I have immersed myself in the world of beauty in the last couple of months. As I continue to conduct my research, it was no surprise to me to learn that many of the beauty products being advertised and sold to Black consumers contain more harmful ingredients than products aimed at the general public. After all, this is America, and the stench of slavery will never go away.

The Environment Working Group (EWG) performed a safety analysis of 1,117 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women in the United States. Most of these products scored high for potentially harmful ingredients. Specifically, one in twelve of the 1,117 products that were analyzed ranked highly hazardous.

The EWG recently launched a database called Skin Deep ®, designed to assist consumers when choosing a skincare product to purchase. The database rates products from 1 (lowest hazard) to 10 (high hazard). There are over 64,000 products in the skin Deep® database.

The hazardous ingredients found in the 1,117 products analyzed by EWG can potentially cause cancer and hormone disruption. They can affect the reproductive system negatively. Moreover, harmful products can cause allergies and other adverse health effects. This unfortunate reality is not only due to racism but also the myths permeated by those racist beliefs. One of those myths is the notion that Black skin is tough.

The beauty industry continues to market products that contain harmful ingredients to Black consumers because their understanding of Black skin stemmed from racially prejudiced scientific research. Society deemed people of African descent inferior. Society construed everything about our darker skin shades negatively, which further reinforces the notion of white superiority.

Unsurprisingly, the beauty industry has not been committed to understanding the physiology of their Black consumers. Without a better understanding of black skin’s physiological make-up, it is not possible to formulate products that would be less harmful to Black consumers.

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Montagna, W., Prota, G., & Kenney, J. (2012). Black Skin Structure and Function. Burlington. Elsevier Science

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