Hair Dyes, Relaxers and cancers: Time to go Natural
For several centuries and maybe even longer, women worldwide have been on the quest to get the latest hair styles with the latest colors. Women with straight hair strive for curly hair while women with curly hair strive for straight hair. The grass is always greener on the other side with modern techniques, a woman can achieve a different texture or color of hair using chemical ingredients. This is especially true for women of color such as the average Nigerian woman as desired hair textures such as ‘Brazilian hair’ ‘Mongolian hair’ and ‘Indian hair’ can only be achieved through chemical straighteners or hair extensions. However, new studies have shown that hair dyes and hair relaxers have been linked with an increase risk in cancer; breast cancer to be precise. Let us delve deeper into the facts and figure out the way forward.
Research shows that hair products contain more than 5,000 chemicals and some of them disrupt hormones which include estrogen by either blocking them or mimicking them which throws off hormonal balance in the body. Breast cancer can be very sensitive to estrogen so by regularly using a product that acts like estrogen may put the user at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. Anything that disrupts the endocrine system which regulates reproduction, metabolism, sleep, tissue function and growth and development – can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, reproductive problems, developmental and neurological disorders. Many chemical relaxers contain formaldehyde a chemical used to preserve dead animals and is considered a carcinogen- meaning it is a capable of causing cancer.
The National institute of Health found that women who regularly used permanent hair dye and chemical hair relaxers have an increased risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t use such products. People exposed to hair dyes at work such as hairdressers and salons have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer and leukemia.
This problem is especially alarming for the Nigerian woman as nearly 75% of black women use some sort of relaxers in their hair with many using these relaxers at least 3 to 5 times a year. So, it may not be a coincidence that black women are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from more aggressive breast cancers. In fact, black women have a 45-60% increased risk of developing breast cancer from using hair dyes regularly than white women with their risk increased by just 7%!
To reduce our risk of developing cancer, we should generally revise the things we put in/on our bodies and use on our scalp and try to make the switch to more natural ingredients. Dyes such as henna or using lemon juice to lighten the hair are healthier alternatives and there many naturally derived hair dyes available commercially. We can explore natural oils and butters to help soften the hair as well as banding the hair (or using thread) to straighten the hair. For those seeking various textures for aesthetic reasons, there are various types of wigs and hair extensions for various budgets that are relatively safe. Just remember, any product you apply to your scalp that requires the person applying to wear protective gloves, can cause burns or blindness to the user should be a product that we should twice about before purchasing. Food for thought. Have a happy and healthy week!