Resistance Through Beauty

If we consider the link between repeated use of hair relaxers and highly fragranced beauty products with increased risk of fibroids, could it be said that systemic racism can be held responsible for continued sterilization and decreased life quality in black and brown women?  Let’s explore.

The Colonizer Beauty Program

BIPOC women historically have been required, coerced and punished into emulating Eurocentric beauty standards. The pressure on black mothers to prepare their children for an inhospitable world has led to the generational hand off of beauty practices which are designed to hide or manipulate hair into conformity and SELF HATRED.

Society has yet to fully embrace blackness, period.  In sad attempts to incorporate black folks into the conversation, the overculture appropriates and capitalizes, because it knows no other way to celebrate and knows only to exploit and this truth is impacting wombs everywhere.

What We Know About Chemical Violence

What’s an EDC?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are compounds that disrupt the natural balance of our endocrine system.  Some of them are easy to discern while others are seemingly harmless, leading to years of accumulation in the body, going unnoticed.  Synthetic fragrances are an easy to spot EDC, but who’d think smelling good could be harmful?  Well, fragrances, synthetic and natural are considered to be one of the most toxic ingredients found in the majority of the personal hair products women + families use today.  

The most common sources of EDCs are the personal care products women use to beautify themselves every day.  What’s especially troublesome is that even greenwashing makes the average consumer feel comfortable and at ease with ingredients which do not have a place for daily use.  It is in DAILY USE that trouble arises and the constant influx of chemicals that overrides the body’s ability to flush it out faster than it comes in.

The Link Between EDCs and Fibroids

Over-exposure to EDCs in the long run can cause non-cancerous tumors along the uterine lining known as fibroids.

Although fibroids are considered to be benign tumors, most doctors do not encourage the surgical removal of fibroids unless they pose an immediate threat to someone’s life, and often in these cases, hysterectomy and myomectomy are offered. The long term impact of some uterine fibroids can damage the reproductive organs, leading to infertility, pain or complications in pregnancy.  This is of course, very simplified.  If you want to learn more about uterine fibroids, please look at the work of the Healthy Her series.

Who Do Fibroids Impact the Most and Why Does it Matter?

Chemical hair relaxers are linked to high risk of uterine fibroids among African American women.  The chemicals in hair relaxers look identical to estrogen in the body.  Repeated use overloads the body and FEEDS the growth of estrogenic tumors like fibroids.

Why does the use of chemical hair relaxer being the direct cause of uterine fibroid growth matter? It is the programming of the American overculture that has placed strongholds against natural hair, body odor and overall beauty that is SELF defined. 

If the medical community is aware that this is happening, the fact that hair relaxers, nail polish, cosmetics are still on the shelf and advertised to the youth just shows you how much capitalism cares little for the health of black women.



The Relationship Between A Woman and Her Hair

We had the pleasure of interviewing our good sister Elise, an advocate for women’s health, empowerment and education. We talk about her personal hair journey with beauty rituals she grew up with, grew out of  and how that inspires her to advocate for accessible healthcare alternatives for women of color with fibroids. 

Jaz: What has been your relationship with your hair since you were a child?
Elise: So I love my hair. But it has not been without its challenges. When I was a child I was very tender headed. Tender headed means for people who don't use that terminology is someone who has a very sensitive scalp that doesn't tolerate a lot of pulling and a lot of tugging. I would have sessions as a young girl with just the pulling the tugging and the frustration on both ends. Every once in a while I was sent to the hairdresser to get my hair blown out. And my first perm or relaxer was about eight or so. So I would perm regularly around 13 until I was about 14. So, um, up until that time, I would get bullied for my hair because it would be pulled up so tight that I would take my hair out of the pigtails just to give my scalp a chance to breathe. The girls didn't like that, and I got bullied for my hair because of texture.
Jaz: Who was telling you that you needed to get perms from your hair? Was it family members or friends? Or?
Elise: Oh, boy. Everybody. Everybody that I saw around me just had straight hair, or they wore pieces, like partial waves or something like that, or they just wore straight up wigs. And then when I got to college, I became romantically involved with someone whose mom was very vocal on how she felt about my hair, like it should be pressed, because it was too long and too pretty to wear naturally. 
Jaz: Do you remember any beauty products that were highly marketed to you in your inner circles?
Elise:  I'm gonna say yes and no, only because when I was growing up, I was the weirdo. Like, I was using Manic Panic and funky colors when black girls weren't allowed to. But, just to be precise, Dark & Lovely and Creme of Nature. I remember being a little girl and wrapping a towel around my head and whipping it back and forth because I would see these commercials for salon selectives and Pantene and Breck and Pert and Prowl with these non melanated women with perfectly straight hair and like, no one is explaining to my young, pre ten year old self and I say pre ten because ten is around the time when young girls really start discovering themselves as sexual beings and attractive beings and sensual beings, you know, at least in this country.
Jaz: How often do you think people would use these products? Like a daily or weekly basis?
Elise: Multiple times a day even. If you didn't use gel in your hair you would put the hair grease on your hair two times a day even because you would slick it down in the morning, then it would get messed up, and then you would tie your hair down at night, and you put a little bit of oil so it doesn't get dry, right? So two times a day, and then you're washing your hair once a week. 

Chemical Toxins Found in Beauty Products

Jaz: You mentioned earlier that you were washing your hair once a week, and nobody had business putting products in their hair that could clean piping. I recently learned that shampoo was developed during World War II to clean the oil off of the ships and then was later advertised as a hair cleaning product. Were you aware that the products that you were using had these harmful chemicals that could cause damage to your hormones?
Elise: Absolutely not. I mean, back, I think it was back in the 50s Lysol was marketed to women as a hygiene product. You know..
Jaz: What?!
Elise: Yeah. Um, it's crazy. But we have made a lot of inroads as far as creating awareness around hygiene products, especially for women, because we're always told to look a certain way and to be a certain way. And I do think that don't get me wrong. I love baths and moisture, you know, lotions and things that smell good. We love it. But like at what cost? And I think that's what the conversation is about, at what cost do I have to look good? But no, I don't think anybody did. Like nobody said, hey, these are hormone disruptors. Or there's ingredients in here that release formaldehyde. Or these are cancer causing agents. I don't think that was ever a discussion. I mean, the discussion was, and this I mean there's this historical piece where people of color have historically, from a social perspective, been downtrodden, but then perceived as a downtrodden, unkempt group of people anyway. It's like, well, we may not be on the top of the social strata. But at least we're clean and at least our houses are clean. At least my hair is done. At least my clothes are washed, you know what I mean? And I think we've kind of internalized a lot of that, you know, which is why there's so much internal policing that we do amongst ourselves. 

Lack of Research and Intellectual Laziness

Jaz: One thing that I saw that was actually really jarring was through UCLA health claiming that fibroids also have a genetic component, which I don't think is 100% true. I think what would classify as a genetic component is the fact that the person who is being exposed to the chemicals is participating in a practice that was being passed down to them. What do you think?
Elise: I think there might be a genetic component to sensitivity to your environment, but I don't think there's a genetic component of fibroids. I think it's intellectual laziness to just say, there's a genetic component of fibroids, when it's a lot deeper than that. Black women are passing down shortcuts, if you will.

Where there are limited studies on the impact of EDCs and fibroids on black women and there are even less EDC-free beauty products that are marketed to black + brown women. If you are interested in learning what kind of harmful ingredients live in your beauty products, you can follow this link to The Talko

Reclaiming Our Inner Beauty 

We know how hard it is, to turn away from the conveniences of beauty, the life lived in luxury and the acceptance of the over culture, but at what cost?  Over 500,000 hysterectomies for benign disease are performed every year in the United States, and of these,  African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander women were more likely than white women to receive them.  Listen to a hysterectomy visibility and care circle on Clubhouse HERE.

What is the point of perfect eyebrows, flawless skin and straight hair if we are SUFFERING and out of balance internally?  We’ve got it all wrong, beauty comes from  systems within the body functioning in longevity and grace – all systems listening and responding.  This creates the vibrancy of health and then exudes itself.  The standard that has been set for us, is in itself not designed by us or by nature for that matter.

Reclamation is redefining the design and “removing what does not serve” can literally mean assisting the body to discard the waste that we have brought into it.  Coming back to simple ingredients and whole foods + herbs can support this process. Materre Tropics is our favorite supportive powder blend of detoxification.  Materre Forest reintroduces fortifying plants to strengthen the blood and brings vitality into the whole body.

Reclamation is an uphill journey.  Strength and dignity is needed to define what we become.  The plants are here to help.  Returning to earth-based beauty practices is not a simple journey, but it is straightforward.

  1. Identify the toxins you’re interacting with daily

  2. Remove or reduce toxic agents

  3. Support the body in detoxifying

  4. Follow the signs your body is giving

  5. Replace with simple beauty rituals + practices that align with your body and your ancestral sensual ways

Ancient Healing Technologies for Shrinking Fibroids

If you’ve not run into yoni or womb steaming before, we pray that you stay and let a seed plant within you.  Womb wellness is ancestral.  The reason we’ve come to this bullshit place is because the systems in place to teach us care and healing for our body have been radically (and violently) removed.  If you’d like to learn more about yoni steaming, check out Womb Steaming – The Basics.

With many thanks to our ancestors, the sister Elise for her testimony and wisdom, Starlilly Sister Nova Burch for teaching the ways of reclaiming our wombs, the sister Arielle De Martinez for bringing this good information forward on The Womb Room podcast with Qiddist Ashe. 



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