Here’s how: Researchers at Northwestern University published their findings recently in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal detailing exactly how cosmetics can go rogue. They reported that WEN by Chaz Dean hair care products were found to be highly problematic, yet the Federal Government was helpless to act. It claims that in 2014, the FDA began investigating WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners after directly receiving 127 consumer reports. The FDA later learned the manufacturer had already received 21 000 complaints of alopecia and scalp irritation. It references a 2016 investigation initiated by the Federal Drug Administration into reports of hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching, and rash reported to be associated with the use of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products. The report was updated in May 2017 which urges consumers to report any adverse reactions caused by WEN by Chaz Dean hair products. With varieties like sweet almond-mint and lavender, the WEN products are touted as being free of harsh chemicals. Yet, it reportedly made people’s hair fall out; in one case, a 9-year-old girl in Denver, Colorado lost all her hair after three washes with the conditioner in 2014.
Remarkably, despite this hair raising report, WEN products are still being sold, albeit primarily on eBay. That’s because the The FDA doesn’t have the power to require companies to disclose their full ingredient list, report complaints, or safety-test products before they go to market. Under current U.S. law, the cosmetics industry is largely self-regulated. The FDA can’t even force a company to recall a product if problems are found. WEN didn’t actually have to prove that its product was safe for human use before marketing it as natural and gentle. And when their cleansing conditioner didn’t so much cleanse hair as it did remove it, they weren’t required to report that to anyone. (Editor’s note: the US bans or restricts 11 ingredients from cosmetics, in stark contrast to Canada, which bans 587. According to Quartz Media, the European Union, which requires pre-market safety testing, bans 1,328.)
The FDA does have the power to report on problematic cosmetics, but not much else. And Congress has repeatedly resisted efforts by consumer groups to give the FDA more enforcement power. Under the Obama Administration, the FDA began putting complaints it’s received from the public about cosmetics on a website anyone can access. Those online reports revealed that when it came to the severity of complaints, the products most associated with “serious” health effects (defined by the researchers as “serious injury, disability, congenital anomaly, or death”) were baby products like baby shampoos and lotions. Just over half of all baby product complaints were classified as “serious.”
As we note above, WEN cleansing conditioners still remain on the market, and a spokesperson for Guthy-Renker, the distributor of WEN, is reported to have claimed that “there is no credible evidence to support the false and misleading claim that WEN products cause hair loss.” This assertion flies in the face of the 21,000 complaints received by the hair care maker. If you have a bad experience with WEN, we urge that you file an “adverse event” with the FDA at this website. If nothing else, it’ll get the word out about a hair care product gone rogue.