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Relaxers may affect the ability to become pregnant

New research published inAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, indicates that hair straightening products can negatively affect a woman’s ability to conceive children. The Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers behind the study report that these products appear to be associated with a small decrease in the chances of pregnancy.

Cosmetics: Many chemicals cause fertility problems

The team found that black, Hispanic, and mixed-race people are more likely than other ethnic groups to use these products early in life, and more frequently for longer periods. However, it should be noted that the results of the study did not clarify whether the amount of chemicals used in each dose could affect the chances of pregnancy.

Funding from the US National Institutes of Health, the research is based on data from the US PRESTO (USPH-based Online Pregnancy Study) studies. 11,274 participants provided information about several aspects of relaxer use between 2014 and 2022. It confirms a growing body of research linking reproductive health issues to exposure to toxic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly found in beauty products. Phthalates, phenols, and parabens are just a few of the substances that potentially contribute to reduced fertility.

Racial disparities in exposure to toxic cosmetics

Even worse, researchers point out that the totality of ingredients that make up one’s products are rarely shown on labels. Which means that more data is needed to understand the specific mechanisms by which relaxants may affect fertility. However, this work still highlights the racial disparities at play when it comes to exposure to toxic chemicals in beauty care and the resulting harmful health consequences. Scientists say societal pressure to conform to European beauty standards often contributes to the disproportionate use of these toxic beauty products.

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“Our work underscores the importance of expanding research on the reproductive health effects of using beauty products to promote environmental justice and increase equity in health.”The study’s lead author, Dr. Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, said in a statement press release.