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Study Links Hair Products to Early Puberty in Girls

Thursday, January 17, 2013

As a child, one of my least favorite activities was getting my hair styled. It required a lot of time and patience -- two things I had in short supply. 

Being raised by a single dad didn't make it any better. He had very few styles in his arsenal.  My sister and I wore pigtails more often than we would've liked.

My father no longer styles my hair, and I've long since given up pigtails, but I recently read a study that has me thinking more about this aspect of my childhood.  Researchers at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found a correlation between the types of hair products used, the frequency of use and the age at which girls hit puberty.

Childhood use of hair oils and hair perms favored mostly by African-American and African-Caribbean girls coincided with earlier puberty, while other types of hair products did not. This suggests that young African-American and African-Caribbean girls are at greater risk of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at a younger age than women of other races and ethnicities because of the hair products they use during childhood.

The study doesn't have all the answers.  But it calls attention to the many problems associated with personal-care products. We as consumers have no way of knowing all the ingredients in them, no way of guaranteeing these ingredients are safe, and no way of knowing the long-term implications of exposure to these chemicals over time. My dad, like many other parents, assumed that the products he was using to style his daughters' hair were safe. What consumers are learning now is that this is simply not the case.

EWG has long advocated safer cosmetics. As long as cosmetics and many other products remain largely unregulated, consumers are on their own. To fill the knowledge gap, the Environmental Working Group has created user-friendly, online consumer guides such as Skin Deep® , which contains information about cosmetics ingredients, to give consumers information they need to make better buying decisions. We constantly monitor the markets for updates.

Check out EWG's Skin Deep® Database to find the safest personal care products for yourself and your loved ones!