Eco feminist Perspectives on Hair Products: Good hair day or a ticket to Cancer? You Can Choose.
In the aftermath of our Hair Issue, and in preparation for our Earth Issue, here is a compilation of thoughts on Hair products to tie the two together!
By Jessica Rojas
Like many people I love hair products and their ability to make my hair look ways it can’t on its own. But would you ever think that someday your hair product may actually increase your risks of getting cancer? This made me wonder if this was something our readers were accessing enough information about. We all talk about the importance of women’s health, and especially reproductive justice but do we give enough time to think about how consumerism is targeting women as lab rats through the cosmetic industry? No life is expendable and the hardships those women and their families will endure in the name of beauty, is not worth the silence. Look at your shampoo and other hair products and see if you can even pronounce one name let alone recognize a name of one the ingredients. If there are names you do not recognize, look them up and get educated. Out of the many hazards out there, I want to introduce two of the most common threats to your health via hair products:
1,2-Dioxane in Surfactants/detergents:
A wide range of personal care products including shampoos, hair conditioners, cleansers, lotions, and creams, besides household products such as soaps and cleaning products, contain surfactants or detergents such as ethoxylated alcohols, polysorbates, and laureths. These ingredients are generally contaminated with high concentrations of the highly volatile 1,4 – dioxane, which is both readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. The carcinogenicity of dioxane in rodents was first reported in 1965 and subsequently confirmed in other studies including by the National Cancer Institute in 1978; the predominant sites of cancer were nasal passages in rats and liver in mice. Epidemiological studies on dioxane-exposed furniture makers have reported suggestive evidence of excess nasal passage cancers. On the basis of such evidence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that “the presence of 1,4 – dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is a cause of concern.” These avoidable risks of cancer in numerous personal care, besides other consumer, products is inexcusable, particularly as the dioxane is readily removed from surfactants during their manufacture by a process known as “vacuum stripping.”
Hair Dyes: Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals. Because so many people use hair dyes, scientists have tried to determine whether exposure to the chemicals in hair coloring products is associated with an increased risk of cancer in people.
Early hair dye formulations contained chemicals, including aromatic amines that were found to cause cancer in animals. In the mid- to late 1970s, however, manufacturers changed the components in dye products to eliminate some of these chemicals. It is not known whether some of the chemicals still used in hair dyes can cause cancer. Given the widespread use of hair dye products, even a small increase in risk may have a considerable public health impact.
Over the years, some epidemiologic (population) studies have found an increased risk of bladder cancer in hairdressers and barbers. A 2008 report of the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that some of the chemicals these workers are exposed to occupationally are “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
This made me think about those who work in the industry and are exposed to these chemicals the most. According to a report by the Professional beauty Association, that out “of the 770,000 Hairdressers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists, 35 percent (or 267,000) are self-employed”. This concerns me as to whether or not health insurance is accessible to those employed in these industries, so at least there early detection of such cancers and most of all, treatment.
That is why I suggest prevention and education is what will empower us in the fight against cancer. Research your products and buy in bulk whenever possible. Many stores offer assortment of shampoo, conditioner and lotion in bulk if you can find one that is safe. Although the Food and Drug Administration is supposed to regulate our products, it’s usually after they have made the shelf, not prior to entering the market. One last thing…LET’S THINK BEYOND PINK: if you want to learn how other organizations are responding to cancer with by focusing on the environmental causes, visit: