Beauty standards toxic for women of color
Science & Tech / /
The advertisements that we see and the products we buy help us determine what we view as normal. But in some cases personal care products that are being presented to us can even be poisonous, especially for women of color.
Nowadays, an average man uses 5 to 7 personal care products and cosmetics including shampoo, body wash, after shave, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, while an average woman around 9 to 12, teenagers even 17 personal care and cosmetic products. Even though this may seem normal according to some standards, it still is a huge amount of chemicals. Even environmental toxicologists in recent years started to suspect that some of this products may be harmful to our health.
A recent study suggested that the average white American women are exposed to 168 personal care chemicals every day. If that sounds like a lot, researchers in a recent commentary suggested that the toxic burden for American women of color is even higher. Most likely it comes as a pressures to adapt to beauty standards based on more European characteristics. To reach those standards women of color should expose themselves to an additional chemicals that white women do not. The final result is that in women of color there are higher levels of beauty-related environmental chemicals, irrespective to their socio-economic status.
“A lot of people assume that if they're buying something from the store, that it's been thoroughly vetted for health and safety concerns,” said Ami Zota, lead author on the commentary and an environmental and occupational health researcher at The Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University. “However, that's not really the case with cosmetics.”
Many of the personal cosmetic products include chemicals like parabens, which interfere with the body’s hormonal processes because they mimic estrogen. Another chemical included is phthalates, thought to interfere with the reproductive processes of lab animals. And at the end there are all the added fragrances, that include chemicals that are linked to many dysfunctions from reproductive even to cancer.
“There is a good amount of data coming out of the social science literature that says that lighter skin and straighter hair actually has real material consequences for women of color,” says co-author Bhavna Shamasunder. “They have more upwardly mobile careers, they make more money.”
But both Zota and Shamasunder agree that it is needed an evolution of beauty standards in a way that women of color shouldn’t have to straighten their hair or bleach their skin tone in order to fit standards of beauty that are already set.