"Grese tet" or creole for greasing your scalp is a thing in Haiti. Every few days, and especially after a shampoo, "pomades" were generously spread on a little girl's scalp parting the hair with intense precision to not miss a spot. It was then brushed from root to tip to coat and condition the hair prior to braiding. Finding a pomade that promised to "grow" the hair long was highly desirable, and as a little girl, you like the end results of getting your hair "greased" because it meant less tugging, tangles and pain.
But now, studies have shown that consistent exposure to some of the ingredients in these products accelerate the occurrence of a child's first period, or menarche and possibly puts them at risk for many reproductive issues and cancers later in life. These hair products have what they call endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimics hormones in our bodies and could alter puberty.
In one study titled Childhood Hair Product Use and Earlier Age of Menarche in a Racially Diverse Study Population: A Pilot Study , a link was found between hair lotions and products used in childhood and early menarche.
I got my first period at 11 years old. You could say that was wildly different than my own mother's timeframe which was very late in her teens. It was so late that her parents wondered if something was wrong. She went on to birth 7 children at home starting at the age of 22 years old.
Now looking back, I never hear of anyone getting their first period in their late teens. We often hear of young girls developing pubic hair and breasts sometimes as early as 7 years old, and we are scratching our heads wondering why. Environmental exposures, in our food and products that we use are the first things to start looking at meticulously. It's also important to say the inconvenience of dealing with menstruation so early is just the tip of the problem, this is just one of the consequences as exposure to those chemical affects young girls for years to come.
An additional study focused on adult women also found a link between Breast Cancer in Black Women who Use Chemical Hair Dyes and Straighteners ( Relaxers ) giving further insight on long term consequences.
It is also important to note that many of the hair products catering to the African-American community do not have all those ingredients properly labeled or are misslabeled. Some are hidden under "Fragrance" or "Parfum" as there is protection to keep proprietary blends secret.
Here are some of the ingredients to avoid:
Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Benzylparaben, plastic packaging containing Bisphenol-A or BPA, Phthalates (often labeled as fragrance or parfum - affects the male reproductive system, leads to decreased sperm count, testicular cell destruction and thyroid irregularities), and Organophosphates or pesticides.
There is a responsibility for the new wave of makers to not only create non-toxic products for haircare and hairstyling , but to also have integrity in labeling all ingredients.
I am so grateful for the access to information that I have as I am raising my child. In addition to using Ronnie's products on Grace hair, I recently ordered some organic beeswax to make her very own safe "edge control" to slick down her pigtails. I know better now, so I do better. Hoping to spread this awareness to more parents. Together we can change this story today.
In Love, Health and Presence of Mind
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