A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

THE NON TOXIC BLACK OWNED BEAUTY PROJECT

Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project​

Coming this fall 2022 

BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is tackling the environmental injustice of the beauty industry with our list of non-toxic Black-owned beauty products that Black women can trust. 

The products on our list are made and sold by Black-owned companies that are committed to safer beauty and personal care products without the toxic chemicals linked to health concerns that disproportionately impact Black women.

CSC’s Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project

is guided by an Advisory Committee made of representatives from leading nonprofit organizations and scientists working to address the unequal exposure Black women experience to unsafe ingredients in the beauty and personal care products they use every day. 

Beauty products marketed to Black women often contain the most toxic ingredients used by the cosmetics industry, including chemicals linked to breast and ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, reproductive harm, and more. This toxic exposure is of particular concern to Black women because they purchase and use more beauty products per capita than any other demographic – spending more than $7.5 billion dollars on beauty products a year and nine times more on hair products than the average consumer. Unfortunately, Black women also face many health disparities, including the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

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The Goal

With the goal of reducing Black women and girls’ exposure to unsafe ingredients in beauty and personal care products, the Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project set out to achieve the following:

Create a list of non-toxic beauty products made by Black-owned beauty brands, so Black women can shop with confidence knowing the beauty and personal care products they are purchasing do not contain chemicals linked to negative health effects.

Equip Black women with tip cards and other resources they can trust and that empower them to make safer choices. 

Grow the safe Black beauty industry by elevating companies that are making safer beauty and personal care products for Black women and providing technical support to Black-owned beauty businesses that don’t make the list and want to do better.

Raise public, manufacturer, and retailer awareness about the hazardous chemicals in Black beauty products.

Expand our Red List of chemicals of concern in cosmetics to include health outcomes of particular concern for Black women. These health concerns include:

  • allergic reactions
  • diabetes
  • early puberty
  • endometriosis
  • infertility
  • earlier age at menopause
  • less successful IVF outcomes
  • maternal health
  • ovarian cancer
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • pregnancy complications
  • preterm birth
  • uterine fibroids 

Featured Resources

Top Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

*click image to expand and download

Top Toxic Chemicals by Product Category

Toxic Chemicals in Black Beauty Products

Top Toxic Chemicals by Product Category

Toxic Chemicals in Black Beauty Products

Advisory Committee Members

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project is guided by a 17-member advisory committee made up of leading NGOs and scientists working to improve Black women’s health by addressing the toxic beauty products marketed to them. 

Additional Information

Thousands of industrial chemicals are used to create the personal care and beauty products that consumers and professional nail, hair, and beauty salon workers use every day. Many of these chemicals have been linked to serious health outcomes and harm the environment. The European Union (EU) has banned nearly 1800 chemicals from beauty and personal care products that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. In stark contrast to the progress made by the rest of the world, in the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has only banned or restricted eleven ingredients from cosmetics, to date.(3

Conservative estimates suggest Americans use roughly 10-12 personal care products each day (the actual number may be closer to 20-25), resulting in daily exposure to an average of 168 unique chemicals – many of which have been linked to endocrine disruption, earlier puberty, cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm. Despite the growing body of scientific evidence and consumer concern, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market. The FDA does not have the authority to recall unsafe products, nor does it require pre-market safety testing of cosmetic ingredients. The federal law governing the $100 billion domestic cosmetics industry is only 2.5 pages long and has not been amended significantly since it was enacted over 80 years ago. Due to weak federal regulation of the more than 10,000 chemicals used to formulate the personal care and beauty products consumers use every day, companies can legally use hazardous chemicals without the public’s knowledge or consent. 

Black women and professional salon workers experience some of the highest rates of exposures to toxic chemicals in the cosmetic products they use on themselves and their children or work with daily.  More than 40 other nations have stricter cosmetic safety regulations than the US. 

For Black women, this issue is especially urgent. Almost 7,000 Black women in the U.S. die of breast cancer each year.[1] In fact, Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US, with a rate 41% higher than that for White women. Black women also face other health disparities, including earlier puberty and higher rates of hormone-mediated problems (e.g., preterm birth and uterine fibroids), an increasing incidence of endometrial cancer, and poorer ovarian cancer outcomes.

These problems are compounded by the fact that Black women suffer from a high level of exposure to unsafe chemicals that are found in their beauty products – including hair dyes, hair relaxers and straighteners, skin lighteners, feminine douches, deodorant, etc. In fact, recent evidence shows that among Black women, use of permanent hair dyes is associated with approximately 45-77% increased risk of breast cancer[2], with greater risk for use of darker hair dye shades.[3] Regular use of chemical relaxers and straighteners have also been suggested to increase the risk of breast cancer in Black women[4], particularly among women who use these products frequently, started using these products in childhood or adolescence, or use lye-based relaxers. 

Some chemicals in hair care and personal care products such as phthalates[5], heavy metals[6], and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)[7] have been associated with earlier puberty among girls. Heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, are found in many cosmetic products used by Black women, such as lipsticks, eyeliners, eyeshadow, foundation, and more. These metals have been linked to higher instances of uterine fibroids[8].  In addition, some chemicals found in the personal care products and cosmetics used by Black women have also been associated with altered reproductive outcomes. Chemicals known as aromatic hydrocarbons, which may show up on product labels as “toluene,” “benzene,” or “xylene,” have been shown to have toxic effects on developing fetuses[9].

Chemical exposures also exist for professional salon workers – many of whom are Black women and other women of color – who use potentially hazardous products daily in their work, including nail polish hardeners, thinners, plasticizers, bleaches, conditioners, detergents, dyes, fixatives, relaxers, and straighteners that are most often used as commercially prepared mixtures.[10]

Another study, published in 2018 by the Silent Spring Institute in the journal Environmental Research, showed Black women are also potentially exposed to dozens of hazardous chemicals through the hair products they use.[11] The study looked at 18 different hair products including hot oil treatments, anti-frizz hair polishes, leave-in conditioners, root stimulators, hair lotions, and hair relaxers. A total of 45 endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) associated with a variety of health effects including reproductive disorders, birth defects, asthma, and cancer were detected, with each product containing anywhere between 4 and 30 EDCs.

As the Black beauty industry grows, the fact that the chemicals in Black beauty and personal care products are not adequately tested for safety and are largely unregulated raises real concerns for Black women’s health. [12]

Black women are over-exposed to and under-protected from toxic chemicals in the beauty and personal care products they use every day.

  • Almost 7,000 Black women in the U.S. die of breast cancer each year[13]
  • Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US, with a rate 42% higher than that for White women.[14]
    • Black women also face other health disparities, including earlier puberty[15] and higher rates of hormone-mediated problems (e.g., preterm birth[16] and uterine fibroids[17]), an increasing incidence of endometrial cancer[18], and poorer ovarian cancer outcomes.[19]
  • Lack of regulation of a $100 Billion cosmetics industry especially harms Black women and girls[20]
  • The 2.5 page federal cosmetic safety law has not been amended significantly since it was enacted over 80 years ago[21]
  • 10,000 cosmetic ingredients are on the market today[22]
  • 4,000 fragrance ingredients are found in products on the market today [23]
  • Black women purchase $7.5 billion of beauty products each year [24]
  • Black women purchase 9x more hair care products than any other demographic[25]
  • Black women who regularly dye their hair with permanent hair dyes have a 45-77% higher risk of breast cancer[26]
  • Black women who use chemical hair straighteners are 30% more likely to develop breast cancer[27]

Which Red List Chemicals Are Found in Black Beauty Products? ​

Working with our partner, Clearya, we screened the Black Beauty Product Database against Tier 1 Red List chemicals. Brands that did not have any of the Tier 1 chemicals in their products were placed on a list of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products, which includes 78 brands and 696 products. These brands and their products will be listed on the CSC website in a searchable database by name and product type.

The top 15 most frequently found chemicals were: 

  1. Titanium Dioxide(in inhalable forms only) 
  2. Crystalline Silica (in inhalable forms only) 
  3. Retinol (Vitamin A) (when in daily doses >10,000 IU, or 3,000 retinol equivalents) 
  4. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) 
  5. Parabens (methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propylparaben) 
  6. Butyl Acetate 
  7. Ethyl Acetate 
  8. Benzophenone-1 
  9. Carbon Black 
  10. Diazolidinyl Urea 
  11. DMDM Hydantoin 
  12. Triethanolamine (TEA) 
  13. Siloxanes 
  14. Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate 
  15. Benzophenone-3 or Oxybenzone

 

Get our full list of top chemicals of concern found in Black bodycare, haircare, makeup, nail, skincare, and sunscreen products. 

Generating the List of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products ​

The Campaign’s Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project created a list of safer Black Beauty products in order to help consumers make more informed purchases and guide the efforts of manufacturers and retailers to make and sell safer products. 

Working with our partner, Clearya, we screened the Black Beauty Product Database against Tier 1 Red List chemicals. Brands that did not have any of the Tier 1 chemicals in their products were placed on a list of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products, which includes 78 brands and 696 products. These brands and their products will be listed on the CSC website in a searchable database by name and product type.

  1. Through a survey of mainstream and ethnic beauty magazines and media, we created an initial list of over 400 beauty brands that were identified as selling personal care and beauty products primarily to Black women. 
  2. We vetted this initial list of brands and removed companies that were less than 51% Black-owned, did not have Black beauty products as their main product line or did not provide ingredient lists on their website. This resulted in a list of 283 Black-owned beauty brands. 
  3. We then scraped the product ingredients from the websites of the Black beauty brands to produce an ingredient database of 7,250 individual products covering 10 different product types. We organized the products into 9 categories (see table below): babycare/kidcare, bodycare, fragrance, haircare, makeup, nail products, personal hygiene, skin care, and sunscreen. 
  4. For each product we collected the product name, price, UPC, an image of the product, webpage link and the full ingredients list provided on the website. All of this information will be made available on our searchable database (coming soon). 

Product Type CategoryDescription
Babycare/KidcareBaby powder, baby or kid shampoo, baby or kid conditioner, detangler, diaper cream, baby lotion, baby cleansers and soaps – anything with baby or kid in the name (except for sunscreen)
BodycareBody lotions, body butter, body scrubs, foot creams, body oil, bubble bath, bath bombs, bath salts
FragrancePerfume/parfume, body spray, vaginal spray, body mists, scents, body fragrance, aromatherapy, essential oils – products whose primary purpose is to add scent to any part of the body
HaircareShampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, hair dye, hair straighteners, relaxers, hair oils
MakeupFoundation, face powder, concealer, lipstick, lip liner, blush, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner
Nail ProductsNail polish, topcoat, nail polish remover, cuticle cream, nail glue (anything with nail in the name)
Personal HygieneDeodorant, mouthwash, soap, toothpaste, bodywash, liquid soap, 3 in 1 products (body wash, bubble bath, shampoo)
Skin CareFacial cleansers, lip balm, moisturizers with or without SPF, anti-aging products, toner, masks, facial scrubs, creams, peels – products used on the face that are not make-up
SunscreenSunscreen creams, sprays, oils (note: make-up with SPF goes in the makeup category)

A. The newly expanded Red List includes health effects of greater concern to Black Women

In 2022, we expanded the Red List of Chemicals of Concern to include cosmetic chemicals of greater concern for Black women’s health. Explore the newly expanded Red List.

We worked with our Advisory Committee to identify health issues of concern to Black women that were not already captured in the 2018 BCPP Red List. These were identified as: 

Diabetes, Early puberty, Endometriosis, Infertility, Earlier age at menopause, Less successful IVF outcomes, Maternal health, Obesity, Ovarian cancer, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Pregnancy complications, Preterm birth, Pubertal development, Reproductive health, Uterine fibroids and Allergic reactions.

Because we were unable to identify authoritative scientific or governmental organizations which identified chemical exposures associated with the majority of these health effects, we completed a scientific literature review to investigate these potential links ourselves.

B. Scientific Literature Review

We performed multiple PubMed searches utilizing keywords to find articles in the peer-reviewed literature that connected these health outcomes with chemicals in personal care products. See Appendix 2 for the full list of keywords and search terms.

We used a formal scoping review process to review the articles. Scoping reviews are a method of synthesizing evidence to provide a wide perspective on a research topic. They are especially relevant for complex areas of research where different research methods may apply and offer a rigorous, transparent, and comprehensive approach to reviewing the literature. Unlike systematic reviews, researchers may not rate the quality of the literature, because scoping reviews are a means to get a broad overview of a research area.

For each of the health concerns, we screened the titles from the PubMed searches for relevance. The abstracts were then reviewed for possible inclusion by two independent researchers with a third acting as a tiebreaker. Next, we read the full papers and entered the findings and other details of the studies on a spreadsheet that tracked our findings. We did not weigh chemicals of concern against one another but assessed if findings of associations were significant and therefore suggested concern.

In total our process resulted in 8,119 titles and 580 full papers whose data were entered in the final spreadsheet. We reviewed these articles and identified 141 discrete studies finding a significant association between chemicals in personal care products and health outcomes of greater concern to Black women. We expanded the BCPP Red List to include the findings from these studies. For an annotated bibliography of the scientific articles referenced in Tier 1 of the Red List, see Appendix 2. 

Sources

[1] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African American/Black People 2022-2024. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2022.

[2] Llanos AAM, 2017: https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgx060; Eberle CE, 2019: https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.32738; White AJ, 2020: https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33413

[3]  Llanos AAM, 2017: https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgx060

[4] White AJ, 2020: https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33413; Coogan PF, 2021: https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgab041; Rao R and Llanos AAM, 2022: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2021.111863

[5] Binder, A.M., Corvalan, C., Calafat, A.M. et al. Childhood and adolescent phenol and phthalate exposure and the age of menarche in Latina girls. Environ Health 17, 32 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0376-z

Harley, K. G., Berger, K. P., Kogut, K., Parra, K., Lustig, R. H., Greenspan, L. C., Calafat, A. M., Ye, X., & Eskenazi, B. (2019). Association of phthalates, parabens and phenols found in personal care products with pubertal timing in girls and boys. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 34(1), 109–117. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dey337

Jurewicz, J., & Hanke, W. (2011). Exposure to phthalates: reproductive outcome and children health. A review of epidemiological studies. International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health, 24(2), 115–141. https://doi.org/10.2478/s13382-011-0022-2

[6] Ashrap, P., Sánchez, B. N., Téllez-Rojo, M. M., Basu, N., Tamayo-Ortiz, M., Peterson, K. E., Meeker, J. D., & Watkins, D. J. (2019). In utero and peripubertal metals exposure in relation to reproductive hormones and sexual maturation and progression among girls in Mexico City. Environmental research, 177, 108630. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2019.108630

[7] Chen, A., Chung, E., DeFranco, E. A., Pinney, S. M., & Dietrich, K. N. (2011). Serum PBDEs and age at menarche in adolescent girls: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004. Environmental research, 111(6), 831–837. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2011.05.016

[8] Jackson, L. W., Zullo, M. D., & Goldberg, J. M. (2008). The association between heavy metals, endometriosis and uterine myomas among premenopausal women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 23(3), 679–687. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dem394

Johnstone, E. B., Louis, G. M., Parsons, P. J., Steuerwald, A. J., Palmer, C. D., Chen, Z., Sun, L., Hammoud, A. O., Dorais, J., & Peterson, C. M. (2014). Increased urinary cobalt and whole blood concentrations of cadmium and lead in women with uterine leiomyomata: Findings from the ENDO Study. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), 49, 27–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.reprotox.2014.06.007

Ye, S., Chung, H. W., Jeong, K., Sung, Y. A., Lee, H., Park, S. Y., Kim, H., & Ha, E. H. (2017). Blood cadmium and volume of uterine fibroids in premenopausal women. Annals of occupational and environmental medicine, 29, 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40557-017-0178-8

[9] Brown-Woodman, P. D., Webster, W. S., Picker, K., & Huq, F. (1994). In vitro assessment of individual and interactive effects of aromatic hydrocarbons on embryonic development of the rat. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), 8(2), 121–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/0890-6238(94)90019-1

[10] Labrèche F, Forest J, Trottier M, Lalonde M, Simard R. Characterization of chemical exposures in hairdressing salons. Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2003;18(12):1014–1021. doi: 10.1080/10473220390244667. Pak VM, Powers M, Liu J. Occupational chemical exposures among cosmetologists: risk of reproductive disorders. Workplace Health Saf. 2013;61(12):522–528. doi: 10.1177/216507991306101204

[11] Dodson RE, 2021: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-021-00327-3

[12] Zota AR, 2017: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2017.07.020; McDonald JA, 2022: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306606

[13] DeBard, Amanda. “Black Women in US Most Likely to Die of Breast Cancer.” The Komen Blog. February 12, 2020. Available online: https://blog.komen.org/blog/black-women-in-us-most-likely-to-die-from-breast-cancer/#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20also%20the%20second%20leading%20cause%20of%20cancer,Black%2FAfrican%2DAmerican%20women. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[14]  Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “African American Women and Breast Cancer.” Available online: https://www.bcpp.org/resource/african-american-women-and-breast-cancer/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[15]  Bleil, M. E., Booth-LaForce, C., & Benner, A. D. (2017). Race disparities in pubertal timing: Implications for cardiovascular disease risk among African American women. Population research and policy review, 36(5), 717–738. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-017-9441-5

[16] Burris, H. H., Lorch, S. A., Kirpalani, H., Pursley, D. M., Elovitz, M. A., & Clougherty, J. E. (2019). Racial disparities in preterm birth in USA: a biosensor of physical and social environmental exposures. Archives of disease in childhood, 104(10), 931–935. https://doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2018-316486

[17] Eltoukhi, H. M., Modi, M. N., Weston, M., Armstrong, A. Y., & Stewart, E. A. (2014). The health disparities of uterine fibroid tumors for African American women: a public health issue. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(3), 194–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2013.08.008

[18]  Cote, M. L., Ruterbusch, J. J., Olson, S. H., Lu, K., & Ali-Fehmi, R. (2015). The Growing Burden of Endometrial Cancer: A Major Racial Disparity Affecting Black Women. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 24(9), 1407–1415. https://doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0316

[19] Bandera, E. V., Lee, V. S., Rodriguez-Rodriguez, L., Powell, C. B., & Kushi, L. H. (2016). Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Ovarian Cancer Treatment and Survival. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 22(23), 5909–5914. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-1119

[20] Yang, Lily. “How the Beauty Industry is Hurting Women of Color.” The Daily Californian. March 5, 2021. Available online: https://www.dailycal.org/2021/03/05/how-the-beauty-industry-is-hurting-women-of-color/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[21] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Laws and Regulations on Chemicals in Cosmetics.” Available online: https://safecosmetics.org/resources/regulations/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[22] McConnell, Jamie. “Antiquated Law Allows Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics and Puts Health at Risk.” Women’s Voices for the Earth. July 29, 2021. Available online: https://www.womensvoices.org/2021/07/29/antiquated-law-allows-toxic-chemicals-in-cosmetics-and-puts-health-at-risk/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[23] Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “Fragrance.” Available online: https://www.bcpp.org/resource/fragrance/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[24] Bryant, Taylor. “How the Beauty Industry Has Failed Black Women.” Refinery 29. February 27, 2016. Available online: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/02/103964/black-hair-care-makeup-business. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[25] Harmon, Stephenetta. “Black Consumers Spend Nine Times More In Hair & Beauty.” Hype Hair, February 26, 2018. Available online: https://www.hypehair.com/86642/black-consumers-continue-to-spend-nine-times-more-in-beauty-report/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[26] Eberle, C. E., Sandler, D. P., Taylor, K. W., & White, A. J. (2020). Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women. International journal of cancer, 147(2), 383–391. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.32738

[27] Eberle, C. E., Sandler, D. P., Taylor, K. W., & White, A. J. (2020). Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women. International journal of cancer, 147(2), 383–391. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.32738

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