Like most products, celebrity stylist Chaz Dean’s WEN hair care line has mixed reviews. Some women love them, while others contend they make their locks look like they’d been washed with a pork chop. Others say something in the formula caused massive hair loss.
And 200 of those unhappy customers have joined forces in a huge lawsuit against the makers of WEN, including Dean and the company that markets his line, Guthy-Renker, the New York Daily News.
These women claim that WEN caused scalp and possibly permanent hair damage, breakage, rash, and hair loss so bad it resulted in bald spots, the class action suit filed in California court alleges, according to the Daily Beast.
Amy Friedman, a nurse practitioner, used the Sweet Almond Mint basic kit last year and lost “substantial and abnormal amounts” within two weeks and continued for three weeks after she stopped. When it was over, she claims it destroyed a third of her mane. Another woman claims that “my scalp and face broke out in boils and my hair fell out in chunks. This shampoo destroyed my life.”
The lawsuit alleges that these complaints — which have been plentiful online for years — are only a handful of the “thousands or tens of thousands” of people who’ve suffered the same.
WEN is a staple of late night infomercials that have featured Alyssa Milano and Brooke Shields. The company’s claim to fame is Dean’s insistence that his products are sulfate free and “gentle enough to use every day”; his salon espouses a holistic and organic philosophy. The stylist claims to have created the formula by cooking up ingredients in his sink.
When Alanis Morrissette’s tresses were cleansed with his Sweet Almond Mint cleansing conditioner back in 1999, his star had officially risen. Chaz is now famous, and Guthy Renker made $100 million off him in its second year.
The ingredients on the bottle don’t sound particularly caustic: water, glycerin, cetyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol, which can be drying. Another ingredient, called hydroxycitronella, is banned in Europe because it’s considered toxic to the immune system. But the line is sold worldwide, and there are many formulas and imitations.
And the lawsuit claims that customers get different formulas depending on where they’re purchased. Officially, one can find buy them through www.chazdean.com, Guthy-Renker, Sephora, and QVC. Guthy-Renker’s version is different than Chaz’s and QVC, but the stylist has insisted that the “quality and philosophy” and “product performance” is the same.
First, the lawsuit alleges that the company didn’t tell customers about the risks, and removed negative reviews online (like the one from a woman who said WEN “made it look like I combed it out with a pork chop”), and blocked or deleted Facebook book comments about hair loss.
But so far, no one knows what is that could be causing this. The lawsuit claims that the products contain an ingredient that causes a chemical reaction, which then damages strands and follicles. The lawsuit also states that the formula contains “numerous harsh chemicals and known human allergens.”
But a stylist in New York names Kesley Smart thinks the horrifying loss may affect women whose tresses are too fine for the product. These women need clean scalps — and sulfates are helpful in that regard — because if product builds up, it can cause breakage. WEN may only work for women with coarse or frizzy strands.
The woman who is representing the hair loss victims, Amy Davis, said her firm has hired chemists to solve the mystery, which may never be revealed since the case is now going into mediation.
“What we understand about the product and how it causes hair loss is it contains virtually no cleanser. It’s like using lotion to wash, so instead of removing the product, when you rinse it off, it just becomes impacted in (the) follicle.”
[Photo by Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock]