USA's FDA issues a warning on hair conditioner following consumer complaints

Hair products aren't at the top of most people's health worry list, but the Food and Drug Administration is investigating a surprisingly high number of reports of problems after people used a particular cleansing conditioner.

As of July 7, the FDA had received 127 complaints of "hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching, and rash" after people used WEN by Chaz Dean cleansing conditioner products — more reports than the agency has ever received for a cosmetic hair product.

"This kind of report is very rare," says Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, Calif. "For the most part, shampoo products out there are all very safe." The agency'ssafety alert says it has not determined a possible cause for the problems reported.

Late last year, mediation began for a class-action lawsuit in California against Guthy-Renker, the company that markets and manufactures WEN.

The FDA doesn't approve cosmetics before they go on the market, though it does set upper limits for bacteria in cosmetics and hygiene products. Instead, says Linda Katz, director of the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, the agency monitors consumer complaints for many factors to decide whether to investigate a product.

In this case, the sheer number of complaints played a role in the decision. The agency says it is investigating more than 21,000 complaints reported to Chaz Dean Inc. and Guthy-Renker. (Gianna Cesa, a PR representative for Chaz Dean, says the company did not receive this number of complaints.)