Abdominal pain

Can ingredients in your hair care products make you sick?

Hair care products might not be as safe as you'd assume them to be.

“My staple products consisted of relaxers, oil sheen and pink hair lotion, so it could be any number of things,” says Yvette McCormick, speaking about her diagnosis of endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus—the endometrium—grows outside your uterus.

While she can't be certain of what caused her disorder, McCormick, a 37-year-old administrative assistant, believes that her regular use of beauty products that were full of harmful ingredients caused her to have this disorder. She was diagnosed a year ago.

“My doctor said there is no way of telling what caused me to have endometriosis,” McCormick says, “but now that I know of all the toxic and harmful chemicals I was putting into my body, and onto my hair, I believe there is a chance some of the hair products I was using on a regular basis were the culprit.”

And McCormick may be right. According to the article, “Danger Posed by Black Hair Products,” (from thegrio.com) environmental justice advocates and scientists say the chemicals found in many hair care products can cause a number of health-related illnesses, including infertility and cancer.

Phthalates, known as "endocrine disruptors," are disguised as fragrances in many beauty products, and this chemical in particular is linked to endometriosis.

Dr. Ami Zota, an environmental health researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, says, “African-American women, compared to their white counterparts, have higher levels of phthalates and they have higher levels of BPA.”

Toxic bottle

What's in the bottle?

"Nobody has really figured out why, but I think the hair care products are part of that story,” Zota says.

Other ingredients that are commonly found in beauty products that are known to be harmful include coal tar, a substance found in most hair dyes that have been known to cause cancer and zinc oxide, a carcinogen found in sunscreens.

To better protect yourself from possibly harming your health for the look or feel of your hair, start paying close attention to the ingredients in your products before you buy them. A lot of products claim to be all natural or organic, but with a quick look the ingredient list on the back of your product, you can see whether the claim is true. If you are unsure what an ingredient is, research it first.

CosmeticsDatabase.com has a printable shopping guide that highlights the unsafe ingredients list found in many products, including hair dyes, sunscreens and children's products.

McCormick, who decided to go natural shortly after getting her diagnosis, has now decided to make her own beauty products for the sake of her health.

“I never thought being adventurous with my hair would harm my health,” McCormick said, "but now I’m taking every precaution I can to ensure that my hair products won’t be a factor in any future health problems that, God forbid, may arise.”