure to these chemicals. It’s been a slow journey, because I like convenience, but I am working on ditching the plastics and switching to more organic eco-friendly things.
When I was reading the endocrine society website, they were also saying how these chemicals are possibly linked to women reproductive health disorders. That’s alarming because of the increase of women that’s having difficulty conceiving and maintaining pregnancy.
Try to avoid fragrances, phthalates, flame retardants, BPA (found in canned goods), Triclosan (found in personal care products), and cover any furniture that foam may be exposed.
Research And Take Action
I am a huge believer in researching and educating ourselves. Another study I found was from the CityofHope.org the study by Lindsey S. Trevino. She was the lead researcher in the study that found “black women are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer under the age of 40 than any other racial or ethnic group.”
Now even though it's not a lot of data showing exactly how these chemicals are increasing our risk to breast cancer, as well as other sicknesses. I still think this is something that we need to take serious. Everyday I'm learning more and more that my health needs to be in my hands and I need to hold myself accountable with what I am choosing to use or eat.
It was also another study done, by the Silent Spring, they examined 18 different formulas, which included leave-in conditioners, root stimulators, hair lotions, relaxers, hot oil treatments, and more. They discovered 78% of the formulas contained parabens and 84% of them had EDCs detected, some weren’t even listed on the back of the ingredient label.
This scared me straight lol. I did a home detox years ago, but after learning this I went through again to get rid of some more stuff.
Is it any resources I can use to find more natural personal care products
In personal care products I try to look for items that avoid ingredients such as:
- Mineral Oil
- Synthetic colors and dyes
But, I personally do not know every chemical and the side effects, and definitely don’t have time to google and fact check each one of them, especially when I’m ready to make a purchase. So I use a bunch of other resources. The most convenient option are apps. My favorite one at the moment is “Think Dirty”, I literally scan items when I’m in the store and it gives me some insight on the toxicity level. It’s probably not 100% accurate but it gives me some type of relief.
Here’s a list of a few more resources
- EWG Healthy Living
- Detox Me
- Think Dirty
I strongly encourage you to download these apps and scan some of the products around your household. Also, I encourage you to take the quiz on the right side of this page in the side bar. All of these action steps, can hopefully help you figure out what products you should be switching out and of course continue to listen to your body.
When I started my home detox and using more natural products I started to see a lot of different changes the biggest change for me was I no longer coughed as much as I used to when cleaning the house or washing my hair. I don't get sick as often, my skin is starting to clear up more and more, and my cycles are not as painful or heavy.
Once I started to change the way I was eating which I would get into an another article, I started to see even more Improvements. For me personally I know that choosing more natural options has definitely increased my health and that is why I believe when I was exposing myself to way more chemicals they were silently killing me. I'm not saying I am the healthiest person in the world now, because I'm far from it, but I know that the small changes I made, overall made a big difference.
If you're looking to go natural on any budget, stay connected by joining our email community, I'm willing to help you as much as possible, so don’t hesitate to reach out. I'll continue sharing blogs and YouTube videos on my journey so definitely subscribe if you haven’t already. I will definitely be dropping recipes specifically for hair care products in the near future so definitely consider subscribing to our email community, so you can stay updated on the upcoming content. I wish you the best on this journey and thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read this article leave a comment letting me know what you think.