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80% of hair products linked to cancer, infertility, obesity


Female infertility

Nearly 80 percent of hair products aimed at black women contain chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and obesity, new research suggests.

Up to 78 percent of relaxers, which are used to permanently straighten hair, contain hormone-disrupting chemicals, known as parabens, a United States (US) study found.

Past studies suggest parabens, which are used as preservatives, mimic oestrogen and may cause cancer, weight gain and reduced muscle mass.


Up to 78 percent of hair products, including leave-in conditioners, also contain phthalates, the research added.

Phthalates are added to prolong products’ shelf lives and have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer, as well as early menopause.

Out of the 18 products analysed, 11 contain chemicals that are banned under the European Union (EU) cosmetic regulations due to their links to cancer and female infertility.

Previous research suggests black women are more likely to use straightening and moisturising hair products to try and meet social beauty norms.

Results further suggest that hair products aimed at black women contain up to 45 hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are not generally listed on their labels.

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Research.

All of the products contain at least one fragrance, which have previously been described as ‘gender benders’ due to them encouraging male-breast growth.

The worst offenders were found in hair lotions, root stimulators and relaxers.

Lotions claim moisturise, while root stimulators are thought to encourage hair growth and strength.

Lead author Dr. Jessica Helm, from the Silent Spring Institute, Massachusetts, said: ‘Chemicals in hair products, and beauty products in general, are mostly untested and largely unregulated.

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