Brand-name designer, celebrity-endorsed personal care products are no better, no safer than any other.
Touting natural ingredients and free of harmful sulfates, Wen hair care products come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
But if you use their products, your hair may start falling out well before that.
Wen & Hair Loss
Ten-year-old Eliana from Denver had beautiful red hair—she starred in her school’s production of “Annie”. She began using Wen by Chaz Dean’s Cleansing Conditioner and after three uses, she began to lose clumps of hair.
The first time her mother combed through her hair after using Wen, a third of it came out. After three weeks, Eliana was almost bald.
“I was a little scared. I was scared that I had cancer or something.” (1)
They attributed the hair loss to the only change in Eliana’s life—her hair product.
Upon investigation, Eliana’s mother Miriam found that almost one hundred thirty complaints had been filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against Wen hair care products. In addition, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Guthy-Renker, the company that makes the products, and Chaz Dean, their creator.
The products have caused not only hair loss but hair breakage and rashes and sores on the scalp and neck. Many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have experienced long-term hair loss that may turn out to be permanent.
Guthy-Renker released a statement in response to the lawsuit:
“With well over 10 million WEN products shipped since 2008, our customers’ overwhelmingly positive response to WEN is a testament to the benefits it can deliver for its users. These benefits are reflected in consistently high rankings from independent consumer product sites as well. There is no scientific evidence to support any claim that out 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)
You’d think the company would pay attention to so many complaints.
Lack of Accountability
This lawsuit, FDA complaints, and media coverage have sparked the attention of Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey. He has contacted the FDA and the Wen CEO for more information after learning that over twenty-one thousand Wen customers filed complaints against the company, who have thus far taken no action whatsoever.
An issue of concern that has become apparent as a result of these complaints is that neither the FDA nor any other government agency has any jurisdiction or oversight into the ingredients used in personal care products. In an age when the government seems to be involved in every aspect of our lives, the fact that no one can even ask a question or has any authority over what is used on our skin (the body’s largest organ) is startling.
In a press release, Rep. Pallone stated:
“Consumers deserve to know that they are making safe choices when they purchase cosmetics. Unfortunately, since popular cosmetics and personal care products are largely unregulated before they reach the marketplace, these products can contain harmful chemicals that have the potential to put consumers at risk. We must reform our nation’s outdated cosmetics law and ensure that FDA has the resources necessary to review the chemicals used in household products when they are sold to consumers.” (3)
Regulatory No-man’s Land
Under current law, the FDA can only take action against a company if there is evidence that a product has been intentionally mislabelled or contaminated. Other than that, the government has no recourse. The FDA has issued a warning against Wen products and that’s the most it can do.
The FDA has issued a warning against Wen products and that’s the most it can do.
“While the FDA continues its investigation, consumers should be aware of reactions reported in association with the use of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products. Consumers who experience a reaction after using WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products should stop using the product and consult with their dermatologist or other health care provider. The agency also urges consumers to report to FDA any reactions they may have experienced when using these products. The FDA has not yet determined a possible cause for the adverse events that have been reported, and will provide additional updates as new information becomes available.” (4)
A Bill has been introduced in Congress to amend the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ensure the safety of cosmetics. The Bill, if passed, would bestow authority to the FDA over the regulation of personal care products in the U.S. The Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors association—of which Guthy-Renker and Mary Kay are members—is lobbying to block the Bill.
Why Wen Is So Bad
Wen Cleansing Conditioner is a leave-in product, said to replace all separate hair care products: shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner, and detangler—all in one. It is thought that it causes hair loss by clogging hair follicles, cutting off blood and moisture supply at the scalp.
Its ingredients include cetyl and cetearyl alcohols, which have been found to be potentially irritating and slightly toxic (5). Of more concern is hydroxycitronella—a common substance used for fragrance in personal care products that have been restricted in the European Union because it’s known to be an allergen and safe levels are difficult to determine (6).
It can cause dermatitis and the allergic reaction engages the immune system, causing a range of responses:
“The body’s immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE – an antibody) and histamine in response to contact with the allergen. The specific symptoms that can result can vary considerably amongst patients from a severe anaphylactic reaction to asthma, abdominal symptoms, eczema or headaches.” (7, 8)
In a 3-week user perception study of Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner, up to:
100% said hair was more moisturized*
97% noticed that WEN® added more shine*
95% reported that hair became more manageable*
*Results not typical.