*Beauty products not only offer enhancement of one’s face and body but also an enhancement to one’s confidence.
When it comes to creating a look, beauty products help in transforming into the shape that is most desirable.
When what is deemed desirable is dictated by whiteness, it leads black women to feel insecure and turn to products that are harmful to their bodies and health.
Black women know from first-hand experience how society rewards lighter skin and straight hair. Black women who give in to these European standards of beauty get better pay and see more upward trajectory in their career.
Other black women internalize the message that their natural features are inferior. Hence, they are pushed into using more beauty products than white women to assimilate themselves into the society at large.
Because black women use these products besides the other beauty products commonly used by women, they tend to be more exposed to the poisonous ingredients in them than white women. Skin lightening creams, a common purchase among women of color, contain high amounts of mercury, a poisonous substance that absorbs into the body and can cause cancer and brain damage. Not only do these products fail to mention the presence of mercury in them but also push the idea that black skin is undesirable through its packaging and marketing.
Matters only get worse when it comes to hair. Black hair, the crown and glory of a black woman, has been ostracized for a long time by being called “kinky” and “nappy.” Black women have been told that their natural hair is “unprofessional”. Black hair styling like braiding that embraces natural hair has been punished in schools while use of chemical hair relaxers has been encouraged. As a direct result of these bigoted attitudes, young black girls have been made to use chemical relaxers, which contain chemicals that cause health issues as serious as breast cancer and fibroids.
It is disheartening to see that in an industry as innovative as beauty, there aren’t many healthy and safe options for black women. Serving to end this market gap will not only benefit black women but also the beauty industry. Black women don’t need this; black folks already face environmental racism as they are exposed to harmful chemicals in their jobs and neighborhoods. Black folks should learn more about the beauty products they use and demand change. This awareness should also lead to more push for embracing natural beauty. It needs to be understood that if black lives truly matter, then the quality of those lives also matter.