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FDA Investigating Hair Care Products Linked to Balding But Can't Stop Sales

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The federal Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert last week that some 21,000 people have now lodged complaints with the manufacturers of WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner products, saying that they suffered bad reactions, including hair loss, hair breakage, itching and rashes. Many who lost hair said it was not growing back.

We first reported last December that more than 17,000 WEN users had complained to the manufacturer about losing some or all of their hair after using the products.

Though touted as a natural, less harsh alternative to traditional shampoos, the product formulations actually contain a slew of synthetic chemicals, including common allergens. Consumers began complaining to Guthy-Renker, LLC, one of the the products’ distributors, as early as 2008. No one knows what may be causing the problem.

You might be asking yourself, if 21,000 people have complained to Guthy-Renker about the same problem over the course of several years, why is the FDA only saying something to the public about it now?

Companies don't have to share reports of suspected adverse reactions to their products or other safety data with the FDA, and most consumers don’t know to share this information directly with the agency. While Guthy-Renker received thousands of complaints, the agency received merely 127 reports from consumers.

As EWG reported, although Guthy-Renker commissioned at least 13 safety studies into its WEN line, the company continues to withhold nine of these studies from the FDA. The FDA’s investigation into whether WEN may be causing these reactions is therefore hamstrung. The agency itself admits, “even with what we know so far about this product, including the adverse events, we are unable to determine that the product does not comply with the law.”

It appears the FDA is relatively powerless to protect consumers, but Congress can and should do something about it. The Personal Care Products Safety Act, introduced last year by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would reform the law that governs personal care products like WEN.

If enacted, companies would be required to tell the FDA about reported adverse reactions such as balding, and the agency could compel them to hand over safety studies. The FDA would finally be given the power to recall dangerous products, and would have the funding and authority to investigate concerning ingredients.

In the meantime, if you've experienced hair loss or other adverse health effects that you suspect may be linked to use of WEN hair care products, please share your story with the FDA.


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