One thing we know for sure when dealing with black hair is that it’s not just about hair, whether it’s because of history or society or because of personal views. WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a regional group focused on environmental justice for racial communities, decided to take a closer look at chemical hair straighteners and skin lighteners among women of color in Harlem and the South Bronx. bottom.
The Beauty Inside Out survey surveyed 297 women and LGBTQIA+ people of color about hair and skin products to raise awareness about beauty and its impact on health.
“I’m glad this research is done so that we can learn about our hair, the hair of black women,” said Harlem City Councilman Christine Richardson Jordan, who keeps her hair natural and afro-style. “I would never teach black women how to keep their hair, but I think it’s important to be educated and aware of the various health effects.”
The study found that black women surveyed were more likely to use relaxers than non-black women. It influenced the perception that hair or light skin was beautiful, professional, or youthful.
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The study concluded that there is still a “prevalence of racialized beauty standards” in the hair care and beauty fields. I used whitening products on my face more than anywhere else.
At first glance, this may not seem like an environmental problem, says Beaumont Morton, director of environmental health and education for WE ACT. But given that many beauty stores, salons and hair products are primarily in black and brown neighborhoods, it matters what people wear, she said.
“Overall, it was very interesting that researchers thought straight hair looked prettier, more professional, and more attractive,” Morton said. “It was kind of shocking, especially considering the prevalence of the revival of natural hair.”
Jennifer Jones Austin, 54, chief executive officer and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) and former chairman of the New York City Racial Justice Commission, wants her natural hair to grow into adulthood. I keep She said she was the only black student in her class for a long time in elementary and elementary school and imitated the hair care of white girls. She remembered that when she was about 13, she and her sister begged her mother for a relaxer for her thick hair.
“I wanted my hair to look like the other girls at this predominantly white school,” Jones-Austin said. “We insisted on her getting a relaxer that she didn’t know much about. [asking]Finally, I got a perm. It only took a couple of weeks for my hair to start falling out.
In 2009 Jones-Austin was diagnosed with leukemia and lost his hair twice. Doctors attributed environmental factors to Jones-Austin’s cancer, likely due to radioactive fallout and debris after her 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. As it grows, the “gloss” increases and the “texture improves”.
Now Jones-Austin considers her natural hair to be fairly soft, curly and easy to manage. .
“I remember a lot of sisters being unable to get perms or relaxers during COVID and trying to figure out what to do with their hair,” Jones-Austin said. , said he couldn’t get to a stylist, so he was getting wigs, thinking about wraps and ties. Please don’t take part in it,’ I remember feeling many times.”
Morton says colorism, hair texture, and anti-blackness all play a role in the conversation about black hair and skincare.
The Crown Act, signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2019, was enacted to end discrimination in hair texture and style. Morton says it helped protect women from the pressure of straightening her hair for work and other occasions.
“I think it’s useful to remember that there were civil rights laws, voting rights and affirmative action, but they didn’t necessarily change mindsets, values and beliefs. , and that’s enough,” said Crown Law’s Jones-Austin.
Senator Jamal T. Bailey, one of the original sponsors of the Crown Act, said the law was passed to boost the message that dark hair is beautiful. is a “significant step” in creating a more “respectful and open world” for natural hair, a racialized and disproportionate It is to end the canon of beauty and colorism.
“As a father of two girls of color, I want my daughters to understand that they belong in all spaces that are beautiful and raw,” Bailey said. “It is critical that our policies address these needs and continue to improve access and inclusion for all women and girls of color at all levels of society.”
Morton also suggested that legislation should be enacted to make beauty product labels more transparent. Morton did not specifically ask about health effects in his WE ACT study, but Tamara of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health said James He said the study done by Todd et al.
A James-Todd study found that black-hair products such as relaxers, oils, moisturizers, lotions, leave-in conditioners, and gels containing certain “endocrine disruptor” chemicals may be linked to serious health problems, including breast cancer. I found out that there is a nature. She also mentioned that elements such as phthalates can cause obesity, diabetes, metabolic her syndrome, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, premature birth in pregnant women, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. .
Morton said that while manufacturers target women of color in their marketing, they do not disclose the harmful chemicals in their beauty products.
“Many of the beauty and personal care products marketed to black women and girls are associated with serious health concerns and exposure to toxic chemicals, leading to racial health inequalities and health conditions. “Women and girls of color need to wear their hair in a certain way in order to look beautiful and conform to societal norms,” Bailey said. You’re most at risk of being marketed for beauty products that claim to have or require your skin to have a certain shade of expectation.
Ariama C. Long is a member of the Report for America corps and writes about politics. amsterdam newsYour donation, matching our RFA grant, will help her continue writing stories like this. Visit and consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today. https://bit.ly/amnews1.