Chaz Dean’s Wen Hair Care and marketer Guthy-Renker came under fire last December when hundreds of people joined the class action suit claiming its popular sulfate-free cleansing conditioner caused severe hair loss and scalp irritation. At the time, the brand released a statement denying the allegations that its products caused these injuries. But now, a preliminary ruling by a Southern California federal judge just approved the $26.25 million settlement agreement between the parties. (The case will be reviewed by a U.S. District Court Judge before a final ruling on the settlement is reached.) That means nearly six million people could get up to a $20,000 settlement. Not great news for the haircare brand, but it is a positive step forward for those affected.
Wen responded with a statement explaining that they’re continuing to sell the conditioner. “Wen by Chaz Dean is safe and we continue to provide our hundreds of thousands of customers with the Wen by Chaz Dean products that they know and love. Since the process of litigation is time consuming and costly, we made a business decision to pursue a settlement and put this behind us so that we can focus on delivering quality products.”
In the lawsuit, photos were submitted of damage consumers claim they suffered after using WEN Hair Care products.
Also provided in the lawsuit were online reviews revealing that user complaints started way back in 2012. People wrote that they started seeing hair loss after one week of use; one user claimed to suffer sores on her scalp which eventually lead to her hair falling out. And another reported that even after she stopped using the products her “hair [is] still not quite right.”
Others went on social media with their complaints:
“From what we understand about the product and how it causes hair loss is it contains virtually no cleanser,” attorney Amy Davis told CBS Los Angeles when the initial lawsuit was filed. “It’s like using lotion to wash your hair. So instead of removing the product when you rinse it off, it just becomes impacted in your hair follicle.”
Last year PeopleStyle spoke with Dr. Nicole Rogers, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine, who has no commercial affiliation with Wen Hair Care. She didn’t think 200 people was a large enough sample to merit the class action lawsuit: “I really think what they’re going to find is just a vast majority of these are coincidence and mainly caused by hair loss that’s unrelated to the product,” she said.
When she examined the photos used in the lawsuit she also didn’t see a connection to Wen. “There were pictures of women who have typical female pattern hair loss. There were also pictures of people with alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune form of hair loss.”
In July the FDA launched an investigation into the cleansing conditioner after getting 127 separate consumer complaints, which was the largest number of reports “ever associated with a cosmetic hair cleansing product,” according to the FDA’s report.
The brand issued a statement to CBS News that it was cooperating with the FDA. “We have shared our formulations and ingredients with the FDA,” the brand said. “We … exceed the FDA’s requirements for cosmetic manufacturers and have always been transparent.”
The FDA disagreed, telling the news outlet that Wen “did not address safety concerns related to hair loss. We do not know if the company has other safety data, and we do not have the legal authority to require a cosmetics firm to provide product safety information.”
Stay tuned for more updates.
What do you think of the images of consumers’ hair loss?