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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Black Women: Do Not Straighten Your Hair Anymore

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on October 19, 2022

An Editorial Opinion

Black women, a new study released on October 18, 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute links the use of hair straightening products to an increased risk of uterine cancer. As a consumer group, black women are more adversely impacted by these products than other consumers due to their higher use of them.

The study includes data on nearly 34,000 women in the United States, ages 35 to 74, who completed questionnaires about their use of certain hair products, including perms, dyes, relaxers and straighteners. The researchers, from the National Institutes of Health, also tracked the incidence of cancer diagnoses within the study group.

The researchers found a strong correlation between hair straightening products and uterine cancer cases, but the use of other hair products – such as dyes and perms or body waves – was not associated with uterine cancer.

The study data also showed that the association between hair straightening products and uterine cancer cases was most pronounced for black women, who made up only 7.4% of the study participants, but 59.9% of those who reported ever using straighteners.

Black women have long associated straightened hair with “good” hair. It is a present-day vestige of the slavery and the post-slavery era.

For centuries, white society imposed unrelenting pressure on black women and other women of color to conform to the European standards of beauty defined for white women. The practice of straightening the hair of women of color became a major part of the cultural custom for conformity and assimilation in the United States.

Eventually, this social pressure for conformity invaded workplace settings. Employers demanded control over the hairstyles and appearances of women of color. Working under this kind of micro-management and facing a constant threat of discrimination because of their color, hairstyles, and manner of self-expression, many women of color simply conformed to the employer’s expectations of Eurocentric beauty standards.

Hair products that are marketed directly to black children and women have been shown to contain multiple chemicals associated with disrupting hormones, and the products that are marketed to black women have also been shown to have harsher chemical formulations. Black women also tend to use multiple products simultaneously, which contributes to black women on average having higher concentrations of these hormone-disrupting chemicals in their bodies.

Black women and other women of color should immediately stop using hair-straightening products. Do not let these dangerous products place your health and life in jeopardy.

Accept who you are and the way God made you. There is no need to imitate old-fashion Eurocentric standards of beauty. As we all say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Above all, protect your health and life!

IMAGE: Black model with natural hair (left) and straightened hair (right).

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