From a very young age, most black women are taught that a good hair care routine is the key to keeping our natural locks healthy and well maintained. But the brutal truth is that the products we use to do this could be causing serious damage - and not just to our hair.
A recent US study published in the Environmental Research journal revealed that most hair care products aimed at black women contain harmful ingredients linked to cancer, infertility and asthma. Shockingly, 11 out of 18 products analysed for the study, including those used by children, contained toxic chemicals that are banned under EU cosmetic regulations. Root stimulators, hair lotions and relaxers came under particular scrutiny, since most of them contain parabens - hormone-disrupting chemicals - which have been linked to various types of cancer and reduced muscle mass.
There is no conclusive evidence as to whether these products contribute to higher levels of certain cancers in black women, compared with white women, but the study's findings should give us pause for thought.
The fact that black women today have many more haircare options than previous generations is generally a good thing. Growing up in the 90s in an area of Britain that had very few black people made it almost impossible to find any specialist products for my natural hair. Now I live in London that's no longer an issue and I've been able to experiment with different styles. In light of this study, though, I'm more concerned about quality rather than quantity. I try my best to minimise damage to my hair however I can, but I worry about the impact of my go-to products are having on my overall health.