Let’s Take A Second Look At Parabens — The Harmful Ingredient Linking Black Women’s Hair Products to Breast Cancer


These days, the phrase “free of parabens” is something we see on almost every product we touch. Many brands, big and small, practically jump at the opportunity to tell us just how much their product is good for us. The unfortunate reality behind many of our haircare items and cosmetics is that a lot of them are not what they claim to be. 

A recent study conducted by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners revealed that, while most people (over 90 percent) in the United States have parabens in their bodies, higher concentrations were found in Black American women. 

This is mostly due to the fact that hair products being specifically marketed toward black women are largely being formulated with this harmful group of illness-causing chemicals.

While this is incredibly scary to think about, it’s important to keep yourself informed. So, let’s take a deep dive into exactly what this means for you and your health. 

Firstly, what are parabens and why are they being used in our products in the first place?

parabens in black hair care

Parabens are a group of chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in various hair, face, and body care products since around the 1920s. Because any formula that incorporates water is biodegradable, thus requires the utilization of ingredients that keep bacteria at bay, many cosmetics are formulated using artificial preservatives like parabens. 

The problem here is that various scientific studies have already found that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body, negatively impact reproductive organs, and even increase the risk of breast cancer. 

What are the effects of this harmful group of chemicals?

As stated before, parabens are linked to some pretty serious health issues. However, knowing that they’re harmful is simply not enough to deter most people from staying away from products that may contain them, especially if they like the product enough. So let’s get to the nitty-gritty of it, and look at a key element in this whole thing: estrogen. 

One of the many reasons parabens are so harmful is because they mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells— disrupting the normal function of our estrogenic activities and hormonal systems in the process. 

In short, this means that this harmful group of chemicals can: 

  • Negatively impact fertility. 
  • Reduce length of menstrual cycle. 
  • Increase odds of premature birth.
  • Lead to breast cancer. 
  • Cause serious skin irritation and sensitization.

Whether short or long term, there are no good outcomes associated with parabens. So naturally,  the best thing to do is avoid them.

How to avoid them— the easy way.

Simply put, stop using hair products with parabens in them. Because not all companies are completely honest and transparent about what preservatives they use or what they use in their formulas as a whole, it’s difficult to know every ingredient in your self-care goods. 

However, the current government and retailer bans make it pretty difficult for brands to be sneaky. So yes, they’ll most likely let you know exactly what’s in your hair care products, but it’s completely up to you to keep an eye out for the following names:

  • Propylparaben.
  • Isopropylparaben.
  • Butylparaben.
  • Isobutylparaben. 

Protecting yourself from parabens comes down to staying informed. So, at all times, know what’s in your products—know what’s in your body. 

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Senior writer and graphics editor at EmilyCottontop. Patrice has been a member of the Emilycottontop team for over 4 years. For strategic partnerships, advertising, and sponsored content ✉️ inquiries@emilycottontop.com


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