A Brief History of Black Hair and “What’s In Your Hair Products???” Education Campaign

Hey folks!!

Whew it’s been a minute. I’ve been so busy because not only have I been busy at work but I was also taking a class and finishing up the semester. I took a class called Sociology of Women’s Health at Sacramento Community College and it was amazing! I’m glad to report I got an A+ in the class. *Pats myself on the back*😀 The class is actually what lead me to write this blog about an important women’s health topic and encouraged me to create a digital campaign which I will talk about more below. Keep reading!   

Picture Source: Google Image 

Before I go right into the “What’s in Your Hair Products?” digital campaign and health topic, I’ll share some background info on the class I took and the final research paper I had to write. The paper topic was on “How Black Hair Texture Discrimination Effects Black Women’s Health”. This being a sociology class I focused on the sociological implications of hair discrimination and wrote the paper with an intersectional feminist lens. I highlighted the history of black hair in the United States including the the cultural and political significance of black hair, past and present hair discrimination, Black female identity and the pressure to assimilate to Eurocentric beauty standards, and the health implications of it all. 
Picture Source: Google Image

Of course all women suffer scrutiny based on their appearance and actions (thanks to *ahem* misogyny) but Black women and girls face an additional layer of biases relating to their gender, physical appearance AND their hair texture. Furthermore, Black women and girls have been treated negatively in many settings simply due to how they present their hair to the world. Studies have even shown that afro textured hair is perceived as less professional and less acceptable when compared to straight hairstyles. Additionally, Black hair has never been seen as just hair, but instead it has been correlated with resistance as well as Black power and unity. 

Picture Source: history.com

All of these complex layers can lead to Black women feeling pressured to permanently relax their hair using harsh chemicals. Such chemicals can lead to uterine fibroids and respiratory issues and some studies say it can even lead to higher rates of breast cancer. I am not implying that if you chemically straighten your hair then you automatically are feeling pressured to do so. I do realize that for many women, it is simply a hairstyle and preference.

Choosing this topic and activism project was amazing because not only did I get to add in a personal narrative about my natural hair journey, but I got to talk about two issues that I love (health education and social issues and how they intersect). 

Picture of me currently with my natural hair (2020)


Digital Campaign: “What’s In Your Hair Products?”

The activism portion that I decided to do was to create a digital campaign to share in social media channels with the hopes of reaching broad audiences. I wanted to use this campaign to educate women on potentially harmful ingredients lurking in their everyday hair products. The digital campaign is shown below. The poster asks the question “What’s in Your Hair Products?”. This simple question in the campaign will hopefully encourage women to 1) research the ingredients in hair care products as it pertains to health risk 2) ask their beauticians questions about what ingredients are in their hair products and 3) become more educated and informed consumers when it comes to hair products they use. This campaign should spark a larger conversation to be had about hair companies being more transparent about potentially harmful ingredients in hair care products. 


The Truth About Chemical Relaxers and Uterine Fibroids

Black women are exposed to dozens of harmful chemicals in the hair products they use (Helm et al, 2018). More specifically, hair relaxers (also known as perms) contain chemicals that alter the nature of the hair by permanently straightening the hair. There are many long-term health implications that can arise from the chemicals in these hair relaxers including harm to the reproductive organs. For the purposes of this paper, I will focus on uterine fibroids.

Picture Source: Google Image 

Uterine leiomyomata (more commonly known as uterine fibroids) are tumors of the myometrium (the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus) that are responsive to estrogens and progesterone. Although benign (not cancer causing), uterine fibroids are associated with significant gynecologic symptoms and are the leading indication for hysterectomy in the United States (Wise et al, 2012). Over their lifetime, about 80 percent of Black women and 70 percent of White women will develop fibroids (Blount, 2019).

Picture Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Black Women for Wellness conducted a five-
year study on the black beauty industry, and in their findings they concluded that chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns caused by relaxers are linked with high fibroid tumor rates. The main ingredients to blame are lye (sodium hydroxide), and no lye (calcium hydroxide). Women who use lye relaxers have a higher instance of scalp burns or lesions, which can increase dermal absorption of chemicals directly into their bodies. (Flint, Adewumi, 2016) Uterine fibroids, or are benign tumors of the uterus that may cause severe pain, bleeding, and infertility (XiaoXiao, Segars, 2012).


Want to learn more about fibroids? Click on the links below!




1 comment

  • Wow! Very educational!! Thanks for sharing knowledge!!

    Gwen Chamberlain

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