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Wen Hair Care Side Effects – FDA Investigation & Lawsuit

Wen Hair Care was created by celebrity hairstylist, Chaz Dean.  He developed his line of hair products in his Los Angeles hair salon, Chaz Dean Studio in the late 1990s.  His products have been promoted by high-profile celebrities and featured on QVC.   The FDA began investigating Chaz Dean’s Wen Cleansing Conditioner in 2016 after a number of complaints prompted the filing of a class-action lawsuit.

About Wen Hair Products

Wen Hair Care is a beauty and body products company based in Los Angeles, California.  The company was started by Chaz Dean at his LA hair salon and has been promoted by celebrities including Alyssa Milano and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Wen has been featured on QVC and marketed by auto-ship giant, Guthy-Renker.

The foundation product of the hair care line is Wen Cleansing Condition which is said to be a “5-in-1 formula” to replace shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler, and leave-in conditioner.  Other products the company has produced include:

  • Nourishing Mousse
  • Anti-Frizz Styling Creme
  • Re Moist Intensive Hair Treatment
  • Replenishing Treatment Mist
  • Volumizing Treatment Spray
  • Texturizing Treatment Spray
  • Restorative Styling Creme
  • Restorative Styling Oil
  • Texture Balm

Wen products come in a variety of fragrances with some products advertised as “soy-based” or “rice-based” formulas.  Wen also sells children’s products, skin care products, and scented products.

Wen’s main selling point is that they do not use “sulfates”, which are found in many shampoos, soaps, and hair products.  Sulfates are a type of detergent which are used to increase lather production, but which may remove natural oils in the process of shampooing hair.  Instead, Wen Cleansing Conditioner claims to cleanse the hair without detergent using “natural” botanicals and conditioners.

Use of Wen Hair Care

Wen Cleansing Conditions is sold as a cleaning, conditioning and styling product which is said to be good for all hair types and textures.  The company’s website claims it is suitable for African-American hair and is gentle enough to be used on children’s hair.

Wen states that the product can be used daily as a cleanser, applied with a small amount of water, then rinsed freely and repeated.  Users are advised to apply an additional small amount to the ends of hair to be left in as a “leave in” conditioner.  For those that require “between shampoo” treatments, Wen recommends its Replenishing Mist Spritzer.

Wen Hair Care User Concerns

As far back as 2010, users have reported adverse effects from use of Wen Cleansing Conditioner.  Complaints have included hair loss, bald patches, hair breakage, and discoloration.  Adverse reactions have also included itching, skin rash, and eye irritation.  In some cases, users have claimed adverse reactions and events after three or fewer uses.  Others have occurred over a longer period of time.

Wen Hair Care Regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates cosmetic products including shampoos and other hair treatments through the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act.  The FD&C Act regulates manufacturing and states only that ingredients must be safe for human use and that products must be free of contamination but does not guarantee the effectiveness of cosmetic products.

The FDA does not require product testing once products are formulated.  Labeling requirements are specified and no health, medical or claims of disease treatment or cure can be made on labeling or in promotional materials but cosmetic claims such as “improves”, “softens” or other cosmetic statements related to appearance are generally allowed.  No testing regarding effectiveness is required and the agency does not “approve” cosmetic products but may remove them from the market if they are found to be unsafe or harmful.

Wen Hair Care FDA Investigation

Though consumers began making complaints to the Wen company several years before, by mid-2014, at least 127 reports had been filed with the FDA.  This number of reports allowed and prompted the FDA to open an investigation into the Wen company and Chaz Dean, Inc. and its manufacturing and distribution facilities and to the parent company, Guthy-Renker.

As of November 2016, the FDA had collected 1,386 consumer reports and examined over 21,000 reports received by Wen that were discovered during manufacturing and facility inspections.  A “Dear Doctor letter” and a consumer notice have been posted by the FDA to notify the public of potential concerns regarding hair loss and skin reactions.  Consumers have been asked to report adverse events directly to the FDA.

Wen Class Action Lawsuits

A class action lawsuit was filed against Wen Hair Care in December of 2015.  Claimants stated that use of Wen sulfate-free hair products, namely the Wen Cleansing Conditioner, had resulted in partial or complete hair loss.  Claimants alleged that the company and distributer were aware of potential side effects but failed to notify purchasers and continued to market and sell the products anyway.

Initially, Wen denied any responsibility and stated that “no connection had been found” between the use of Wen Hair Care products and hair loss or breakage but parent company, Guthy-Renker agreed to settle the lawsuit in mid-2016.

In October of 2016, a $26 million settlement was approved which would pay some consumers up to $20,000 for damage caused by Wen Hair Care products, depending on certain factors such as number and type of products and appropriate documentation of adverse reactions.  Eligible claimants included consumers who purchased Wen products between November 1, 2007, and September 19, 2016, including:

  • Cleansing Conditioner
  • Re-Moist Mask
  • Treatment Mist Duo
  • Treatment Oil
  • SIXTHIRTEEN Ultra Nourishing Cleansing Treatment
  • Re-Moist Intensive Hair Treatment
  • Styling Crème
  • Anti-Frizz Styling Crème
  • Nourishing Mousse
  • Volumizing Treatment Spray
  • Replenishing Treatment Mist
  • Defining Paste
  • Straightening Smoothing Gloss
  • Smoothing Glossing Serum
  • Glossing Shine Serum
  • Finishing Treatment Crème
  • Volumizing Root Lift
  • Texturizing Spray
  • Detangling Treatment Spray
  • Men Control Texture
  • Men Hair and Body Oil
  • Bath Body and Hair Oil
  • Texture Balm

Claims for the Wen Class Action lawsuit were closed in April of 2017 and Tier 1 (no proof required) payments began in January of 2018, followed by Tier 2 (injury documented) payments.

Neither Wen Hair Care nor Guthy-Renker has admitted wrong-doing and Wen has stated that they have begun a clinical trial to prove safety and effectiveness.

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