Getty: Stewart Cohen

Getty: Stewart Cohen

Recent research from the Black Women’s Health Study reported a link between hair relaxers and uterine fibroids because the relaxers act as endocrine disruptors (EDCs)—chemicals that interfere with the functioning of the body’s endocrine system that can harm the reproductive and immune systems.

A new study, published in the January 15 issue of the journal Cancer Medicine now reports “a growing body of evidence linking environmental estrogen and EDC exposures to breast cancer risk; the presence of such chemicals in personal care products, including hair products;  and the use of certain hair products with potential breast cancer risk in African Americans.” The research team—led by Laura Stiels, a Loma Linda University sociologist who has done extensive work on the health impact of hair products used by black women—is calling for more research and careful attention to the health impact of a range of beauty regimens.

Products to Avoid  

Endocrine disruptors can be found in dark and permanent hair dyes (or any dye containing resorcinol), permanent straiteners (perms and keratin treatments). There’s no way to permanently straiten hair without some risk, but take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s hair straitener safety options so that you can make an informed choice.

Shampoos and conditioners that contain parabens, such as butulparaben and methyl-paraben are also endocrine disruptors, as well as other products so beware of the chemicals in your hair.

Healthier hair styling options like henna or plant-based hair colors and flat irons may take a little more effort, but dropping chemicals from your routine is an important part of protecting your health. Finding shampoos and conditioners free of toxins is relatively easy, just look for products such as John Masters Organics (the color enhancing conditioner is fabulous) or Moroccan0il shampoo and conditioner.

Hair product health risks are also a great reason to condition with pure coconut oil or mango butter and consider wearing your hair in a natural style at least a few months a year.