You’ve probably all seen those late-night TV commercials for Wen® hair care products.
If you’re tempted to buy, don’t.
Unless you want your hair to fall out.
Julie Edgar reports for WebMD, Sept. 26, 2016:
Krista Calderon first bought Wen hair products more than a year ago, believing that using something billed as “natural” would be better for her hair.
At first, she noticed that her eyebrows lost their shape and figured that the person who waxed them had messed up. Then she noticed that her leg hair was patchy. Five months into using two of Wen’s cleansing conditioners, she called the company to ask why she seemed to be losing hair. She was told she wasn’t using the products properly.
By December — 8 months after she started using them — she saw that the part in her hair was widening. Around the same time, Calderon read an article on her Facebook page about complaints against Wen and “put two and two together,” she says.
The experience left her with crippling anxiety.
“I didn’t want to go out from January 2016 until recently. I really became a recluse,” says Calderon, 26, who lives in Southern California. She estimates that from April to December 2015, she spent $300 on the Wen products, which are often advertised in late-night infomercials and in online ads. The cleansing conditioners sell for about $25 and up. She’s since thrown them out, slowly regaining her emotional footing along with her hair.
Calderon is among tens of thousands of Wen users who had a similar experience. The company, based in Santa Monica, CA, has received more than 21,000 complaints about the products, but denies they are the cause of the hair loss, breakage, and scalp irritation described by users. The company has proposed paying $26.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit against it, which would pay out about $25 apiece to most of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit also requires the company to include a caution on the label.
Meanwhile, however, Wen continues selling the conditioner and its other products, because of a lack of federal oversight of the $62 billion cosmetics industry.
The FDA doesn’t have the authority to recall the products on its own or to test a product for safety until someone complains. In the case of Wen® cleansing conditioners, although the FDA received 127 complaints in 2014 — the highest it had ever received about a hair cleaning product — the federal agency could only send a warning letter to the company, and issue a consumer alert about the cleansing conditioners. Should the FDA’s investigation find that something in Wen® products caused the reaction, the most the agency can do is ask the company to voluntarily pull the products from shelves.
Lawmakers have introduced two bills pushing for more regulation of cosmetics:
- The Safe Cosmetics Modernization Act, introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX); and
- The Personal Care Products Safety Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
Both bills would require companies to register with the FDA, submit product ingredient lists, notify the FDA of any reports of serious side effects, and authorize the FDA to prohibit the sale of products that have been found to cause serious health risks. The Feinstein-Collins bill would also require larger cosmetics manufacturers to pay a fee based on annual revenues.
The Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), a lobbyist for the cosmetics industry that represents companies like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, has announced its support of the proposal, along with the Environmental Working Group and a handful of medical associations.
Ingredients such as formaldehyde, diazolidinyl urea, lead acetate, quaternium-15, and propyl paraben are preservatives and antimicrobials found in products ranging from shaving cream to moisturizers.
There is evidence that formaldehyde may raise the chance of getting cancer. North Carolina State University biology professor Heather Patisaul warns that parabens are endocrine-disrupting and can affect reproduction and organ development. She is a spokeswoman for the 18,000-member Endocrine Society, which supports the Feinstein-Collins bill.
Here’s the fraudster Chaz Dean hawking his Wen® hair care products: