Matthew Cohen/Rd.comWhen it comes to seeking out a perfect shade of blush or the rosiest of red lipsticks, women don’t hesitate to spend. Studies show that during their lifetime, women will spend $15,000 or more on their favorite beauty products. But even if makeup makes you look good, it may not be good for your health. According to a new study, some makeup women are purchasing could be dangerous.
In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, experts are saying that women of color are at a higher risk than white women of having cosmetics-related chemicals show up in their bodies. These chemicals can cause big health problems even when used in small amounts. Researchers attribute the chemical build-up to use of products like skin-lightening face creams, which can contain hidden ingredients including topical steroids and the toxic metal mercury. Additional studies have also found that beauty and personal care products contain chemicals linked to endocrine, reproductive, or development toxicity, meaning they may disrupt hormone systems or mess with development in pregnancy.
“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,” Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University told EurekAlert “Beauty product use is a critical but underappreciated source of reproductive harm and environmental injustice.”
Previous studies have noted that women of color, including African American, Latina, and Asian-American women are likely to spend more than the national average on makeup because marketing often encourages them to meet a European standard of beauty. The study authors point out that black women in particular can suffer more anxiety about having “bad hair” and feel a social pressure to straighten their hair or use relaxing products. Many of these hair care products are known to contain estrogen and can cause “premature reproductive development in young girls and possibly uterine tumors.”
Women between the ages of 18 and 34 are most at risk, the study authors report. This age group is known to purchase the most beauty items per year, and if they aren’t careful, many of their products can cause chemical exposure during sensitive periods such as pregnancy.
Speak to your health-care provider about how to avoid possible exposure to chemicals through product use. The study authors also suggest that health-care professionals should talk with their patients about the possible risk of exposure and that “health-care providers and researchers should call for health protective policies such as improved testing and disclosure.”