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Posted on: February 1, 2018 at 4:28 pm
Last updated: May 1, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Everyone – especially women – has their favorite hair shampoo and conditioner combo. For some people, that favorite is celebrity stylist Chaz Dean’s WEN hair care products. At least that was the case up until a class action lawsuit over thousands of complaints of hair loss and skin rashes was launched against WEN Hair Care – one that led to a $26,500,000 settlement.

Why WEN Hair Care Products Came Under Fire

Dating as far back as 2011, complaints about Chaz Dean’s hair products started flooding in on social media outlets such as Twitter. Instead of the celebrity-endorsed red carpet-ready hair that WEN customers expected, all they got was hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching, and rashes.[1]

The specific hair care products believed to cause these adverse effects is WEN’s supposed sulfate-free, 5-in-1 Cleansing Conditioners. While other WEN hair products may have been involved, the three most reported cleansing conditioners have been:[1]

  • Sweet Almond Mint (5,689 complaints)
  • Lavender (2,537 complaints)
  • Pomegranate (1,542 complaints)

In addition to damaging hair and causing scalp injuries, plaintiffs also claimed that WEN failed to provide its customers with sufficient warnings of the risks and dangers. What’s worse? Instead of addressing them, WEN’s team went so far as to delete negative reviews on social media.[2]

WEN Hair Care Products User Complaints

These are just a tiny fraction!…[2,3]

“[My] hair was healthy, not it’s like straw and brittle.”

“Almost immediately after using the product I noticed huge amounts of hair caught in the drain”

“Thank you WEN… for making my hair fall out.”

“Dramatic hair loss: Is it WEN shampoo?”

“Her hair literally just slipped right off her head,” wrote the mother of a 10-year old girl who had used WEN Cleansing Conditioner.

“I have now lost 50 percent (of my hair) since using WEN,” wrote “Kim” from Lubbock, Texas on October 10, 2015. “I’m down to washing my hair just once every two weeks because washing it makes the hair loss worse.”

“We both (HAD!!) thick hair, well, not anymore. It’s half the thickness it was. Two months is all it took to lose half of the thickness in our hair….not to mention how it burned our scalps and eyes,” wrote “Roni” from Mead, Wash., on September 24, describing injuries to herself and her mother.

wen hair care products hair loss

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However, in a statement to People, WEN and Chaz Dean refute all allegations claiming, “There is no scientific evidence to support any claim that our hair care products caused anyone to lose their hair. There are many reasons why individuals may lose their hair, all unrelated to WEN. We intend to vigorously contest the allegations made.”[2]

FDA’s Public Warning About WEN Hair Products

The involvement of the FDA was not immediate because “the law does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information, including consumer complaints, with the FDA, nor does the law require mandatory reporting of adverse events to the FDA.”[1]

But as of November 15, 2016, consumers had filed 1,386 complaints to the FDA – that was the highest number of complaints ever made regarding a hair care product. This urged the administration to pursue an investigation into Chaz Dean, Inc. and Guthy Renker, LLC wherein they discovered 21,000 more complaints consumers had made directly to those other parties.[1,4]

Because of current laws and legal reasons, the government is not able to do much. Unlike pharmaceutical companies, cosmetic ones (as mentioned earlier) are not required to notify the government of any adverse effects – even if someone dies.

That’s why the FDA issued a public warning, urging consumers to stop using the product as well as doctors and other healthcare providers to make their patients aware of potential reactions.[5] And, of course, to report any cosmetic complaints to the FDA.

According to the official WEN Hair Care settlement website, after over 200 customers spanning 40 states joined the class action lawsuit, all appeals were finally filed in September 2017. In fact, between January 12, 2018 and March 2018, people affected by WEN will be receiving their settlement payments.[6][7]

The U.S. Needs to Crack Down on the Monitoring of Personal Products

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Unfortunately, the FDA is well aware of their limitations: “We do not have the legal authority to require a cosmetics firm to provide product safety information.”[8]

As reported by The Guardian, “There currently is no independent testing of ingredients in beauty products. However, if a particular cosmetic product is causing serious health issues, the FDA will step in with a consumer warning, as was the case with WEN.”[9]

Literally everyone uses some kind of hair care products. So, you would think that the government would be more willing to address cosmetic issues such as:

  • Sudden hair loss
  • Rashes
  • Balding
  • Hair breakage

Not to mention the long-term health concerns that include:

  • Potential carcinogens (e.g., cocamide diethanolamine)[10]
  • Endocrine disruptors (e.g., phthalates in fragrances and cancer-linked parabens)[11, 12]
  • Developmental problems (e.g., polyethylene glycol a ‘developmental toxin’)[12]

Instead, it is up to consumers – all of us – to be our own best advocates and fight for those who suffer at the hands of companies who value profits over people.

You Know What Needs to Be Done

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“Fighting the man” might not be everybody’s cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions that directly and positively impact your life and the lives of those around you.

  1. Stick to natural hygiene products
  2. Avoid fragrance-based, cancer-linked deodorants and use this natural one instead
  3. Use natural ingredients such as coconut oil for your hair – we recommend this coconut oil by Nutiva
  4. Prevent hair loss and dandruff with apple cider vinegar
  5. 9 science-backed foods that help prevent hair loss and baldness
  6. This amazing oil prevents hair loss and promotes eyebrow hair growth
  7. If you’re over 35, these 4 methods help prevent hair loss

 

[1] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Products – FDA Information for Consumers About WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm511631.htm

[2] Hundreds Sue Chaz Dean’s WEN Hair Care, Claiming Severe Hair Loss (Update: the FDA Will Now Investigate). (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from http://people.com/style/chaz-dean-wen-hair-care-sued-for-severe-hair-loss/

[3] E. (n.d.). Wen Hair Care Products Linked to Hair Loss. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/12/wen-hair-care-products-linked-hair-loss#.WnNjLainHIU

[4] Lipton, E., & Abrams, R. (2016, August 15). Their Hair Fell Out. Should the F.D.A. Have the Power to Act? Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/us/politics/cosmetics-industry-congress-regulation-wen.html?_r=0

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[5] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Products – Statement on FDA Investigation of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm511626.htm

[6] Benson, L. (2016, July 26). FDA issues warning about WEN Cleansing Conditioners. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.kshb.com/money/consumer/fda-issued-warning-about-wen-cleansing-conditioners

[7] Welcome to the WEN® Hair Care Class Action | Official Settlement WebSite. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.wenclasssettlement.com/

[8] Duncan, J. (2016, August 18). FDA issues safety alert for popular hair care product over hair loss complaints. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fda-issues-safety-alert-for-popular-hair-care-product-over-hair-loss-complaints/

[9] Oksman, O. (2016, August 22). Wen Hair Care baldness suit signals need for toxin testing in beauty products. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/22/wen-hair-care-baldness-toxins-personal-care-fda-regulation

[10] Illegal Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found in Nearly 100 Well-Known Shampoo Brands. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://inhabitat.com/illegal-cancer-causing-chemicals-found-in-nearly-100-well-known-shampoo-brands/

[11] Endocrine Disruptors in Shampoos. (2016, February 16). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from http://protectourbreasts.org/2013/07/23/568/

[12] 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Your Hair Products | Care2 Healthy Living. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-ingredients-to-avoid-in-your-hair-products.html

Image Sources:

Hair loss images provided by the lawsuit against WEN – Murphy Rosen LLP

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