The Link Between BIPOC Women’s Health and Toxic Exposure

The Link Between BIPOC Women’s Health and Toxic Exposure

We are proud to announce a commitment of $100,000 to mission-aligned organizations dedicated to supporting racial equity. To date, we have selected three community-based organizations—Black Women for Wellness, Visible Men Academy, and Agents of Change—to be recipients of our donation, as we continue to invest more resources into organizations and internal staffing. Back in June, we also matched all HQ associate contributions to organizations of their choice working to fight racism.

Beautycounter supports the Agents of Change science communication program, a joint initiative between GW Milken School of Public Health and Environmental Health News, amplifies neglected voices in environmental health. Fellows are early-career scientists, health professionals, and public health practitioners from backgrounds historically under-represented in science and academia. The program’s mission is to increase diversity of thought and help shape the public dialogue on environmental health sciences, policy, and justice, while fostering a new cadre of diverse thought leaders.

Here at Beautycounter, getting safer products into the hands of everyone—regardless of where they shop—is at the core of our mission. And while we really do mean everyone, harmful ingredients in personal-care products disproportionately affect women of color. In the fight to change the beauty industry for the better, advocacy for stronger regulations and for systemic change is of vital importance. 

Research tells an upsetting story: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) suffer from a higher incidence of chronic disease linked to toxic chemical exposure.[1] While various factors contribute to this statistic, personal-care products play a significant role and—importantly—create an opportunity for prevention.[2] 

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, Black people make up about 13% of the U.S. population, but their spending accounts for upwards of 22% of the $42 billion-a-year personal-care products industry. This margin suggests that the Black community is buying (and being exposed to) more potentially harmful ingredients than other communities.[3]  

Here’s What We Know—BIPOC Face Higher Incidence of Disease Linked to Chemical Exposure

One reason for this higher risk is that the hair products, skin lighteners, and nail polishes marketed to this community contain ingredients that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.[4][5] A December 2019 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who used hair dye or chemical straighteners were at higher risk of developing breast cancer.[6] This link was notably higher among Black women who regularly use products such as relaxers that contain formaldehyde, a preservative that is linked to certain cancers, and feminine hygiene products which often contain phthalates, a known hormone disruptor. [7] In fact, the EWG’s research found that less than 25% of products marketed to Black women fall into their “low hazard” category. Beauty must do better. Another study from UC Berkeley found that when Latinx teenagers switched to clean beauty products, the levels of parabens and phthalates in their bodies dropped significantly within three days.[8] 

These findings show us two things: BIPOC have higher exposure to harmful chemicals in personal-care products, and switching to safer products can reduce one’s exposure within a short period of time. 

Here’s How We Can All Take Action  

Progress begins with education, but advocacy is key to effecting change. We praise the advocacy of organizations such as Black Women for Wellness, a Los Angeles-based leading environmental justice organization, who have reported on this disparity and created guides for minimizing exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.  

Our own advocacy for safer products has resulted in tangible steps forward for consumers, especially communities of color. Our efforts so far include the following: 

  • Two laws we helped pass: the Cleaning Products Right to Know Act and the Safer Salon bill protect vulnerable populations like cleaners, hotel workers, and salon professionals by arming them with information to make safer choices. These professions are dominated by women (often women of color) who are exposed to dangerous chemicals for long periods of time in poorly ventilated areas.[9][10] 
  • Partnerships with our friends at Black Women for Wellness as well as the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, which organizes and advocates for salon workers, a demographic that is composed of predominantly Asian women—with nearly 50% of Vietnamese heritage.[11] 
  • Holding two high-profile Congressional briefings, highlighting the disparate impacts of harmful ingredients for people of color for Members of Congress and their staff. The briefings were sponsored by leaders of the Congressional Hispanic and Black caucuses who recognize the importance of these issues to communities of color. 
  • Most recently, Beautycounter helped pass two bills in California that remove some of the worst offenders from personal-care products as well as promote greater transparency for fragrance ingredients, often linked to cancer and hormone disruption.  

We believe that access to products without harmful ingredients is a human right. By passing legislation to move the whole market forward, many industry players will be forced to innovate and create safer products for women of color. 

Meanwhile, at Beautycounter HQ… 

In tandem with our federal reform efforts, we’ve been working hard to offer more clean beauty products for women of color, including the introduction of a more inclusive foundation range with Skin Twin Featherweight Foundation.  

Because environmental justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, we will continue to place environmental justice at the forefront of our advocacy efforts. We know we must do more—and this is just the beginning.  

Finally, we also highly encourage making your voice heard with your hard-earned dollars. In support of Black History Month, below is a list of Black-owned beauty brands we love that deserve your support: 

Aba Love Apothecary 

Anne’s Apothecary 

Black Girl Sunscreen 

BLK + GRN 

Briogeo 

Dr. Locs 

Ellie Bianca 

Epi.logic 

Golde 

Hanahana Beauty 

Herb ‘n Beauty 

Hyper Skin 

I+I Botanicals 

Lamik Beauty 

Melanin Essentials 

Mented 

Meraki 

Minimo Skin Essentials 

Mischo Beauty 

NaturAll Club 

Naturally London 

Nyakio Beauty 

Obia Naturals 

Ooli 

OrganiGrowHairCo 

Oui the People 

People of Color 

Shani Darden 

Sienna Naturals 

The Glowcery 

Unsun 

Vegan Skin 

[1] Pestano, Leiba, Hawkins. (2016, December 6). Big Market For Black Cosmetics, But Less-Hazardous Choices Limited. https://www.Ewg.Org/. https://www.ewg.org/research/big-market-black-cosmetics-less-hazardous-choices-limited#ref20 

[2] Maningding E, Dall’Era M, Trupin L, Murphy LB, Yazdany J. Racial/Ethnic Differences in Prevalence of and Time to Onset of SLE Manifestations: The California Lupus Surveillance Project (CLSP). Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/acr.23887 

[3] Adamkiewicz G, Zota AR, Fabian MP, Chahine T, Julien R, Spengler JD, et al. Moving environmental justice indoors: understanding structural influences on residential exposure patterns in low-income communities. Am J Public Health 2011;101(suppl 1): S238–45 www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21836112/ 

[4] James-Todd, Tamara. African American and African-Caribbean women are more likely to use hair products that contain hormonally active chemicals (placenta, estrogen, endocrine disrupting chemicals), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21626298 

[5] Zota, Ami. Women of color are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins such as beauty-product related environmental chemicals. This is independent of socioeconomic status. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822238 

[6] Eberle, Sandler, Taylor, White. Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.32738 

[7] Zota, Ami. Vaginal douching increases exposure to certain phthalates and contributes to the racial disparities in phthalate exposure. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26174070 

[8] Pestano, Leiba, Hawkins. (2016, December 6). Big Market For Black Cosmetics, But Less-Hazardous Choices Limited. https://Www.Ewg.Org/. https://www.ewg.org/research/big-market-black-cosmetics-less-hazardous-choices-limited#ref20 

[9] Harley, Kim et al. Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure From Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings From the HERMOSA Intervention Study. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26947464/ 

[10] Professional Beauty Association, Economic Snapshot of the Salon and Spa Industry, Senate Finance Archive. https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Professional%20Beauty%20Association-%202014%20Economic%20Snapshot%20of%20the%20Salon%20Industry.pdf 

[11] Nail Files: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States, UCLA Labor Center. www.labor.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NAILFILES_FINAL.pdf 

[12] Le, Trang. (n.d.). A Brief History and Unspoken Reality of the Vietnamese Nail Salon Worker. VSA Academy. Retrieved January 5, 2021, from https://vsacademy.unavsa.org/project/a-brief-history-and-unspoken-reality-of-the-vietnamese-nail-salon-worker/ 

The New Beauty Standard: An Update on Beautycounter’s Social and Environmental Efforts

The New Beauty Standard: An Update on Beautycounter’s Social and Environmental Efforts

Earth Day may only come once a year, but at Beautycounter we work to protect the planet every day by making environmentally conscious decisions throughout our business. And because human health and environmental health go hand-in-hand, we felt Earth Day was the perfect day to release this year’s Social & Environmental Responsibility Report. To learn more about our achievements, read the full report HERE and check out some of the highlights below.

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Advocating for Safer Beauty for Our 5th Anniversary

Advocating for Safer Beauty for Our 5th Anniversary

For the month of March, we are celebrating our 5th anniversary by advocating for safer beauty. At Beautycounter, advocacy is an important part of who we are. Using our voice to advocate for change is one of the ways we are working to fulfill our mission of bringing safer products into the hands of everyone.

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Earning Our B: Inside Beautycounter’s Highest-Ever B Corp Rating

Earning Our B: Inside Beautycounter’s Highest-Ever B Corp Rating

The New Year excitement may be settling, but we’re still in celebration mode. Why? Not only was Beautycounter recently re-certified as a B Corporation, but we received a score of 95—our highest rating ever, and a 14-point jump from two years ago. Here’s how we did it, and why we’re so proud of this major achievement.

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8 Ways You Helped Us Make Beauty (and the World) Better in 2017

8 Ways You Helped Us Make Beauty (and the World) Better in 2017

When you support Beautycounter, you’re not just making your own personal care routine safer. You’re also fueling our fight to get safer products into the hands of everyone. In 2017, we reached many important milestones in our advocacy work, charitable giving, and corporate responsibility efforts, and we couldn’t have done it without our Consultants, Clients, HQ staff, and brand partners. Check out some ways that the better beauty movement advanced last year, thanks in part to your loyalty.

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Why We’re Taking a Stand Against Phthalates in Canada

Why We’re Taking a Stand Against Phthalates in Canada

If you’re familiar with The Never List™, you’ll know we never formulate our products with phthalates. (Scientific research shows these chemicals are linked to endocrine disruption and birth defects.) So when we learned the Canadian government recently deemed these chemicals safe for human exposure—despite much evidence to the contrary—we decided to take action.

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Beautycounter Endorses the Personal Care Products Safety Act

Beautycounter Endorses the Personal Care Products Safety Act

We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating—the United States hasn’t passed a major law regulating cosmetic safety since 1938. Yes, this is shocking, but we’re continuing to fight for change. Our latest move: An official endorsement of the Personal Care Products Safety Act (S.1113).

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A Major Victory Just Took Place in the Crusade for Safer Cleaning Products

A Major Victory Just Took Place in the Crusade for Safer Cleaning Products

Beautycounter’s passion for safer products doesn’t stop with personal care—we want to see more ingredient transparency in everything we use at home and at work. That’s why we’re thrilled that the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 (SB 258) was signed into California law on October 15, requiring manufacturers to disclose cleaning product ingredients for the first time ever.

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