Hormonal activity in commonly used Black hair care products: evaluating hormone disruption as a plausible contribution to health disparities

Tamarra James-Todd, Lisa Connolly, Emma V Preston, Marlee R Quinn, Monika Plotan, Yuling Xie, Bharathi Gandi, Shruthi Mahalingaiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
321 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Certain types of hair products are more commonly used by Black women. Studies show hair products contain several endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are associated with adverse health outcomes. As chemical mixtures of endocrine disruptors, hair products may be hormonally active, but this remains unclear. Objective: To assess the hormonal activity of commonly used Black hair products. Methods: We identified six commonly used hair products (used by >10% of the population) from the Greater New York Hair Products Study. We used reporter gene assays (RGAs) incorporating natural steroid receptors to evaluate estrogenic, androgenic, progestogenic, and glucocorticoid hormonal bioactivity employing an extraction method using bond elution prior to RGA assessment at dilutions from 50 to 500. Results: All products displayed hormonal activity, varying in the amount and effect. Three samples showed estrogen agonist properties at levels from 12.5 to 20 ng/g estradiol equivalent concentrations All but one sample showed androgen antagonist properties at levels from 20 to 25 ng/g androgen equivalent concentrations. Four samples showed antagonistic and agonistic properties to progesterone and glucocorticoid. Significance: Hair products commonly used by Black women showed hormonal activity. Given their frequent use, exposure to hormonally active products could have implications for health outcomes and contribute to reproductive and metabolic health disparities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology
Early online date06 May 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 06 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This study was funded in part by the March of Dimes, the American Diabetes Association Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the National Institutes of Health (R01ES026166, T32ES007069, and Black Women’s Health Study R01CA058420). We would like to acknowledge Erika Rodriguez and Victoria Fruh for facilitating parts of this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Androgen receptor
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Glucocorticoid receptor
  • Hair preparations
  • Personal care products
  • Progesterone receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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