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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 Match.com 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 http://www.neurocolor.com/

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. TheBeautyBrains.com

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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Linda January 13, 2016, 6:51 pm

    This may be overly simplistic, but I get why women say Wen makes their hair fall out. Bald spots are extreme, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I used a few bottles of Wen before I figured out it did nothing for my hair but make it greasy. But I digress…

    When you use Wen according to the directions exactly, you “wash” your hair twice using lots of product. You comb it through and then use your hands again to rinse it out. Every time I would use Wen, the amount of hair left clogging my drain was dramatic. It would sometimes make it difficult for the water to drain, and I only have shoulder length hair.

    I chalked it up to all the handling and pulling and rubbing you do with that product. WAY more than a normal shampoo. It did not make me worry about “losing” hair, but lots more did fall out when I used it than would normally.

    • Alison Gunn August 9, 2017, 1:48 am

      I’ve been using Wen products for years, and it might be the way I use them that prevents bald patches and excessive fall-out. I never follow the directions on their packaging, because one look told me they were advising that you use way too much, far more than was necessary. My daughter, for example, has not liked Wen but not because her hair fell out, but because her hair felt greasy afterwards. I asked her how much she used, she said what was recommended on the bottle. For whatever reason, Wen recommends using far too much. The idea that it somehow doesn’t get your hair clean is just silly. Read up on what actually cleans dirt off bodies—it’s a combination of some kind of stripping agent and water or oil; the dirt is “surrounded” by the stripping agent (usually a salt) and rinsed out, and this efficacy is accomplished by many, many products that are not, technically, “soap,” which is not the troubling part of shampoo and conditioner anyway. The real problem, in my experience, are the Sodium Laurel Sulfates and other stripping agents used in most commercially-produced detergents. The irony, from my perspective, is that I had developed a rather obvious female-pattern bald spot until I stopped using SLS products and started using Wen. Yes, my hair sheds when I use Wen, and miracle of miracles, it grows back. My hair looks so healthy at 58 hair salons comment on it. So if others are having a reaction, it’s probably an allergy (and I had 5 years of allergy shots, so I know about how allergies work). But if they are experiencing an allergy, the scalp would show signs of it. You do not get allergies without some form of reaction at the dermal level from topical products. Since SLS products are a primary culprit in hair dryness, breakage, etc., it’s also possible those people never stopped using their original shampoos, and were doing real damage to their hair already when they then started using Wen the wrong way. Since an observer isn’t in their bathroom at the moment they use the product, there’s no way to know.

      • cassandra October 15, 2017, 2:38 pm

        This comment is incredibly confusing. “Yes, I lose hair when I use Wen” why then, do you use it? It’s not natural to lose more hair than normal when using a product. What is your logic? I’m sorry if I come off flip but your comment just doesn’t make sense.

  • Natalie January 13, 2016, 9:00 pm

    As someone who lives in Arizona…. That humidity of a plane does not seem so low… Am I missing something? It seemed like it was a huge discovery. Is it a different type of humidity? Also my other half is a pilot… That low humidity doesn’t affect him, so I call BS on it being a good product for passengers. I’m with you on it being a weird fad. People can’t put lotion on themselves? It would however be a great idea in a heavier does for people that suffer from skin diseases like harlequin itchytosis. It would be great to see them develop it into something good like that.

  • Shay January 13, 2016, 9:12 pm

    So, will their hair grow back? Wearing a wig or extensions too long or improperly can cause the same thing, but how many lawsuits do you see about them? And what was their hair and scalp condition like before using WEN? Such as, was it already falling out due to female pattern baldness, hormones, diet, etc.? The menthol is strong for me, but there are some scents in which the menthol is not as strong. I use WEN because of the detangling properties and the moisture it provides to my hair. Due to the price, it’s a hair treat for me, but I’ve been using WEN for 6 years now. The products I have to be careful of are the so-called all natural hair products. One company, well known in the natural hair care community, has a product that literally made my scalp feel like it was on fire. When I spoke to the owner she said it was one of the ingredients that was pure, not diluted. After looking at the ingredients’ list, I don’t believe the list was according to the standard set by the FDA. BTW, I don’t have allergies, asthma, or other sensitivities on either side of my family.

  • gabi January 14, 2016, 6:13 am

    I suppose the fall out is due to the silicone from the formula building up on the hair scalp – I guess these people were not using any other product to complement the cleasing so there were no removal of the accumulated silicone. One of the key things for any cleasing conditioner is that it has to be silicone free.

    • Randy Schueller January 14, 2016, 9:59 am

      Hey Gabi. I’ve never seen any evidence showing that silicone residue on the scalp causes hair loss. If you have, can you please send me a link to it so I can check it out? Thanks!

      • gabi June 24, 2016, 9:28 pm

        Well, not the silicone itself but the build up will mix up with natural oil and dirt from the scalp, won’t it? So if you keep using a product that will only create a thicker layer of build up and doesn’t really clean any of the dirt, oil and silicones accumulated how it is the scalp suppose to react? With hair loss, right?

        • Randy Schueller June 24, 2016, 9:31 pm

          I’m curious what makes you think that a dirty scalp equals hair loss. Have you seen any scientific evidence of this? I certainly haven’t. It doesn’t even make sense intuitively. If the scalp was clogged with dirt and oil at worst that would just cause an ingrown hair. It would not stop the follicle beneath the scalp from producing fresh hairs. But if you have any proof to the contrary I would love to be proven wrong.

  • Eileen January 14, 2016, 12:00 pm

    First of all, I think it is absolutley wonderful that you guys have a Secret Society of Cosmetic Chemists. I’d say it has a delightful Victorian ring to it, but then I’d be dating myself 😉 It would make a great title for a Sherlock Holmes mystery, though, don’t you think? Especially since it is well known amongst the lunatic fringe that you guys are out to poison us and the environment. LOL

    On the subject of class action lawsuits, EOS Lip Balm is now being sued. The class action was filed here in California yesterday. Thanks to all the publicity over the Wen wrangling, I’m sure we’re going to see more of these suits. When someone has properly used a product and experienced a severe reaction, a reasonable and rational person would agree that the person should be compensated for medical expenses and possibly some “pain and suffering”, but many people who jump on the class action bandwagon really have little to no legitimite claim against the product. Class action attorneys comb through customer lists, send out mass mailings, and advertise on radio and TV looking for people to join the class action as a way of giving the attorneys negotiating clout. That’s fine, but it prolongs negotiations, dilutes the pot available for compensation, ties up the courts, racks up legal costs which then get passed on the the consumer, etc. etc. etc. I could go on and on, but I won’t. 🙂

    The eyeliner patches are interesting and they certainly have been used to artistic advantage (especially by the likes of Dior and Chanel) on the fashion runways and in photo shoots, but that’s about it. Learning to line the eyes is simple and has the advantage of letting a person choose the medium (liquid, gel, pencil, etc.) and the color to create whatever effect is desired. Besides, anyone who has removed eyelash adhesive knows what a nuisance it can be.

    • Randy Schueller January 14, 2016, 6:12 pm

      Funny you should mention the EOS lip balm lawsuit because I was just quoted in Allure today on this very topic.

      PS My nickname in junior high was “Sherlock Schueller” so I appreciate the Arthur Conan Doyle reference!

      • Eileen January 15, 2016, 11:44 am

        So, what are you waiting for? You need to get cracking on “Sherlock Shueller and the Mystery of the Secret Society of Cosmetic Chemists”. It’s sure to be a best-seller 😉

  • Aster January 18, 2016, 4:41 pm

    Wouldn’t the fourth possible explanation for excessive shedding from WEN be the fact that it’s just a conditioner, therefore the people who used it, say, for months or years on end simply didn’t really cleanse their scalp thoroughly enough with this product? Couldn’t that lead to inflammation over time in some cases? My understanding is that certain common conditions like seborrheic dermatitis can be triggered by accumulation of sebum (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923939/), without proper cleansing. In some cases, it leads to excessive shedding, if it’s not managed well.

    • Randy Schueller January 18, 2016, 6:07 pm

      Interesting hypothesis! It would be interesting to see the usage profile of the people with hairless to see how long they’ve been co-washing.

      • KatyL January 24, 2016, 12:05 pm

        I’d be more inclined to think if you used WEN for years and nothing else, your hair is so greasy and filthy that you smothered it to death! Randy, tell me, if you don’t wash your hair for years (or you wash it with oil or something similarly greasy), wouldn’t that have an effect on your hair’s health? Or at least on your grease-clogged scalp?

        • Randy Schueller January 24, 2016, 5:16 pm

          We’ve never seen any evidence of what happens if you don’t wash your hair for years. But just because you don’t wash your hair doesn’t automatically mean your scalp becomes “grease clogged.” That only happens when the pores become clogged with debris, not just oil. Still, it would be an interesting experiment!

          • KarenAnn May 26, 2016, 11:15 am

            I had a boyfriend who did not use shampoo on his hair for months at a time. He would, however, rinse his hair and scalp every day with water while showering. And he had the most fantastic hair!!!! Lush, wavy, movie-star hair! But I think he would have had that hair regardless.

        • James Huff March 16, 2016, 11:07 am

          I think it is much more likely to be the method of application thats causing the perceived hair loss, more manipulation of the hair during washing. Or possibly a slight reaction to some of the so-called ‘natural’ ingredients. I myself get an itchy rash from using products containing basil oil or extract and some plant extracts CAN cause some types of contact dermatitis or sun sensitivity which may result in inflammation and hair loss. I would also like to point out that Wen (New spelled backwards) is NOT a new concept, I have friends that have been washing their hair with just conditioner since the 1970’s and a few similar products have been introduced in the late 1960’s / 1970’s with limited results ( Fermodyl Fermo-Caress, Revlon Milk Plus 6, Roux Créme Cleanser) even Clairol® condition™ was recommended as a creme cleansing treatment for damaged hair in the instructions

  • pending January 19, 2016, 12:46 pm

    Eyeliner patches have been tried before– I remember getting a set of them (though not from Dior) back in 2010 or so when I subscribed to Birchbox. I was suspicious, but they must work or why would a company be dumb enough to give away samples for a subscription service where they incentivize you to write reviews? And honestly I was greedy for a way to have perfect eyeliner forever.

    They were TERRIBLE. It was a thin paper sticker that felt like you had a sticker on your eye and looked like you had a sticker on your eye. I haven’t heard anything about the company since. I’m guessing Dior plans to make $61 per sucker (still a better business plan than the Birchbox one) and then pretend the whole thing never happened.