According to new research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women of colour are being exposed to higher levels of mercury, steroids and hormone-disruptors than white women. And it’s all thanks to the hair and beauty products they are using to, as the study put it, try and conform to white conventions.

“Pressure to meet Western standards of beauty means black, Latina and Asian American women are using more beauty products and thus are exposed to higher levels of chemicals known to be harmful to health,” says Ami Zota, an environmental epidemiologist at George Washington University.

According to the report, women of colour are spending more on hair and beauty products than the national average, often because of the “mass distribution of images that idealise whiteness.”

Black women, for example, are twice as likely to feel under pressure to straighten their hair – particularly in the workplace – which increases their exposure to toxic substances.

“Many of the hair relaxers and dyes are multi-step products that increase the chance of being exposed to hazardous chemicals,” said Paul Pestano, an Environmental Working Group analyst.

Permanent straighteners and relaxers have been known to contain harmful levels of estrogen, which has been linked to premature reproductive development and uterine tumours.

“Some of the hair lotions and styling gels contain ingredients of concern like parabens, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and ‘fragrance’,” Paul Pestano added.

We hope this new research will encourage women to embrace their natural beauty – at least until safer, less harmful alternatives are on the market.

What say you?