Makers of TRESemmé Are Facing a Lawsuit Over Consumer Hair Loss and Scalp Burns

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Makers of TRESemmé Are Facing a Lawsuit Over Consumer Hair Loss and Scalp Burns
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Unilever, the makers of both TRESemmé and Suave hair care and beauty products is facing a class action lawsuit over an allegedly dangerous chemical found in their Keratin Hair Smoothing shampoos. This chemical, a preservative known as DMDM hydantoin, has reportedly caused hair loss and scalp irritations in some customers, a risk they allegedly did not warn consumers about.

DMDM hydantoin is a preservative found in many beauty products that may release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

DMDM hydantoin is an antimicrobial preservative used to increase the shelf-life of beauty products so that they don’t turn bad before consumers buy them. However, DMDM hydantoin is also considered a formaldehyde-donor, because it is known to leach this dangerous substance when it comes into contact with water—such as water in a shower. In recent years there has been some criticism over continued use of DMDM hydantoin in beauty products as other preservatives have become available for mass use that are considered safer and more natural.

It’s relevant to note that while Unilever is not the only beauty company continuing to use DMDM hydantoin to expand the shelf-life of their products, in 2012 they recalled a line of Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion products over similar litigation. The lawsuit surrounding the Suave-formaldehyde situation resulted in a $10.2 million settlement, which was later upheld by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016. This could indicate that Unilever was aware of the potential dangers of this chemical as far back as 2012 yet continued to use it in their other products allegedly without warning consumers of the possible side effects.

The lawsuit alleges that consumers were not informed of the risks associated with the chemicals in their products.

TRESemmé Keratin Hair Smoothing Shampoo and TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Color Shampoo were advertised as hair products with the ability to coat users' hair with keratin for a smoother, less-frizzy result. The official complaint states that, “...unknown to Plaintiff and Class Members, the Products contain an ingredient or combination of ingredients that causes significant hair loss and/or scalp irritation upon proper application.”

While it is possible that some consumers might have chosen to purchase the products in spite of the risk, it is reasonable to assume that many others might have chosen a different hair care product with fewer to no risks of hair loss and scalp burns if given the information necessary to make the choice. In fact, the lawsuit further alleges that “Defendants continued to conceal the dangers of the Products by failing to appropriately and fully recall the Products, by continuing to claim the Products were safe when properly applied…”

The complaint is seeking a variety of damages, ranging from a disgorgement of “ill-gotten profits” to civil penalties and punitive damages.

The 53-page lawsuit concludes by listing requests for relief and judgement, starting with full restitution of the profits they made off the named products to the class members who purchased them. It goes on to request an injunction requiring Unilever to recall the named product and issue appropriate safety warnings for anyone who may still be at risk of using these products. The complaint is also seeking punitive damages, which are not particularly common in civil litigation but tend to occur when one party believes the other acted with reckless disregard for the injured parties’ well-being. Finally, the plaintiff is requesting a jury trial on behalf of the entire class to evaluate the relevant evidence, establish liability, and decide on a fair solution for consumers who were harmed by Unilever’s “...unlawful, unfair and fraudulent acts or practices set forth herein.”

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