Personal Care Product Implications regarding Puberty and Race

Article Author: Amelia Talluri, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Major, Class of 2025, Science Coordinator

When I was younger, I was under the impression that all of the personal care products (PCP) such as for beauty, hygiene, haircare, nail care, skincare and fragrances I would see in the store were safe for me. If anything, I thought they were good for me because these products were marketed for cleanliness and helping me to look more presentable. The first notion of a PCP being harmful was when I went to buy my first deodorant in middle school. My mom told me to choose a deodorant that was “aluminum free” after she had read that it could increase the risk of breast cancer (BC). Though I have never used aluminum-containing deodorant, I did not seriously consider chemicals that could be present in the rest of my PCPs until I learned about Protect Our Breasts. 

Risk of BC may be increased by high use of PCPs, especially during puberty when the breast is rapidly developing and is particularly sensitive to chemical exposures. Many PCPs are often tailored to address the specific needs and changes occurring during puberty, such as acne, body odor, increased oil production, and menstruation. However, these products contain a plethora of chemicals, some of which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Phthalates, parabens, and phenols affect the body’s hormone system, increasing the risk of BC. Depending on the frequency of PCP usage, women can be exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. Previous studies have shown EDCs present in breast tissue of rodents, directly affecting their hormone signaling and mammary gland development. 

A paper published in February of this year (2024) found a potential connection between PCP usage during puberty and the risk of BC. The Sister Study, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, enrolled approximately 50,000 women between 2003 and 2009 to track their health for a minimum of ten years. All of the participants, aged between 35 and 74 years at enrollment, had sisters with BC but had not been diagnosed themselves. For this particular paper, researchers characterized Sister Study participants based on race and ethnicity to determine patterns in self-reported beauty, hair, skincare, and hygiene PCP usage at 10 to 13 years of age. Overall, the paper concluded that their results aligned with the hypothesis that an increase of BC risk is associated with PCP use during puberty, emphasizing the need for more research for further confirmation. 

Additionally, certain differences between personal product usage and race and ethnicity were identified in this study. When compared to White women, Black women who used nail and perfume products and Black and Hispanic women who used more hair products during puberty had higher rates of BC. The paper highlighted the discrepancy of personal product usage and race. Women of color typically use more products such as hair straighteners, relaxers, pomade, skin lighteners, body moisturizers, douches. Not only can this increase the number of PCPs used, products marketed towards women of color often have higher concentrations of EDCs than those marketed towards White women. In this regard, the study posited that societal norms and structural racism regarding PCP options in the store can lead to the purchase of more harmful products. 

So the big question is, how do we figure out what personal products we should use, especially during puberty? Research has shown that more is less. The fewer chemicals we are exposed to, the lower the risk of BC and other diseases. Encouraged to make a change to your current hygiene and beauty routines? Check ingredients for harmful chemicals (check out the “Chemicals of Concern” tab under “Science” on our website). Avoid products with -paraben and -phthalate in the ingredient list. 

Further, if possible, choose nail and hair salons that use safer products. You could even bring your own nontoxic nail polish to the salon! Additionally, there are many online apps and resources such as Clearya, ThinkDirty and EWG’s Skin Deep that you can utilize to make safer choices. If you have friends or family in puberty, it is so important to educate them on the use of fewer and safer PCPs. 

Thank you to our new science advisor, Dr. Jedaidah Chilufya, for her review of this blog post. 


Goldberg, M., Chang, C.-J., Ogunsina, K., O’Brien, K. M., Taylor, K. W., White, A. J., & Sandler, D. P. (2024). Personal Care Product Use during Puberty and Incident Breast Cancer among Black, Hispanic/Latina, and White Women in a Prospective US-Wide Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives, 132(2), 027001.

Personal Care Product Tips. (n.d.). Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). Retrieved May 5, 2024, from

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites. POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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