Does WEN conditioner make your hair fall out? Episode 115

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Update from the Secret Society of Cosmetic Chemists

Perry was in New York for a meeting of the Secret Society of Cosmetic Chemists where he was installed as the organization’s Vice President Elect. He also attended an red-41695_960_720interesting talk about new anti-aging ingredients. The idea was to talk about how happy products make you rather than focusing on how they work or what they do. Another lecturer discussed that just because something is safe to eat doesn’t mean it’s safe for your skin. For example, cinnamon, peppermint, lime…these are all things that can irritate your skin but are perfectly fine to eat.

Finally, the keynote speaker was neuroscientist Dr Helen Fisher who gave an interesting talk. Essentially, she collected data from people at and was able to classify people by their dominant brain chemical system including dopamine, testosterone, estrogen and serotonin. It was like a more science version of the Meyers Briggs study. Seemed sketchy to me but she was able to make predictions of a person’s brain chemistry based on their responses to a questionnaire. And she had like 14 million data points. If you wanted to find out more about how brain science affects your personality you can check out their website

Would you sleep in moisturizing pajamas?


This is kind of a follow up from a story we talked about two episodes ago – remember the anti-aging lingerie? Well here’s another item of cosmetic clothing – a UK company is marketing moisturizing pajamas. These come to us from London based Matrix APA. They make a line of pajamas called Hydra Active.

Just like the lactic acid lingerie we talked about, these pajamas uses micro-encapsulation technology. Specifically they contain aloe vera which “lightly moisturises the skin during sleep.” I know I’m being negative but I see these kinds of products as just a fad. I say that for a couple of reasons.

1. I can’t think of any technical rational that these would work very well. There are basically two ways to moisturize skin: you can add a dose of water from the outside or you can occlude the skin to seal in moisture from the inside. Aloe vera won’t do either of these very well.

2. It’s really hard to deliver ingredients to the skin from clothing. You’ll get over dose at crease points, like armpits and inside of elbows, and an under dose where the fabric loosely comes in contact with you body like on the sides. At BEST it would give some very light effect.

3. No matter how good this is the encapsulation will wear out especially after laundering. Then you’re just left with regular pajamas which are presumably more expensive.

Interestingly, they’re targeting the airline industry because the humidity on a plane drops from “80% to 10 to 20%” during flight. Wow! That sounds REALLY low but I checked it out and that’s true! The reason humidity in planes is so low is because if you just pumped moisture into the cabin it would freeze at high altitudes and then melt during landing which would cause it to rain in the plane! You need a humidifier for the cabin and then a dehumidifier for the fuselage.

Is WEN causing your hair to fall out?


Here’s a recent story that demonstrates one problem with developing novel cosmetic products. Wen hair products are being sued by more than 200 women who claim that Wen hair products has led to significant hair loss, bald patches, hair breakage and rashes.

While the creators of Wen say that their cleansing conditioner product (which based on the ingredient list is merely a rinse-out conditioner) is a gentle replacement for shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner, an attorney in Dallas says different.

This attorney hired a chemist to evaluate the ingredients and “discovered” there are no cleansers in the product. No kidding. They further claim that it is more of a lotion that is blocking hair follicles.

So I took a look at the ingredients. This certainly isn’t like a hand lotion. It is actually a hair conditioner containing ingredients like Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Staramidopropyl Dimethylamine, Amodimethicone, Cetyl & Cetearyl Alcohol. Then it is filled with a bunch of natural extracts which aren’t doing much of anything.

There are no obvious ingredients in the formula that would cause significant hair loss. They do include Menthol in the product which can cause irritation in some people and maybe some of the extracts cause some weird allergic reaction but these are all pretty standard ingredients used in hair care products. I don’t see anything that could cause hair loss. Especially if people are rinsing the product out of their hair.

In researching this story I saw a write-up at the Daily Beast. They were wondering what ingredient could be causing the problem and they listed the first four ingredients. “water, glycerin, cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol” They they said well, alcohol can be drying. Cetyl and Cetearyl alcohol is not the same as ethanol! They are not drying.

I doubt there is anything to this lawsuit but if you were to see the pictures shared on twitter about this product it would certainly be disconcerting.

It does make you wonder what is going on and I have thought of a few possibilities. Any or all of these could be right or wrong.

1. Mistaking correlation and causation. People lose hair for a number of reasons unrelated to the products they use. But it just happens to coincide with whatever product they are using at the moment and they blame the product. That’s why a popular brand like Pantene also gets blamed for hair loss when there’s no evidence that it causes it. This is the most likely reason.

2. Allergic reactions – This product has a long list of natural extracts and oils which are more likely to cause allergic reactions which could be causing some hair loss. This would seem an extreme result and would probably require the consumer to be keeping the product in the hair for a long time. I find this hard to believe but possible.

3. People are just making it up. When a dissatisfied Wen user heard about the hair loss lawsuit they may have convinced themselves that they were losing hair too. I can imagine some people who use Wen hair cleansing conditioner would be unhappy with the way their hair feels. And they’d be really unhappy they spent $30 for a product that leaves their hair feeling bad. This might prompt them to jump on the lawsuit bandwagon.

If the further claims in the suit are to be believed, Wen didn’t do themselves any favor by removing negative comments about their product online. This does tend to make it look like they are trying to be manipulative. Although as a website owner I can understand the reluctance to let people write scathing comments about your product on your own website. This is why people should never take the reviews of products written on company websites too seriously. Look for independent reviews.

Anyway, while this lawsuit has gotten Wen some bad publicity I doubt they will be paying out unless they want to quickly settle it. The ingredients in their formula would not be reasonably expected to cause significant hair loss.

WEN Ingredients

Water, Organic Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Pomegranate Extract, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Chamomile Extract, Marigold Flower Extract, Wild Cherry Fruit Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Cetyl Alcohol, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Sweet Almond Oil, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Menthol, Glycerin, Amodimethicone, Polysorbate-60, Fragrance, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Citric Acid.

Are eye liner patches the next makeup miracle?


Remember a few weeks ago we talked about the spray on nail polish? How it sounded like a simple solution for simple way to quickly apply polish? And it turned out it wasn’t such a simple solution? It’s an eye liner patch from Dior. Instead of just taking out your eyeliner and carefully applying the look that you want now you can pop open a little box of stickers in the color that you choose and just apply it to your eyelid. 
This sounds like another one of those products that are too good to be true. Oh my gosh I don’t have to worry about painting the line on straight or poking myself in the eye or taking too much time to do it I just slap on a sticker and go.
In reality I think this is another gimmick product that will quickly fade away and I say that for several reasons:

1. There are limited color choices. Know how many matter how many stickers they make they still can’t match every shade of liquid eyeliner that’s available so you’re going to have to make some compromises in the colors that you get to use.

2. The cost – it’s $61 for a kit of these things which is quite an investment just to find out whether you like it or not.

3.  A sticker won’t contour to your eye as well as a regular eyeliner that consists of oils and powders.

4. There’s the problem of the sticky stuff on the back of the patch. Adhesives are notoriously difficult to stick on skin unless you’re talking about something that has the adhesive strength of a bandage and I don’t think anybody wants that on their eyelid. That means these patches may become dislodged over the course of the day.

Oh, one more thing. We know that adhesives are some of the most potentially irritating ingredients because of the residual monomers in acrylate type polymers. That is not necessarily the case with this product because we don’t know what type of adhesive they use but it certainly is an additional risk that you don’t have with a conventional eyeliner.

So the bottom line is I’m calling gimmick on this one and I expected to be about around as about as long as spray on nail polish

Clever new cosmetic packaging – changes color and looks like a phallus


Here’s a pretty cool new packaging for a line of skin care products. It’s a light, flesh colored package that turns pink when you touch it. It was designed by Stas Neretin who is a Russian package designer and is used in a brand of products called Naked. The way the package works is that it is covered with a thermochromatic paint. When your warm hands touch the package the paint reacts and changes color. This reminds me of that liquid crystal technology from Hallcrest.  This is pretty cool technology and all but you know I’m certain I had this idea about 15 years ago. I think I even presented in one of those innovation breakfasts. That just goes to show you, ideas aren’t worth anything if you don’t do something about them. We’ll see if this kind of thing ever catches on. It is cool but seems like a novelty that might wear off pretty quickly.

iTunes Reviews

RabikaRen says…I love the discussions on the podcasts AND I also like that its written out and reviewed on their website.

Mar-red from Canada says…If you’re interested in product ingredients, this is the podcast for you. I trust these guys because they’re talking about formulas and efficacy from a scientific perspective, and they aren’t trying to sell me products. In fact, their separation from the marketing/PR world is refreshing. You need to listen to these podcasts.

Nazzy06 says…Great content, source their information well. Just wish they would talk about the products/science a little bit longer (rather than their fake beauty product/how-to-pronounce different products games). What they’re missing is a statement that they don’t accept money/gifts etc. from any beauty companies. I am new to the podcast so I may have missed it but I want to know that there’s no conflict of interest or power of influence.

Is caffeinated toothpaste a good idea?


I don’t get this fascination with putting caffeine in cosmetics. There’s caffeinated shave cream. A couple of years ago we wrote about caffeinated soap. And we did the math to show that you’d have to sit in the shower for about 2 hours for your skin to absorb the same amount of caffeine you’d get from a cup of coffee. But now…there’s a new contender….caffeinated toothpaste!

It’s called Power Toothpaste and it’s said to be the world’s first caffeinated oral care product. You can read all about it in the link but one of my favorite parts of the article is where Dan Meropol said ““At Power Toothpaste we believe a big part of this is that oral care hasn’t been exciting for decades, and the products that Big Toothpaste is offering just aren’t good enough.” I just love that he used the phrase “Big Toothpaste.”

Anyway, Dan goes on to say that…”The products are boring. They aren’t cool. But Power Toothpaste is about to change that. With Power Toothpaste, you get a rush while you brush.”

So is that true? Can you get a caffeine buzz from brushing your teeth? To find out…we’ll have to do some MATH! We’ll be a little fast and loose but close enough so you get the idea. First of all, an 8 oz cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. I don’t know anyone who drinks just 8 ounces so your typical caffeine jolt is probably in the range of 150 to 200 mg.

We also know that when you brush your teeth you use a pea sized amount, or a little bigger, which is about 1/20 of an oz or approx 1.5 grams. Let’s just call it 2 grams. Therefore to get toothpaste that would provide a coffee-level of caffeine would require about 10%. Now since this will be absorbed through your oral mucosa vs your digestive tract, maybe it could be a little less. I’m not sure. But anything in the 5 to 10% range would give the toothpaste a very bitter flavor. But it’s certainly possible.

I think the real hurdle here, however, is the exposure time. How much of that caffeine will be absorbed into your blood while you brush your teeth?

We know that you’re SUPPOSED to brush your teeth for 2 minutes. I don’t know how many people adhere to that – I know I brush mine for about…8 seconds.
But let’s say you’re dedicated and you do brush for a couple of minutes – is that long enough for caffeine to be absorbed through the lining of your mouth?

I had to do some digging to get that answer. By the way, just in case you think this job is glamorous, I had to look through the following article in the course of doing the research for today’s show: “Pharmacokinetics of Caffeine of Oral Coffee consumption vs a Single Administration by Coffee Enema.” Yuck!

According to this paper on caffeinated gum…”When you chew caffeine gum, the caffeine is released into the saliva and absorbed through the tissues in the mouth (the buccal cavity) which leads the caffeine directly into the bloodstream. Through this method of absorption, the effects of the caffeine reach the brain within approximately three to five minutes; caffeine in the liquid form can take up to 30-45 minutes.” Ref: THE EFFECTS OF CAFFEINE GUM ADMINISTRATION ON REACTION TIME AND LOWER BODY PAIN DURING CYCLING TO EXHAUSTION 

So, this may not be quite as crazy as it sounds. IF the product contains a high enough amount of caffeine and IF you brush your teeth for 2 or 3 minutes (which is a long time) then, yes, you could get a caffeine buzz from your toothpaste. It’s certainly better than caffeinated soap or shaving cream.