Are Hair Products for Black Women Safe? Afro Hair Blogger Aims to Launch Documentary to Find Out


Are Hair Products for Black Women Safe? Afro Hair Blogger Aims to Launch Documentary to Find Out

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In April 2018 Tola Okogwu was featured in a BBC interview about the potential dangers of hair care products marketed at Black women. The interview went viral and was shared by thousands of women all over the world. Black women were rightly shocked and concerned and yet it did not cause much of a stir across mainstream media. This inspired her to join forces with Abi Begho and Sheila Marshall to create a documentary uncovering the truth behind the safety of hair products for Black women.

In a study, published in April 2018 by researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and Battelle Memorial Institute in the USA it was found that 80% of black hair products contain endocrine disrupting and asthma causing chemicals. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are of particular concern as some studies have linked these chemicals to hormone-related health conditions including, breast cancer and fibroids. But what does this research actually mean for Black women using these products daily? Should they be worried? Should they stop using these products? 

Black women need to be empowered with clear, accurate, reliable information so that they can make informed decisions about the products that they choose to purchase. This is why the ‘My Haircare Nightmare’ documentary is so important. Tola, Abi and Sheila’s goal is to create a documentary that will provide some answers, stimulate discussion and question a culture that has created a market that perpetuates the myth that natural afro hair needs to be ‘tamed’ with product after product.

Their documentary will creatively explain the science behind the research and delve deeper into the societal and cultural pressures that lead black women to use these products. They will speak to real women and hear their hair stories.   The documentary will also provide expert advice and practical approaches to help Black women reduce their level of exposure to EDCs and asthma causing chemicals. They will speak to scientists, manufacturers, consumers, influencers, policy makers and more to gain a deeper understanding of the issue and what we should all be doing about it. 

In order to make this documentary happen, the collective needs to raise over £80,000 and have launched a crowdfunding campaign to turn their vision into a reality.

For interviews and more information

Ronke Lawal

Notes to editor

Tola is an author who holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and has written for several publications including Black Beauty and Hair Magazine and Metro UK.  An avid reader, Tola enjoys spending time with her family and friends around her home in Kent where she lives with her husband and daughters.

Abi Begho is the Founder of Lake Health and Wellbeing, an organisation which seeks to address the health inequalities that exist where the black community faces a number of health challenges. Abi is very passionate about giving back to her community and has been recognised for this work having received an award from the MGC GCC for her contribution to health and wellbeing and was nominated for an Active Citizen Award.

Sheila Marshall Following her MA in International Political Economy Sheila worked for 10 years across film and television. This includes working in development for Film4 and the UK Film Council. Sheila also produced “Outtakes US Presidents” for BBC, a comedy show about presidential gaffes. Since 2011 she has worked as an independent filmmaker on Right Between Your Ears and other projects, including a pilot magazine show "Living Resourcefully".