The Economist covers the ‘hidden cost of black hair’

London-based international weekly business newspaper The Economist takes a historical and contemporary look at African-American hair, called “The hidden cost of black hair.”

This 13-minute mini-documentary touches on issues of business ownership; hair care time requirements; often-limited product offerings especially in the United Kingdom; societal views of what makes hair presentable and professional leading to the pressure to straighten hair; damage caused to hair resulting in traction alopecia; hair discrimination, and the CROWN Act.

The Economist‘s mini-documentary contains a few ambiguous claims, such as “black people make up 90 percent of spending in the ethnic hair care market” (the ethnic hair care market is synonymous with the black hair market, so of course it would follow that black people would make up almost all the spenders in that category) as well as the claim that mothers straightened their children’s hair during slavery (the hot comb wasn’t invented until the late 1800s, years after the end of slavery).

More importantly, the piece discusses the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in hair and other personal care products and their potential correlation with higher rates of breast cancer.  The natural hair movement is discussed as a response to these dangers but it is unclear if products for natural hair are entirely free of these harmful chemicals, as  such chemicals are said to be found in relaxers but also include a wide range of substances under broad definitions like “fragrance.”  Efforts to further pinpoint the relationship between hair products and illness are ongoing and very necessary.

This was definitely a video worth watching and it’s good to see the topic of black hair being given serious attention by an international publication.

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