A National Institutes of Health report released in October found a link between permanent hair treatments, such as hair dyes and straighteners, and an increased risk of hormonal cancers, including those of the ovaries, breasts, and uterus, among black women. was found to be correlated with waves on social media. We are currently running a new campaign.
Color Of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization, has launched a new campaign, #CareForBlackHair, to hold the retailers who sell these toxic products and the brands that create them accountable. The campaign calls on retailers to remove harmful hair care products from their shelves and brands to replace their formulations with non-toxic ingredients.
In an interview with theGrio, Color Of Change vice president Jade Magnus Ogunnaike called the National Institutes of Health’s findings “utterly shocking.” She also said that while the toxicity of hair dyes was a big issue, the risks posed by hair straightening products really prompted Color of Change to take action.
“Hair relaxers are products that are directly relevant to black women. Black women are the people that hair relaxers are sold to. I think we are some of the biggest consumers of it. At Relaxerbox, we have black women. I found a way,” said Ognaike.
#CareForBlackHair launched in December 2022, while Color Of Change began reaching out to retailers in early November. Ogunnaike said he could not detail every retailer Color Of Change approached. But she shared that her organization recently had a disheartening conversation with her supermarket retailer, Giant Food.
“They pointed us to a statement from a lobbying group representing personal care products after they said they weren’t going to get rid of relaxers,” she said.
A statement by the lobbying group Personal Care Products Council, released in October in direct response to the study, said the “association” of these products with an increased risk of uterine cancer is not the same as the “cause” of the risk. The study did not consider other factors such as age or lifestyle.
“It was obviously terrifying to read the information, especially from a supermarket like Giant,” Ognaike said, adding, “Specifically, the letter came from a woman of color, so reading that information was terrifying.” It was terrifying,” he added.
Giant Food issued the following statement in response to an inquiry from theGrio:
“Giant Food continuously reviews and evaluates its product portfolio to ensure that it meets our high consumer satisfaction and safety standards. Similarly, they are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). However, it is still considered safe due to these high regulatory standards.”
Ognaike says her interactions with Giant Food demonstrate the retailer’s particular challenges.
“This is a study done by the National Institutes of Health. It’s not an underground science lab,” she said. “This is a really official and well-regarded study. It was really, really disturbing for Giant to dismiss black women like that and dismiss cancer risks like that.”
Anyway, Ogunnaike and Color Of Change are moving forward. The issue couldn’t be more timely, especially with Black History Month just around the corner, as major retailers are putting more and more effort into marketing to black people.
According to Ogunnaike, Color Of Change will look at how anyone interested can sign the petition and help call retailers to action. Going forward, Color Of Change plans in-person events in cities where these retailers are based.
Ognaike emphasized that Color of Change does not deny straightening.
“We understand the complex decisions Black women have to make regarding their hair, and we understand our relationship with it. “What we are not agnostic about is the responsibility of businesses and retailers to consumers regarding the products they sell. It’s very disturbing that attitudes still exist.”
Kay Wicker is theGrio’s lifestyle writer, covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and how black people live and play. She has created content for magazines, newspapers and digital brands.
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