Since at least as far back as 2010, consumers have been claiming that use of hairstylist Chaz Dean’s WEN brand of hair care products (primarily WEN Cleansing Conditioner) has caused them to lose their hair at what they described as unusual and alarming rates. As of the end of 2015, 200 women in forty different states had opted to take part in a class action lawsuit against the company,

On 19 July 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a notice stating that they were investigating “Adverse Event Reports” of “hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching, and rash associated with the use of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products.”

The FDA stated that WEN products had triggered “the largest number of reports ever associated with any cosmetic hair cleansing product” (127), and that the company itself had fielded some 21,000 complaints from consumers:

As of July 7, 2016, the FDA had received 127 adverse event reports directly from consumers about WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products, the largest number of reports ever associated with any cosmetic hair cleansing product, including cleansing conditioners. FDA is also investigating more than 21,000 complaints reported directly to Chaz Dean, Inc. and Guthy Renker, LLC that FDA learned of during inspections of manufacturing and distribution facilities.

The FDA has not yet determined a possible cause for the adverse events that have been reported, and today has called on the company to “provide any data that might help us to better understand the reports of hair loss associated with the use of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products.” The FDA also has reached out to physicians and other health care providers asking them to notify their patients of hair loss and other complaints associated with the use of these products and to report adverse events to the agency.

A separate FDA informational release noted that the agency does not have enough information to determine what, if anything, about WEN hair care products has produced the reported symptoms:

Q: What kinds of reactions have people reported to the FDA?

A: People have primarily reported hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching, and rash.

Q: Have these reports named specific varieties?

A: The reports all mention use of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners, although some also mention using them along with other WEN products.

The product line includes several varieties of cleansing conditioners. Guthy Renker stated that since 2011, at least 66 percent of all reports specifically about hair loss have named the Sweet Almond Mint variety. The following varieties were named most often in reported reactions:

Sweet Almond Mint- 5,689 complaints
Lavender- 2,537 complaints
Pomegranate – 1,542 complaints

Q: Does the FDA know what caused the reactions?

A: No. We don’t have enough information to determine the cause of these reactions. As stated above, the law does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety data or consumer complaints with the FDA. The complaints that have come directly to the FDA have not provided enough information to determine why some consumers experienced reactions when they used these products.

WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners has repeatedly asserted there is “no scientific evidence to support any claim that our hair care products caused anyone to lose their hair”:

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.”

WEN hair care products have not been subject to any recall action and are still widely available.