Ad Alert

Wen Hair Care

FDA opens investigation into consumer complaints that product causes hair loss.


When Wen hair care says to “stop using shampoo” as it does in the above TV commercial for one of its “cleansing conditioner” starter kits, it doesn’t mean stop using all shampoos — though that’s probably the takeaway most viewers get.

No, Wen means stop using “shampoos containing harsh sulfates.” (There are, by the way, many sulfate-free shampoos.) A fine-print disclaimer clarifies this but it’s almost impossible to catch between the video’s quick cuts at the start of the commercial.

We tracked down the commercial and hit pause:

wen anti-shampoo commercial

Disclaimers are by nature less conspicuous than the message advertisers want to impress on consumers. Wen’s message in this commercial is that its so-called “natural” product is better than shampoo, which the company says causes “finer, thinner [and] weaker” hair.

What the company is really selling is a negative-option offer that charges nearly $100 every three months for additional products unless you cancel the program.

But while Wen promotes that its products are worth the cost because they don’t contain harsh sulfates, thousands of consumers have complained that the products are causing all sorts of significant hair problems, prompting a federal probe.

In July 2016, the FDA announced that it was investigating 127 adverse event reports — “the largest number of reports ever associated with any cosmetic hair cleansing product” — it received from consumers who complained that Wen products caused hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching and rash. The agency also said it was looking into more than 21,000 complaints reported directly to the company.

In addition, more than 550 complaints have been filed against the company with the BBB — despite its A-plus rating with the bureau.

Consumers should also know that Wen faces at least two false advertising lawsuits alleging that it knowingly sells a defective product that, among other things, causes “significant hair loss.” For more on the lawsuits click here.

For more of our coverage on hair care products, click here.

This article was updated on 7/20/16.

Our Ad Alerts are not just about false and deceptive marketing issues, but may also be about ads that, although not necessarily deceptive, should be viewed with caution. Ad Alerts can also be about single issues and may not include a comprehensive list of all marketing issues relating to the brand discussed.

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