Women of colour exposed to higher levels of toxic ingredients in cosmetics

Women of colour exposed to higher levels of toxic ingredients in cosmetics

As women of colour we often struggle to find beauty products which complement our skin types and tones. When we do find products specifically targeted to us and that cater to our needs it’s almost like the beginning of a now found friendship.

However, in a recent article published by cosmeticsbusiness.com it shows how the products catered to women of colour include higher levels of toxic ingredients.

Mercury and steroids were two of the main toxins found when research was carried out on cosmetics by George Washington University and Occidental College. Research has shown that skin lightening products do contain hidden toxic chemicals such as, topical steroids, hydroquinone or the toxic metal mercury.

The fact that these products are so widely used in our communities is not only alarming but also shocking.  Further research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology highlights that exposure to these items can have deadly health risks such as, premature reproductive development in young girls, neurodevelopmental issues and cancer.

Unfortunately in African-Caribbean and Asian communities’ colourism and Eurocentric beauty standards have a significant impact on the perceptions of beauty.  Many women aspire to conform to the European notion of beauty, thus one of the most popular beauty items catered towards women of colour is skin bleaching cream.

Right beside skin bleaching are the politics which come along with black hair. In line with European beauty standards is the inaccurate general consensus that black hair (natural hair) is unattractive and should be tamed.

Although it is refreshing to see that in 2017 more and more black women are proudly embracing their natural hair, experiencing our first hair relaxers at tender ages are stories far too many of us can tell.

“A survey revealed that risk of exposure often begins at an early age, as almost 50% of parents/guardians of African American girls reported that chemical relaxers were first applied to their child’s hair between 4 and 8 years-old”, states Cosmetics business editor Sarah Parsons.

Hair relaxers and texturizers have been found to include estrogen which triggers premature reproductive development in children and uterine tumours.

Due to racial and political ideologies, women of colour reportedly spend 80 percent more on all beauty products than women of other races and these figures continue to increase according to newsweek.com.

As women of colour we have always taken pride in looking good and keeping up our appearances, especially in our hair and makeup. Whilst historically our features have been deemed as “unattractive”, it’s refreshing to see a new wave of women embracing what we have been blessed with and what makes us authentically beautiful.


However, as figures for products such as skin bleaching creams and hair relaxers continue to grow it is clear to see that there is still a wider issue in our communities which should be discussed. The health risks alone should be enough to make women of colour think twice about using such items on themselves and on their children, we hope to see a decrease in these numbers in the near future.


Images courtesy of Google



By | 2017-09-04T18:24:12+01:00 September 4th, 2017|Beauty|5 Comments