They say bad things happen in threes and with two class action lawsuits already in progress regarding claims of hair loss, perhaps a third is unsurprising.
First came the scandal surrounding thousands of claims from across the USA that Wen cleansing conditioner made customer’s hair thin and shed. The FDA even took the unusual step of issuing a safety alert regarding the product which is currently under investigation. Next up was a lawsuit filed on behalf of many cancer survivors across America who were treated with Taxotere – a chemotherapy drug – which is claimed caused the plaintiffs permanent hair loss.
Now the haircare giant L’Oreal is the latest to be accused, with the filing of a new class action lawsuit at a federal court in California.
‘Potentially toxic substances’
A home-use product marketed towards women with afro hair, a chemical hair relaxer designed to straighten natural kinks and curls, is claimed to have caused many users “disturbing and distressing injuries including hair loss and breakage as well as scalp irritation, blisters and burns,” according to court documents.
So far 100,00 plaintiffs have joined the suit according to their lawyer Ben Meiselas. L’Oreal’s Optimum Amla Legend No-Mix, No-Lye Relaxer, which is marketed under the Soft Sheen-Carson brand, is the subject of these complaints.
The difference between lye and no-lye chemical relaxers is basically that ‘lye’ formulations have a higher pH level whereas ‘no-lye’ versions are more gentle. ‘The difference is in the type of chemicals used. In lye relaxers, the active ingredient is sodium hydroxide. In no-lye relaxers, the active ingredient is calcium hydroxide,’ notes top professional hair industry salon supplier Sally Beauty. ‘No-lye relaxer is usually a little milder and good for sensitive scalps, but the calcium can cause hair to be slightly drier. Most relaxer kits made for home use are no-lye formulas.’
According to the Cosmetic Business report, although the relaxer is clearly labelled as a ‘no-lye’ formula and does not list lye as ingredient, the suit states it is unclear ‘whether the product truly is a ‘no-lye’ relaxer’. The plaintiffs are claiming that the presence of lithium hydroxide can also cause ‘damaging effects’ and, note that the product includes sodium hydroxide in its’ ingredients list online.
According to various media reports including Yahoo! News and the Bangkok Post, the lawsuit claims the product was filled with a “dangerous mix of irritants and potentially toxic substances”. Furthermore, the plaintiffs believe this was at odds with the relaxer’s marketing which they feel played on the natural amla oil it contained. This oil, derived from Indian gooseberrys, was deemed to make up only a small proportion of the product.
Hair loss warning
Whilst L’Oreal has not yet responded to the accusations, one thing is quite clear from the packaging of the relaxer in question – the product can cause hair loss.
A warning supplied with the product clearly states: ‘Hair loss or breakage could occur; Do not use on hair that is fragile, breaking, splitting or otherwise damaged, for example, due to frequent coloring or other chemical processes… Do not use if you have a sensitive, irritated or damaged scalp… Read And follow enclosed instruction sheet completely before using. Failure to follow instructions or warnings or other misuse of the product can cause serious injury to eyes or skin And can damage hair or result in permanent hair loss’.
The ‘permanent hair loss’ referred to is from scarring alopecia – also known as cicatricial alopecia. This can be caused by a number of factors that lead to inflammation of the scalp which then destroys the follicles, including burns caused by chemical hair relaxers. This is likely the reason behind the company’s further warning: ‘Keep relaxer off scalp’.
Once the hair follicles have died or been damaged beyond repair it is impossible for hair growth to occur even with specialist treatment. As hair loss treatment involves stimulating the follicles, if these are missing or non-functioning then there is nothing for the treatments to work with. This is why scalp burns can cause permanent hair loss.
In other instances where the damage is less extreme, the hair loss can be caused by traction alopecia – more commonly associated with tight hairstyles – or overall thinning, which normally appears around three months after the incident, called telogen effluvium.
Scalp conditions, severe hair breakage and thinning hair as a result of an allergic or bad reaction can generally be treated effectively. For women with these symptoms Belgravia specialists often advise a custom treatment plan featuring high strength minoxidil which can produce encouraging results and help to improve the hair’s overall density and strength. In these types of cases, where the hair loss is a reaction to a product and the scalp may have been damaged, assistance should always be sought as soon as possible. This can help to minimise the damage and maximise the chances of regrowth.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.