Beauty Products for Black Women Are Full of Dodgy Ingredients

One in 12 cosmetics marketed to African American women is “highly hazardous,” a new review found.

skodonnell/iStock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


A disproportionately high number of hair and beauty products marketed to black women contain potentially harmful ingredients, according to a new investigation by a consumer advocacy and environmental research organization.

It’s up to companies and manufacturers to make sure products are safe—not the FDA.

The Environmental Working Group reviewed more than 1,000 products for black women, including body washes, lipsticks, and hair treatment products. Of these, about 1 in 12 was ranked highly hazardous by the EWG’s scoring system.

The worst-scoring products were bleaching creams, hair coloring treatments, and hair relaxers. Popular products and brands that were analyzed include Miss Jessie’s Baby ButterCreme, Shea Moisture Nourishing, CoverGirl Queen CC Cover + Care Cream and supermodel Iman’s IMAN Cosmetics CC Correct & Cover.

Less than a quarter of all the products analyzed by the EWG scored low in potentially hazardous ingredients—things like hormone-disrupting parabens, chemicals linked to skin cancer, and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives that can increase the risk of skin allergies—in the group’s analysis. By comparison, about 40 percent of health and beauty products targeted to the general public fell into the low-risk category.

Personal care products are not required to undergo a review by the Food and Drug Administration before they hit shelves—instead, it’s up to companies and manufacturers to make sure products are safe. If a customer files a complaint, the FDA can take action, but until that point, the agency can’t step in.

African American women in the United States spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, with black households throwing down an average of $94 a year at beauty supply stores. High spending on beauty products and limited options could mean black women are being exposed to more potentially hazardous chemicals than their counterparts of other races. But researchers still don’t have much specific information about the risks that these products carry, said Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at EWG. “And one of the reasons we don’t know is because of the woefully inadequate regulations that govern this industry.”

You can find a full list of the products analyzed by EWG here.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate