Maybe you’ve been sucked into the oddly hypnotizing infomercials featuring Alyssa Milano. Maybe you have a friend who swears by it, or you’ve even given it a try yourself. Either way, chances are you’ve heard of Wen, the cleansing conditioner developed by celebrity hairstylist Chaz Dean. It’s the most recognizable brand name of the “no-poo” movement, where you cleanse your hair by means other than traditional foamy shampoos, purportedly to make it healthier and shinier over time.
Well, everyone’s favorite infomercial hair care brand is now facing a new class-action lawsuit brought forward by customers who say the products cause hair loss and scalp damage, among other issues. But before the Wen lovers among you freak out and recycle all those lovely brown-glass pump bottles, let’s take stock of what’s known so far:
1. More than 200 women from 40 states are involved in the class-action lawsuit, which has been filed in California Federal Court against Wen by Chaz Dean and infomercial powerhouse Guthy-Renker. According to in-depth coverage in The Daily Beastyesterday, the women claim “Wen products can cause severe and possibly permanent damage to hair, including significant hair loss to the point of visible bald spots, hair breakage, scalp irritation, and rash.”
2. These claims aren’t new. Similar-but-smaller suits were filed in 2014 and last April, per our quick Googling of the matter. (It’s unclear exactly how they were resolved.) And Wen-related hair loss complaints on consumer websites date back at least five years. More recently, complaints have been taken to Facebook and Twitter, and they also pop up in product reviews on sites like Sephora.com and Amazon. That said, Wen still gets overwhelmingly positive reviews; this Lavender Cleansing Conditioner, for example, currently has 877 Amazon reviews, 68 percent of which are four or five stars.
3. According to Snopes, in which we place probably irrational levels of trust: “no substantive evidence has yet been produced demonstrating that the Wen line of hair products is any more damaging than other similar products. Moreover, the manner in which Wen hair care products purportedly caused the damage in question has not been explained.”
4. As the The Daily Beast article notes, this might be a tough case to crack since there are so many potential reasons for hair loss.
UPDATE: We received the following statement from Wen: “There is no scientific evidence to support any claim that our hair care products caused anyone to lose their hair. There are many reasons why individuals may lose their hair, all unrelated to Wen. We intend to vigorously contest the allegations made. We take great pride in the quality of our products and believe every product meets our high standards. We want all of our customers to have positive experiences with our products, and we encourage any customer with any questions to contact us.”
We’ll wait and see what happens with the lawsuit before we make any kind of judgment either way. In the meantime, we’re curious: How many of you have tried Wen? What was your experience like overall? Let us know in the comments below!
UPDATE March 10, 2016: There’s been a surprising twist in the case—the government is now involved. Get the latest happenings on it, right here.
UPDATE July 22, 2016: And we have even more news: The FDA is now officially involved in the case. Read the full update here.