Black Women’s Beauty Products Likely To Contain Toxic Chemicals… (….a recent study says)

Less than 25% of products marketed to black women got high safety ratings in a new study……

……..compared to 40% of products aimed at the general public.

Cosmetics targeting black women are more likely to contain potentially harmful ingredients than those marketed to the general public….

…..according to a study published Tuesday by the non-profit Environmental Working Group.

The group’s analysis of the listed ingredients in 1,177 black beauty and personal care products showed less than 25% of the products getting good scores…….

……in a rating system EWG developed to measure the presence of potentially hazardous ingredients. (About 40% of the cosmetics products targeting the general public received good scores.)

“The top line for us, which is an unfortunate top line, is we realized black women have fewer healthy options when it comes to products marketed to them,” …..

…..Nneka Leiba, the deputy director of research with the Environmental Working Group and co-author of the study, told BuzzFeed News.

“That Black women buy and use more of these products could mean they are potentially exposed to more hazardous chemicals.”

While black consumers make up about 13% of the U.S. market, they account for as much as 22% of the $42 billion-a-year personal care products business, according to the report.

The disparity is worse for black women. The report found that the percentage of products scored as “high hazard” was about the same for both black and non-black market segments.

But, black women have fewer “low hazard” options marketed to them.

“If you’re a black woman shopping for these products and you don’t have any low hazard options, where do you go to?” said Leiba.

About 280 products evaluated by the group contain what it describes as hormone-disrupting chemicals such as parabens.

Thirty products, including facial powders, foundations and styling products, contain imidazolidinyl urea, a formaldehyde-releasing preservative.

The worst-scoring products were hair relaxers…..

…….with an average score of 8.1 out of 10, with 10 being the worst hazard score.

Hair color and bleaching products were the second most hazardous category with an average score of 7.9, according to the report.

Susanne Montgomery, the director of research at Loma Linda University School of Behavioral Health, told BuzzFeed News…….

……that the findings validates some of the concerns she’s raised through her research on the role estrogen and endocrine disrupting chemicals in black beauty products may have on black women’s high incident rate of breast cancer.

“We’re at the point where there is reason for concern and I feel that at the very least we should honor black women…..

…….and give them the opportunity to discuss the available evidence and make their own decisions,” she [Susan Montgomery] said.

“There’s enough people lobbying them [Black Women] to buy products".

"There needs to be a discussion for them to make their own decision, even though there is not an established clear link yet.” [says Susan Montgomery]

"Not enough is understood in science about the health hazards of cosmetics and other personal care products marketed to black women……."

……said Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute, which focuses on women’s health and the environment.

“I think we’ve always had that hunch but they were able to say that,” she told BuzzFeed News.

“It’s great they’re trying to fill a gap in our understanding of products marketed toward certain people.” [said Robin Dodson]

However she said the report may be limited by the group’s methodology to focus on analyzing what is disclosed on the label.

Dodson’s own product testing has shown that some labels do not disclose all the chemicals that are found in the product.

“There is a potential issue by simply looking at the label and assuming label is complete,” she [Robin Dodson] said.

article taken word for word from an article I ran across on

~stay healthy~



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8 Responses


One question comes to mind after reading this article. WHY?

Is it impossible to manufacture hair relaxers and coloring products using less toxic or non-toxic ingredients? What happens to black women who use less toxic products marketed to white women? How sad that it comes down to a choice between so-called beauty or health. This is another example of the disparities between programmed consumerism, which parts you from your money and leads to biological degradation, and natural beauty and health. The price is way too high. Black women, wake up, take heed and let your inner beauty shine forth.

Thank you Doug, for bringing this important subject to the forefront. You may have saved someone’s life.


Hi Bobbi,

I always loving your unique perspective in your comments.

The “Why” of this is like a rabbit hole, there are a lot of cultural dynamics that may be hard to see if one is not within the so called “African American Culture”. But kudos for simply “asking”. I’ll try to give you some perspective, since I flow in and out of all these “sub cultures” with ease, and can see them all, at least to a certain degree.

One area that I personally think Black Americans need to WAKE UP, as you call it, is that we don’t understand as a collective unit the power of our collective buying power. For example, going back to the complaints last year about “The Oscars” because there were no Black actors and actresses nominated, all Black People have to do is stop paying Cable Bills and stop paying movie theaters for 6 months until we got a product that represented us better. Same with Nutrition and Bodycare products, in that Black People need to understand and collectively use the power of the almighty dollar will dictate what we want to be sold to us. As mentioned in this article, Black people spend billions and billions, and with Bodycare and Beauty products, each individual spend twice as much is spent compared to American as a whole.

Black people, in all of our diversity in many ways of thought and deed, in general are mostly consumers in this country, and very seldom producers (even though we are more than capable of producing our own intellect and wisdom, which is all you need in order to produce anything else), but the tragedy of the current condition is that the Black People often consume whatever is fed to us, with no sense of awareness of the how’s or why’s of what is given to us. One of my issues with so called “Black Culture” (not “Black People” of course, cause I love my brothers and sisters) is the Black Culture is often created, shaped, and defined by people who are not even black, people who are in it to make a buck off Black Culture. So as pertaining to these African Beauty products, many of them have nothing to do with historic African Bodycare and Beauty Care ingredients, they are just some toxic, cheap chemicals thrown in a jar, given an African Kinte Cloth looking label, and mass marketed as “Black Cultural Products”.

There are individuals (like myself) and smaller groups of black people taking control, I have connected with many and supported many of these types of small business and enterprises, but it feels to me like the “powers that be” are doing everything in their power to stop Black American Collective Consciousness from thriving. It’s more profitable for them to keep Black Americans tied to the current way of doing business.

On the positive side, there is a Holistic Movement springing up in certain segments of the “So Called” African American Community, as some blacks are starting to learn more of who they really are historically, and learn more about holistic African healing, Native African foods, cosmetics, and beauty products from Africa. I touched upon some those African Beauty Secrets in the “Beauty Secrets from Africa” article. The reason it is important is that African holistic medicine, foods, and body care historically evolved to accommodate melanated skin. So I know personally of many African Americans who [like myself] are winning their individual “Games of Life”, it’s just not a collective reality, though I predict that will will change over the long haul……

Let me finish with this quote from German born Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “On my arrival in Gabon ( Africa ) in 1913, I was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer. I saw none among the natives two hundred miles from the coast…I cannot, of course, say positively that there was no cancer at all, but, like other frontier doctors, I can only say that, if any cases existed, they must have been quite rare. This absence of cancer seemed to be due to the difference in nutrition of the natives compared to the Europeans…”

You can celebrate your heritage and celebrate at the same time celebrate your place in the melting pot of all cultures and heritages in the USA, but it’s a hell of a mental game to get yourself into that mindset, but I think I’ve done it, so I know it’s not impossible to take control over you own life without living in hostility and anger, you can have “Black Awareness” and at the same time be at peace with everything around you, but you have to do some serious “Brain Surgery” on yourself to figure all this out.

Thanks for reading and commenting…..

Doug at GAIA Health Blog




All great thoughts, Doug. Thank you for the added clarity to this most interesting subject.

I can’t help but think of Chris Rock’s documentary film called Good Hair. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth watching. He profiles the almost obsessive nature of black womens’ relationship with their hair, how it adversely affects their financial life, their relationships with men, and other cultural impacts. At one point he interviews a black entrepreneur who runs a hair care and beauty products business to help offset the negative aspects of the mainstream products that crowd the shelves. Very insightful and entertaining movie. I highly recommend it.


Hi Bobbi,

I’ve heard of the “Good Hair” movie, but haven’t seen it. However the whole concept of “Good Hair” is deeply embedded in the collective psyche of every black person in the USA, along with light vs. dark skin. In the end, black women have traditionally had more expensive Hair Care and cosmetics costs because they are often trying to create hairstyles that are emulating White Women. However, I  read that in Ancient Egypt, they found hieroglyphs of Egyptian women with hot combs (a.k.a., “straightening combs”), so the need to straighten coarse hair has been going on for thousands of years I suppose.

Black men have had this dilema as well, going back to the 50’s with the “process” hair do’s, which is just an emulation of straight, wavy, white men’s hair, it eventually evolved to “Jerry Curls”, using chemical relaxers to have a softer, curlier grade of hair. I have use Jerry Curl formulas, feels like setting your head on fire for an hour. Eventually black men have given up on all that and are comfortable with our hair for what it is, we are very comfortable with short hair, cool haircuts and designs, or even bald heads. In that respect, we set the trend for bald heads, to the point where we made it In Vogue for all men of all races to feel free to shave their heads. But in general, men spend less on hair and body care than women, I doubt if Black men spend more on Skin and Body Care than white men.(Bald heads is almost zero cost and zero maintenance, except for razor blades and maybe shaving cream, maybe bout $10-$15 a month)

Henceforth, my decision to us the lovely model Nerrisa Irving with the ankle length dreadlocks, was merely because I always wanted to feature her in an article, simply because of her natural beauty. However there is a subtle point that she is making that didn’t hit me until I finished the article, a subtle hint that Black is beautiful as it is, and we should express it naturally and organically.

Black people simply need to let go of societal standards of beauty, express our natural beauty and glow, and not get so wrapped up in how society sees us, and be more concerned about how we see ourselves. I don’t personally believe in making an effort for societal acceptance, a big chunk of society sees Black as beautiful, even some people who hate black, hate it because of [arguably] deeply rooted envy of black beauty, athletic power, and so forth……I mean, if we can really talk here, and I can express my opinion, with assumption I never say or write anything with any hostility. 

When you talk about African products like Shea Butter, there are enough products in the USA for Black Women to take a healthier, more holistic approach to Beauty Care and Hair Care, but it still comes back around to awareness an knowledge of what is in those toxic products being shoveled to us, to abandon them, and start over with holistic products.

There is an awakening I can see it all around me……..but a long ways to go.

Doug at GAIA Health Blog.


In response to your statement, “Black people simply need to let go of societal standards of beauty, express our natural beauty and glow, and not get so wrapped up in how society sees us, and be more concerned about how we see ourselves”, which I totally agree with by the way, I would like to point out a huge obstacle created by the white-dominated cultural pressure of hidden agendas in the workplace. For instance, if an African-American woman with kinky hair applies for a job competing against a white woman with American-approved hair, which one is more likely to get the job, everything else being equal and anti-discrimination laws aside? The people who hire can and do claim their choice was made for a different “acceptable” reason. I would wager this goes on a lot and is never reported or challenged. Pretty hard to get past that if you are a single kinky-haired mom trying to raise a family.

Where will it all end? Hopefully, we are emerging from the Dark Ages one person at a time and the world will become a better place for all soon. Keep the good thoughts.


Hi Bobby,

Yeah good point. I think in the end when you look at it from the right perspective, its not a Black-White thing, it’s a human nature thing. If you went over to Bangladesh in Asia, as an arbitrary example, and there was some person in some minority group trying to get a job, the Majority group Bangladesh person would have an innate biased-ness to stay in control, and because it’s human nature to have a preference to deal with people the same as you, and have subtle fears about people who were culturally different.

Most people don’t know the story of how in the 1800’s three was a small project, which never fully took off, of shipping blacks back to Africa to be resettled and start their own country. That’s how the African nation of Liberia was founded. The point is, the Blacks that got shipped back started treating the native Liberian tribesmen as slaves almost, and these sons of American slaves had the same oppressive mindset as was placed on them in America, as they became the ruling class in Liberia, and their descendants rule to this day, like I said, it’s just a human nature thing not a black-white thing….

Once you see this reality from a high level, I stopped getting so wrapped up into Black vs. White. And I’m lucky to have lived in the great Northwest for nearly 6 years now, and though there are typical American problems, I find the “Sub Cultures” in Washington and Oregon to be much more open and relaxed and engaging towards each other. White people up here look you in the eye and talk to you……..

When you say “Where Does it end?”. Anyone can make it end in the next 60 seconds if they want. I’m having some problems on my job, I call it the “Obama Syndrome”, where peope struggle so hard dealing with a professional black man with some intellect. But I told my boss point blank in a heated discussion, after he gave me a not so favorable review….”You control this company, but I control my own destiny and life out here in the real world, so as far as I’m concerned, were on equal footing here. I’m going to survive and thrive in this life no matter what you do, so you do what you need to do…….”

….Once I realized I had that mindset, any concept of oppression ended in that minute.

The antitheses of that story is that my boss at Columbia Sportswear [a white dude] in Portland Oregon, was so non-racist and unbiased, he actually freak me out until I simply just accepted it, but my last day of work I had to sit that guy down and just let him know he was the greatest of bosses and the best of men. So maybe I’m just lucky to have run across a good number of great people, not perhaps a majority, but enough to force me just deal with individuals one by one a as I meet them…..

The point I’m making there is I had to start looking at the all the madness as like I don’t really care about the negative things people are doing or thinking in the work environment or the world at large, the job is only a means to get to the point where I don’t need a job, and I’ve learned in this 7 year odyssey since I left Chicago that the divine powers will get me a new job if I need one. Furthermore, I never feel like the oppressors have a heck of a lot of intelligence, so I don’t give them much credence or mental energy anyway, so from a certain point of view, a lot of what goes on around us, like news stories that get everybody all charged up on all sides don’t really affect me at the core.

….because I know what I am and who I am at the core.

Like that line Tim Robbins said in “Shawshank Redemption”……”There’s something inside a man that they can’t touch…….”

I was determined to write a short note this time, but you tricked me again…….   🙂

Doug at GAIA Health Blog



That is the perfect summation. You have nailed it and it gives me a great feeing inside to be reminded there are people in the world (you in particular) that understand the big picture and know exactly who and where you are in it.
Cheers, kudos, and all that jazz!



Hi Bobbi,

I did have to reword one comment near the end of that last “long winded” response, in when I implied I don’t care what people are thinking on the job or the world at large.

I reworded it to “I don’t really care about the negative things people are doing or thinking in the work environment…..”

I’m always caring about my fellow man and woman, that’s why I put passion into this site. The negativity however, I’m blessed to let if roll off of me for the most part, though I hate to see so many people on all sides consumed by it.

FINALLY!!!!! a short response {chuckle}

Doug at GAIA Health Blog

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