More than 21,000 consumers have lodged complaints about WEN Cleansing Conditioners, a line of hair-care products heavily advertised on television. Many of the complaints cite significant problems such as hair loss and serious skin irritation. But despite this flood of complaints…an alert issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…and at least one class-action lawsuit, the products remain on the market. It’s not clear which ingredients in the WEN conditioners may be causing the problems—which contributes to the FDA’s inability to address the issue more strongly.
Hair-care and other personal-care products including cosmetics, toothpaste, mouthwash, baby wipes, baby powder, shaving cream and body wash are virtually unregulated by the government. The FDA has no authority to recall these items, and manufacturers are not required to confirm that the products are safe to use. Legislation that would increase FDA oversight of personal-care products is being considered by the Senate. But any changes are unlikely to take effect for many months.
What to do: Never assume that a product is safe because its packaging or advertising features words such as “Natural,” “Healthy” or “Gentle.” The use of these words is unregulated when it comes to personal-care products, so they often mean little or nothing. Example: The makers of WEN Cleansing Conditioners have used the word “Natural” in their marketing materials even though these products contain synthetic chemicals—including at least one known to cause allergic reactions.