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How Closely Related Are Your Hair Products To Your Lady Business?
There are numerous chemicals in use today that negatively affect our health, hence the rise of “all natural” products that have flooded the market, from pet food to household cleaners. But have you ever wondered how they affect woman’s reproductive health?
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) estimates that there are over 70, 000 chemicals used in products and exposure to these chemicals and metals can lead to infertility, hormonal imbalances, miscarriage and other reproductive health problems.
Our exposure to these chemicals range from our food, to the atmosphere, products we use on our hair and body, cleaning products, fragrances, among others; quite often there’s at least, one toxic chemical lurking in them.
This makes it really hard to reduce our exposure to these chemicals simply because they are so ubiquitous in our daily life.
And even though we may watch what we eat, we sometimes not even think about what we put on our hair. Contrary to what you might unconsciously feel, hairs aren’t “outside” of our body, rather they are a part of it. So what we put in it will definitely affect our health.
Using a lot of products that contain toxic chemicals is a sure way to put your health at risk.
The most overlooked part is the effect these chemicals have on female reproductive health; how it affects menstrual cycles, causes period pains and birth defects.
At first thought, it might be difficult to make the correlation between hair products and reproductive health as both systems are perceived to be seperate and unrelated.
However, research has shown that there is a link between harmful chemicals and metals on the disruption of female reproductive health.
Most of these chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors. That is, they cause hormonal imbalances which might lead to birth defects, irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis and fibroids.
Fortunately, these chemicals can be spotted on the ingredient list of the products you choose and avoided. But there are more toxic chemicals hiding in plain sight which still have yet to be researched for their harmful effects.
For example, take an inconspicuous ingredient like “fragrance” which seems harmless. But it often covers a multitude of health hazards. Due to preservation of trade secrets, brands aren’t required to reveal the contents that make up this listing. However, this has been abused as more harmful and synthetic scents used in beauty products have made their way to store shelves.
We are constantly exposed to thousands of chemicals in hair products, but only a fraction have been tested for their toxicity and correlation to irregular menstrual cycles and reproductive health problems.
However, there are a couple of studies that do show a correlation between exposure to certain chemicals and reproductive health problems.
The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in a note on the Reproductive Risks of Chemicals At Work listed Lead, PCBs, vinclozolin, procymidome and linuron, arsenic, some phthalates, as some examples of chemicals posing risks to the female reproductive system. The note by the RSC added that the negative effects are varied and might include changes in sexual behavour, pregnancy outcome, gestation time, premature menopause, cyclicity, among others.
With negative effects like this, it is very unsettling, to say the least, to know that these chemicals can be found in a wide number of products used in the cosmetic industry.
Toluene, for example, which is also known as methyl benzene, methyl benzol, phenyl methane, and toluol can be found in hair dyes, wig glues and nail products. It is used as a solvent and can cause fetal abnormalities. Additionally, it is known to cause respiratory problems and eye irritation at acute exposure.
A study on the menstrual disturbances and hormonal changes in women workers exposed to a mixture of organic solvents in a pharmaceutical company by Somayeh Hassani tested the effects of endocrine disruptors on women exposed to them.
Although it focuses on exposure at a pharmaceutical company, the chemicals tested for can be found in products commonly used in hair products. For example, formaldehyde, one of the chemicals tested for is commonly used in hair straightening products. In this study, workers with higher exposure to these chemicals experienced irregular flow, prolonged bleeding and longer cycles compared to the women with lower exposure. Going by this study, it’s safe to say that constant exposure to these chemicals and metals have a high chance of showing the same results, regardless of the medium of exposure.
Phthalates are another known endocrine disruptor. They are plasticizers, added to give plastics their flexibility. But they can be found in hair sprays and virtually most cosmetic products. A research by Germaine M. Buck Louis PHD et al showed a correlation between higher levels of phthalates in the body and endometriosis. It revealed that more than 4 phthalates caused an increase in the odds of an endometriosis diagnosis.
Another study by Patricia A. Hunt et al concluded that, “EDCs (diphenyldichloroethene and phthalates) may contribute substantially to the most common reproductive disorders in women, endometriosis and fibroids, costing nearly 1.5 billion annually.
If these chemicals are known hazards, why are they allowed in commercial products?
Often times , some of these chemicals are allowed to be used in certain doses that are deemed not toxic enough to the human health.
But the FDA fails to take into account the other indirect ways we may come in contact with these chemicals. Chances are the vegetables in your food were treated with pesticides containing hazardous chemicals. Your favourite body fragrance and cleaning products have their own share of synthetic chemicals that are harmful to overall health. Products we use on our hair are likewise filled with harmful chemicals.
These chemicals are known to accumulate in the boday and exposure to numerous products containing these small amounts of toxic chemicals will build up and eventually cause problems.
With Endometriosis and fibroids affecting up to 70% of women it is important to avoid these endocrine disruptors at all cost. Embracing a more natural lifestyle is the preferred way to go for the benefit of your health. For every chemical with benefits, there are more natural options.
Hair dyes, keratin treatments and relaxers contain endocrine disruptors. So constant use of these hair products put you at risk of developing reproductive health problems.
With this evidence of the link between toxic chemicals and female reproductive disorders, it’s best to stay on the safe side, wouldn’t you say?
Fortunately for us, there are lots of brands nowadays that understand the health dangers caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. These brands are green and use organic ingredients to make their products. While some popular brands are known to make organic options in addition to their toxic products, quite a number of others are dedicated to producing only holistic products. Some popular brands include Little Barn Apothecary, Burts bees, 100% Pure, Avalon organics, Fortifyd naturals, Soultanicals, and more.
Ditch the straighteners
Wanting straighter hair every now and then is totally fine and a sophisticated styling option but most straighteners like relaxers, contain harmful substances you want to avoid. Don’t believe me? Check out the documentary, Good Hair to see what’s really lurking in the creamy goop. Want straight hair, instead try a flat iron straightener, a silk press or other chemical-free options.
Find a salon/stylist that understands your needs
Unless you go to salons with your tools and products in tow, you need to find a salon that understands your commitment to avoiding chemicals.
Not all products used in salons are tested for toxicity that’s why it’s still common to have formaldehyde used in hair treatments despite its link to cancer and respiratory problems.
It might be considered strange and intrusive to inspect the products when you walk into the shop, so it’s best to do a little preliminary research and look for holistic or organic salons. That way you can go in and breathe easy knowing all products and tools used on your hair are free of toxicity.
Often times we go the extra mile to get certain products regardless of their toxicity due to the touted benefits they give to our hair. However, eating nutrient-rich diets can improve the look of your hair too. Also, eating more immune-boosting foods help fight against minor disease or sicknesses that may arise from being exposed to these harmful substances in cosmetic products.
Watch out for harmful hair ingredients
Ingredient watching is not a futile endeavor. It’s not wise (or safe) to assume that just because the products are on the store shelf, they are totally safe for use. As mentioned earlier, some of these toxic chemicals are allowed in products we consume either due to the FDA’s lack of foresight or based on the premise that certain quantities below the harmful level of the chemical is alright.
But there’s a chance these chemicals are contained in more than one product you use. There’s also a high chance that you might be indirectly exposed to a certain amounts of these chemicals in your day to day activities. A combination of these “small amounts” of chemicals will put you at accumulated risk over time. Avoiding them in your hair products brings you one step closer to preserving your health long term.
Wondering what chemicals to avoid, here’s a list of the most toxic chemicals contained in cosmetic products you’ll want to stay away from. Download this Dirty Dozen pocket guide that lists hair ingredients to avoid and take it with you on your next shopping trip or salon visit. Keep it in your purse or bag for always-there access!