Personal care product use may contribute to elevated body burdens of consumer product chemicals among women of color; however, racial/ethnic differences in product use has been understudied. Community-engaged research can support the recruitment of diverse participants.
To document personal care product use among a diverse group of women (aged 18–34 years) living in California.
Through a community-academic partnership, we surveyed 357 women in California about product use information for 54 cosmetic, hair, menstrual/intimate care, and leave-on and rinse-off personal care products. We compared type and frequency of product use among Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and White women. We also summarized use of scented products and reasons women select products.
Women reported using a median of 8 products daily, with some women reporting up to 30 products daily. Hispanic/Latinx and Asian women used more cosmetics, and Black women used more hair and menstrual/intimate products than other women. Of the 54 products compared, there were significant differences in use by race/ethnicity for 28 products, with the largest number of significant differences between Black and White women.
There is growing information on chemical exposures from personal care products and consequent adverse health effects, with implications for health disparities. Yet, there remains limited information on the range and types of products used by diverse racial/ethnic communities. This study helps close an important gap on product use inventories that can enable more informed public health interventions to limit exposures from personal care products.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Differences in personal care product use by race/ethnicity among women in California: implications for chemical exposures
Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology Open Access 24 December 2021
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $19.83 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
James-Todd T, Chiu Y, Zota A. Racial/ethnic disparities in environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals and women’s reproductive health outcomes: epidemiological examples across the life course. Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2016;3:161–80.
James-Todd TM, Meeker JD, Huang T, Hauser R, Seely EW, Ferguson KK, et al. Racial and ethnic variations in phthalate metabolite concentration changes across full-term pregnancies. J Exposure Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017;27:160–6.
Branch F, Woodruff TJ, Mitro SD, Zota AR. Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalates exposures among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004. Environ Health. 2015;14:57.
Varshavsky JR, Zota AR, Woodruff TJ. A novel method for calculating potency-weighted cumulative phthalates exposure with implications for identifying racial/ethnic disparities among U.S. reproductive-aged women in NHANES 2001-2012. Environ Sci Technol. 2016;50:10616–24.
Kobrosly RW, Parlett LE, Stahlhut RW, Barrett ES, Swan SH. Socioeconomic factors and phthalate metabolite concentrations among United States women of reproductive age. Environ Res. 2012;115:11–7.
CDC. Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals: Updated Tables. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2019.
Nguyen VK, Kahana A, Heidt J, Polemi K, Kvasnicka J, Jolliet O, et al. A comprehensive analysis of racial disparities in chemical biomarker concentrations in United States women, 1999-2014. Environ Int. 2020;137:105496.
Zota AR, Shamasunder B. The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017;217:418.e1–.e6.
Wu XM, Bennett DH, Moran RE, Sjodin A, Jones RS, Tancredi DJ, et al. Polybrominated diphenyl ether serum concentrations in a Californian population of children, their parents, and older adults: an exposure assessment study. Environ Health. 2015;14:23.
James-Todd T, Terry MB, Rich-Edwards J, Deierlein A, Senie R. Childhood hair product use and earlier age at menarche in a racially diverse study population: a pilot study. Ann Epidemiol. 2011;21:461–5.
Fey WH. The nation is diversifying even faster than predicted, according to new census data. Brookings Institute; 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2017 National Population Projections Tables: Main Series. 2017.
Dodson RE, Boronow KE, Susmann H, Udesky JO, Rodgers KM, Weller D, et al. Consumer behavior and exposure to parabens, bisphenols, triclosan, dichlorophenols, and benzophenone-3: results from a crowdsourced biomonitoring study. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2020;230:113624.
Just AC, Adibi JJ, Rundle AG, Calafat AM, Camann DE, Hauser R, et al. Urinary and air phthalate concentrations and self-reported use of personal care products among minority pregnant women in New York city. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2010;20:625–33.
Berger KP, Kogut KR, Bradman A, She J, Gavin Q, Zahedi R, et al. Personal care product use as a predictor of urinary concentrations of certain phthalates, parabens, and phenols in the HERMOSA study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018;29:21–32.
Braun JM, Just AC, Williams PL, Smith KW, Calafat AM, Hauser R. Personal care product use and urinary phthalate metabolite and paraben concentrations during pregnancy among women from a fertility clinic. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2014;24:459–66.
Buckley JP, Palmieri RT, Matuszewski JM, Herring AH, Baird DD, Hartmann KE, et al. Consumer product exposures associated with urinary phthalate levels in pregnant women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2012;22:468–75.
Parlett LE, Calafat AM, Swan SH. Women’s exposure to phthalates in relation to use of personal care products. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013;23:197–206.
Berger KP, Kogut KR, Bradman A, She J, Gavin Q, Zahedi R, et al. Personal care product use as a predictor of urinary concentrations of certain phthalates, parabens, and phenols in the HERMOSA study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2019;29:21–32.
Wesselink AK, Fruh V, Hauser R, Weuve J, Taylor KW, Orta OR, et al. Correlates of urinary concentrations of phthalate and phthalate alternative metabolites among reproductive-aged Black women from Detroit, Michigan. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-020-00270-9. Epub ahead of print.
Ashrap P, Watkins DJ, Calafat AM, Ye X, Rosario Z, Brown P, et al. Elevated concentrations of urinary triclocarban, phenol and paraben among pregnant women in Northern Puerto Rico: predictors and trends. Environ Int. 2018;121:990–1002.
Ferguson KK, Colacino JA, Lewis RC, Meeker JD. Personal care product use among adults in NHANES: associations between urinary phthalate metabolites and phenols and use of mouthwash and sunscreen. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017;27:326–32.
Meeker JD, Cantonwine DE, Rivera-Gonzalez LO, Ferguson KK, Mukherjee B, Calafat AM, et al. Distribution, variability, and predictors of urinary concentrations of phenols and parabens among pregnant women in Puerto Rico. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47:3439–47.
Philippat C, Bennett D, Calafat AM, Picciotto IH. Exposure to select phthalates and phenols through use of personal care products among Californian adults and their children. Environ Res. 2015;140:369–76.
Nassan FL, Coull BA, Gaskins AJ, Williams MA, Skakkebaek NE, Ford JB, et al. Personal care product use in men and urinary concentrations of select phthalate metabolites and parabens: results from the Environment And Reproductive Health (EARTH) study. Environ Health Perspect. 2017;125:087012.
McDonald JA, Tehranifar P, Flom JD, Terry MB, James-Todd T. Hair product use, age at menarche and mammographic breast density in multiethnic urban women. Environ Health. 2018;17:1.
Wise LA, Palmer JR, Reich D, Cozier YC, Rosenberg L. Hair relaxer use and risk of uterine leiomyomata in African-American women. Am J Epidemiol. 2012;175:432–40.
Llanos AAM, Rabkin A, Bandera EV, Zirpoli G, Gonzalez BD, Xing CY, et al. Hair product use and breast cancer risk among African American and White women. Carcinogenesis. 2017;38:883–92.
Brinton LA, Figueroa JD, Ansong D, Nyarko KM, Wiafe S, Yarney J, et al. Skin Lighteners and Hair Relaxers as Risk Factors for Breast Cancer: Results from the Ghana Breast Health Study. Carcinogenesis. 2018;39:571–9.
Heikkinen S, Pitkaniemi J, Sarkeala T, Malila N, Koskenvuo M. Does hair dye use increase the risk of breast cancer? A population-based case-control study of Finnish Women. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0135190.
Eberle CE, Sandler DP, Taylor KW, White AJ. Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women. Int J Cancer. 2020;147:383–91.
Taylor KW, Troester MA, Herring AH, Engel LS, Nichols HB, Sandler DP, et al. Associations between personal care product use patterns and breast cancer risk among White and Black women in the Sister Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2018;126:027011.
Zota AR, Geller RJ, Calafat AM, Marfori CQ, Baccarelli AA, Moawad GN. Phthalates exposure and uterine fibroid burden among women undergoing surgical treatment for fibroids: a preliminary study. Fertil Steril. 2019;111:112–21.
James-Todd T, Senie R, Terry MB. Racial/ethnic differences in hormonally-active hair product use: a plausible risk factor for health disparities. J Immigr Minor Health. 2012;14:506–11.
Roth WD. Establishing the denominator: the challenges of measuring multiracial, hispanic, and Native American populations. ANNALS Am Acad Political Soc Sci. 2018;677:48–56.
Dodson RE, Nishioka M, Standley LJ, Perovich LJ, Brody JG, Rudel RA. Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120:935–43.
Guo Y, Kannan K. A survey of phthalates and parabens in personal care products from the United States and its implications for human exposure. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47:14442–9.
Wang VA, Chu MT, Chie L, Gaston SA, Jackson CL, Newendorp N, et al. Acculturation and endocrine disrupting chemical-associated personal care product use among US-based foreign-born Chinese women of reproductive age. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020;31:224–32.
Doyle JM, Kao G. Are racial identifies of multracials stable? Changing self-identification among single and multiple race individuals. Soc Psychol Q. 2007;70:405–23.
Paulker K, Meyers C, Sanchez DT, Gaither SE, Young DM. A review of multiracial malleability: Identity, categorization, and shifting racial attitudes. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2018;12:e12392.
Paradies Y, Ben J, Denson N, Elias A, Priest N, Pieterse A, et al. Racism as a determinant of health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0138511.
Banks TL. Funding race as biology: the relevance of “race” in medical research. Minn J Law, Sci Technol. 2011;12:571–618.
Zota AR, VanNoy BN. Integrating intersectionality into the exposome paradigm: a novel approach to racial inequities in uterine fibroids. Am J Public Health. 2020;111:104–9.
Hu P, Chen X, Whitener RJ, Boder ET, Jones JO, Porollo A, et al. Effects of parabens on adipocyte differentiation. Toxicol Sci. 2013;131:56–70.
Hu P, Kennedy RC, Chen X, Zhang J, Shen CL, Chen J, et al. Differential effects on adiposity and serum marker of bone formation by post-weaning exposure to methylparaben and butylparaben. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016;23:21957–68.
Hu P, Overby H, Heal E, Wang S, Chen J, Shen CL, et al. Methylparaben and butylparaben alter multipotent mesenchymal stem cell fates towards adipocyte lineage. Toxicol Appl Pharm. 2017;329:48–57.
Morohoshi K, Yamamoto H, Kamata R, Shiraishi F, Koda T, Morita M. Estrogenic activity of 37 components of commercial sunscreen lotions evaluated by in vitro assays. Toxicol Vitr. 2005;19:457–69.
Pereira-Fernandes A, Demaegdt H, Vandermeiren K, Hectors TL, Jorens PG, Blust R, et al. Evaluation of a screening system for obesogenic compounds: screening of endocrine disrupting compounds and evaluation of the PPAR dependency of the effect. PLoS One. 2013;8:e77481.
Routledge EJ, Parker J, Odum J, Ashby J, Sumpter JP. Some alkyl hydroxy benzoate preservatives (parabens) are estrogenic. Toxicol Appl Pharm. 1998;153:12–9.
Rastogi SC, Schouten A, de Kruijf N, Weijland JW. Contents of methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl- and benzylparaben in cosmetic products. Contact Dermat. 1995;32:28–30.
Shen HY, Jiang HL, Mao HL, Pan G, Zhou L, Cao YF. Simultaneous determination of seven phthalates and four parabens in cosmetic products using HPLC-DAD and GC-MS methods. J Sep Sci. 2007;30:48–54.
Nicole W. A question for women’s health: chemicals in feminine hygiene products and personal lubricants. Environ Health Perspect. 2014;122:A70–5.
Zhang J, Thomas AG, Leybovich E. Vaginal douching and adverse health effects: a meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 1997;87:1207–11.
Martino JL, Vermund SH. Vaginal douching: evidence for risks or benefits to women’s health. Epidemiol Rev. 2002;24:109–24.
Gao CJ, Kannan K. Phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, and triclocarban in feminine hygiene products from the United States and their implications for human exposure. Environ Int. 2020;136:105465.
Ding N, Batterman S, Park SK. Exposure to volatile organic compounds and use of feminine hygiene products among reproductive-aged women in the United States. J Women’s Health. 2020;29:65–73.
Lin N, Ding N, Meza-Wilson E, Manuradha Devasurendra A, Godwin C, Kyun Park S, et al. Volatile organic compounds in feminine hygiene products sold in the US market: a survey of products and health risks. Environ Int. 2020;144:105740.
Ferranti MJ. An odor of racism: vaginal deodorants in African-American beauty culture and advertising. Advert Soc Rev. 2011;11.
Helm JS, Nishioka M, Brody JG, Rudel RA, Dodson RE. Measurement of endocrine disrupting and asthma-associated chemicals in hair products used by Black women. Environ Res. 2018;165:448–58.
Csiszar SA, Ernstoff AS, Fantke P, Jolliet O. Stochastic modeling of near-field exposure to parabens in personal care products. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017;27:152–9.
Wu XM, Bennett DH, Ritz B, Cassady DL, Lee K, Hertz-Picciotto I. Usage pattern of personal care products in California households. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010;48:3109–19.
Rodriguez S, Steer CD, Farrow A, Golding J, Day IN. Dependence of deodorant usage on ABCC11 genotype: scope for personalized genetics in personal hygiene. J Invest Dermatol. 2013;133:1760–7.
Steinemann A. Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products. Prev Med Rep. 2017;5:45–7.
Steinemann A. Fragranced consumer products: effects on asthmatics. Air Qual Atmos Health. 2018;11:3–9.
Caress SM, Steinemann AC. Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population. J Environ Health. 2009;71:46–50.
Pew Research Center. Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. 2019 June 12, 2019.
We would like to thank Marissa Chan for her help developing the survey and kicking off the study, Karin Michels for helpful feedback on the survey, and Kimberly Robinson and Brianna VanNoy for their help disseminating the survey.
This project is funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program (Grant # 23UB-6511).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no competing interest.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Dodson, R.E., Cardona, B., Zota, A.R. et al. Personal care product use among diverse women in California: Taking Stock Study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 487–502 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-021-00327-3
- Personal care products
- Community-based participatory research
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals
- Environmental health disparities
This article is cited by
Differences in personal care product use by race/ethnicity among women in California: implications for chemical exposures
Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (2021)