- Is Your Hair Routine Risking Your Health?
- What’s The Latest News?
- Unpacking & Making Sense Of It All
- So Many Questions...
- Final Considerations
Cancer is no joke, so though we deal with information about hair care, we will discuss “The Big C” from time to time particularly when we come across evidence to suggest that hair care practices and products are giving rise to cancer. Today is such a day when we must delve into the abyss.
Imagine finding out that a routine you have had for years is increasing your risk for cancer. Well, here’s your spoiler alert because there is scientific evidence to show that your hair dyes and chemical straighteners may increase your risk of cancer. It seems nothing is safe.
By now some of you might be exasperated since it seems every month there is some kind of alarming health news. It seems there is always some type of report suggesting our products are killing us.
Previously phthalates were being identified as carcinogenic agents found in in relaxers and talcum powder has also been shown to have some correlation with abnormal cell growth.
We even looked at how a popular wash-n-go favourite might be carcinogenic. Yet we deem it part of our responsibility to inform our community about this most critical development that directly affects us.
Alexandra White PhD, head at the National Institue of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) with special responsibility for the Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, along with colleague and co-author of the study, Dale Sandler PhD, conducted a study to examine the likelihood that hair products cause an increase in the development of breast cancer.
The study in question consisted of 46,709 female participants in the “Sister Study.” An online publication in the International Journal of Cancer, released on December 4, 2019, has published the following findings:
- Permanent hair dye may increase breast cancer risk
- Chemical straighteners may increase breast cancer risk
- Semi-permanent or temporary dye use recorded little to no evidence of increased cancer risk.
- Black women were over three times more likely than white women to develop cancers from the use of permanent dyes and chemical straighteners.
The findings were covered by authoritative sites including Science Daily, Medical News Today and Medscape.
Consequently, in response to whether or not women ought to refrain from dyeing or straightening their hair, Dr Sandler had this to say:
We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk. While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
The study purports that of the total number of participants in the study, those women who use permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not use these products at all.
The participants who used permanent dyes up to a year before being enlisted in the study were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer issues. Use of the permanent dyes for touch-ups every 5-8 weeks was shown to be associated with a 60% increased cancer risk in black women.
Curiously, this risk only presented an 8% increase in cancer risk in white women. It seems the only way to limit the potential for developing cancer if you use dyes, is to ensure it is not a permanent dye, but a temporary or semi-permanent one.
With regards to the use of chemical hair straighteners, the research findings revealed that this accounts for a 30% increase in breast cancer risk for those who indulge in the practice of chemical hair straightening.
I don’t know about you but I always marvel at how everything seems to affect people of colour and specifically black people at an alarmingly higher rate than it would any other ethnicity.
Now I do not want to give room to the conspiracy theories, but why is it that everything that happens, every chronic illness and lifestyle-related complications mostly affect black people?
Asians and Caucasians seem to use dyes just as often or even more than we do if we are to go by their depictions of themselves in the mainstream media that is controlled by them. Is it that the media offers a disingenuous portrayal of them purely for marketing purposes?
Is it that white women dye their hair less frequently? Is it that greater care is taken to ensure that their products are safe? Is it that our genetic makeup does not agree with most things? Is it that by virtue of the fact that our community buys the mammoth’s share of products on the market, so we end up registering higher numbers than other races? Or is it that our use of products is not in keeping with how the manufacturers stipulate as acceptable use?
As it relates to chemical straighteners, did the study mean relaxers only or was it inclusive of Keratin treatments, Vigorol and hair botox? There are just so many questions but more studies are needed in this field to answer them.
It is tempting to shrug it off and say the findings are not conclusive since the researchers inserted the term “may”; as in it may cause cancer and not a definite it “will” cause cancer.
Still, the truth of the matter is that we cannot afford to take lightly anything that suggests that our practices or frequently used products are playing a detrimental role in ill health for us.
If anything, we ought to continue to be vigilant so we can monitor these various studies, see about conducting our own studies and agitating for legislation to ensure that manufacturers are held accountable to us and the law for the products that they market to us and ensure that they use safer alternatives.