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3 Reveals From HBO's 'Not So Pretty'

Not So Pretty explores the dark side of the beauty industry — and how we can fix it.

It should go without saying that we at Boulevard are pretty big fans of the beauty industry. But more importantly, we’re enormous fans of making the industry safer, more diverse, and environmentally friendly. That’s why stylists would do well watching documentaries like HBO’s Not So Pretty, which highlights the dangers of certain beauty products and ingredients. The more you know about the potential health hazards you face every day, the sooner you can take steps to protect yourself, your staff, and your clients. Let’s take a moment to highlight the biggest reveals from the series.

DevaCurl harmed its Black and brown customers

Perhaps the most shocking but not shocking reveal from Not So Pretty is that harmful beauty products disproportionately impact minorities and people of color. For example, the episode “Hair” focuses on DevaCurl, a hair-care line marketed primarily to Black and brown women with curly hair. Unfortunately, women who used DevaCurl products discovered they caused hair loss, rashes, tinnitus, and even period complications. When the brand ignored their concerns, the customers started a class-action lawsuit that ended with a $5.2 million settlement.

Nail salons have too much in common with oil refineries

Meanwhile, the episode “Nails” explores the heartbreaking conditions of women — predominantly Asian women — who work in nail salons. One study found that salon workers who spend over eight hours per day surrounded by beauty products experience similar illnesses as those working in oil refineries. Their conditions raise deeply troubling health implications of beauty and self-care work, from cancer to long-term respiratory problems.

Unfortunately, hard numbers and research behind beauty-related illnesses are difficult to find, leading some experts to dismiss the concerns of minorities. With documentaries like Not So Pretty focusing coverage on these issues, hopefully we can see that change.

Asbestos sometimes appears in beauty products

As a species, one of the few things we agree on is that asbestos is incredibly bad for your health. So why, exactly, is Not So Pretty talking about asbestos creeping its way into makeup? Unfortunately, audiences of the “Makeup” episode learned that beauty and self-care products are at risk of causing asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma.

To be clear, the issue is not precisely asbestos itself but rather talc within talcum powder. Unfortunately, asbestos often forms alongside talc in nature, so if producers aren’t cautious, their products can become contaminated. While cases are rare, there are tragic exceptions, specifically when Johnson and Johnson found asbestos fibers in its baby powder.

Don’t panic!

While you may be reluctant to use beauty products ever again after watching Not So Pretty, there are solutions to these problems. In fact, every episode ends with a five-minute segment about actions consumers can take to protect themselves. Along with highlighting safe brands and ingredients, the show promotes positive beauty habits and apps for establishing healthy routines. In conjunction with advice from stylists, these tips will go a long way towards making the beauty industry safer for everyone.

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