As someone who has obsessively done her own hair in the last two years, I’m always on YouTube checking out the latest trends and styles from hair bloggers. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled one documentary online, tagged: The Hidden Cost of Black Hair. It was a bit of a political commentary, to be honest, and it basically explored some issues like how afro hair is frowned upon in professional spaces, and how much money women spend on weaves, extensions, and hair care products just to adapt. #Sigh. I thought it was alarming to learn how much women generally spend on hair care, but what really struck me in the documentary were the details about the ingredients of our hair care products.
According to the scientist interviewed in the video, the chemicals in products advertised for black hair affect reproductive health, cardiovascular health and also increase the chances of getting breast cancer by 30%! Omo! It’s like you’ll spend all that money looking fly, only to end up harming yourself. The one chemical the scientist focused on was “phthalate,” a chemical found in fragranced products. Think about that wonderful smell in your shampoo and conditioner? In fact, which hair care product doesn’t have a fragrance?
Watching that episode reminded me of a time, two years ago, when my scalp would itch terribly whenever I braided my hair. At first, I thought it was dandruff but then, my colleagues at work complained about the same thing. After asking questions and doing some research, I realized that the chemicals used in dying the extensions were harmful to many women. Some hair braiders knew this and would often soak the extensions in warm water and then dry them before use. That may have lessened the strong effect of the extension, but it didn’t stop the itching.
From the documentary, I also discovered that the European Union has banned 1,300 chemicals that were formerly used in hair care products! But in America, only 11 of those chemicals are banned and, China? I couldn’t find the amount. A lot of the products we use in Nigeria are imported from various countries. Is anyone checking the safety of these products before we put them in our hair? What of the Nigerian-made products? Is there any regulatory body? Hmm. See, I don’t have answers, especially because we do need those products to keep our hair clean and soft. However, with the awareness of harmful chemicals in hair care products, my advice will be “less is better” and if you can, use shea butter and natural oils.