A proposed class action filed this week claims certain OGX shampoos and conditioners contain an ingredient linked to hair loss and scalp irritation.
According to the 48-page lawsuit, defendant Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. has positioned its OGX shampoos and conditioners as being able to make hair “fuller, smoother, straighter, curlier, or bouncier and smell irresistible” while failing to warn consumers that the products contain DMDM hydantoin, a preservative known to slowly leach formaldehyde when it comes into contact with water. Formaldehyde, the suit adds, is a well-known human carcinogen that can also cause harmful skin reactions.
Perhaps even more concerning is the allegation that Johnson & Johnson has known “for approximately a decade” that DMDM hydantoin and other formaldehyde donors can cause hair loss and scalp irritation and even went so far as to announce plans to remove formaldehyde from its consumer products by 2015. While the defendant did remove formaldehyde from its existing products at the time, the company failed to do so when it acquired Vogue International and its OGX product line in 2016, the case alleges. Despite removing DMDM hydantoin from many of its other OGX products, its other brands of shampoo and conditioner, and identical OGX shampoos and conditioners sold in other countries, Johnson & Johnson has “inexplicably” continued to include the harmful ingredient in its OGX line of shampoos and conditioners sold in the U.S., according to the lawsuit.
The case argues that Johnson & Johnson has profited off the sale of its OGX shampoos and conditioners while consumers have been misled and harmed by the company’s failure to warn them about the potential dangers of using its products.
“Nowhere on the package labeling or on Johnson & Johnson’s websites or other marketing materials did Johnson & Johnson warn Plaintiff and members of the Class that they were at risk of significant hair loss and/or scalp irritation upon proper application of the products,” the complaint scathes. “Accordingly, Johnson & Johnson misled and deceived the public, and placed its customers in harm’s way, all for the sake of increased profits.”
Which OGX Products Are Mentioned in the Lawsuit?
The lawsuit claims the following OGX shampoo and conditioner products contain DMDM hydantoin:
OGX Biotin + Collagen Shampoo
OGX Biotin + Collagen Conditioner
OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo
OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner
OGX Anti-Breakage and Keratin Oil Shampoo
OGX Anti-Breakage and Keratin Oil Conditioner
OGX Detox + Pomegranate & Ginger Shampoo
OGX Detox + Pomegranate & Ginger Conditioner
OGX Marula Oil Conditioner
OGX Nicole Guerriero Midnight Kisses Shampoo
OGX Nicole Guerriero Midnight Kisses Conditioner
OGX Nicole Guerriero Mistletoe Wishes Shampoo
OGX Nicole Guerriero Mistletoe Wishes Conditioner
OGX Nicole Guerriero Ice Berry Queen Shampoo
OGX Nicole Guerriero Ice Berry Queen Conditioner
OGX Extra Strength Hydrate & Repair and Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo
OGX Extra Strength Hydrate & Repair and Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner
OGX Ever Straightening and Brazilian Keratin Therapy Shampoo
OGX Ever Straightening and Brazilian Keratin Therapy Conditioner
OGX Kandee Johnson Candy Gumdrop Shampoo
OGX Kandee Johnson Candy Gumdrop Conditioner
OGX Kandee Johnson Frosted Sugar Cookie Shampoo
OGX Kandee Johnson Frosted Sugar Cookie Conditioner
OGX Kandee Johnson Sparkling Cider Shampoo
OGX Kandee Johnson Sparkling Cider Conditioner
OGX Quenching + Coconut Curls Shampoo
OGX Quenching + Coconut Curls Conditioner
OGX Hydrate + Defrizz and Kukui Oil Conditioner
OGX Youth Enhancing + Sake Essence Conditioner
Formaldehyde Donors Cause Skin Irritation, Hair Loss, Case Says
According to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson has continued to use formaldehyde donors such as DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxyl in its products despite having “intimate knowledge of the risks” associated with using the preservatives.
Formaldehyde donors, the case explains, are preservatives that are added to water-containing products to prevent the growth of micro-organisms by slowly leaching formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.
DMDM hydantoin, for its part, is on the FDA’s list of allergens “that cause the most allergic reactions from the use of cosmetic products,” the suit relays. Exposure to DMDM hydantoin can “trigger the immune system to release chemical substances such as antibodies” and cause itchiness, red rashes “or more extreme reactions,” according to the lawsuit. The suit adds that as a person becomes more exposed to DMDM hydantoin over time, they may experience irritant contact dermatitis, a more severe type of allergic reaction. Per the case, irritation of the scalp, including dermatitis, has been linked to hair brittleness and hair loss.
In recent months, DMDM hydantoin has been the subject of putative class action litigation filed against the makers of TRESemmé Keratin Smooth, Selsun Blue and Mane ‘n Tail shampoos and conditioners that were alleged to cause scalp irritation and hair loss.
The lawsuit argues that Johnson & Johnson chose to use DMDM hydantoin in its OGX products despite being fully aware of its potential adverse health effects and the availability of alternative non-synthetic preservatives that “do not release known human carcinogens.” These include glyoxylic acid, potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, citric acid, rosemary oil extract, neem oil extract, lavender oil, grapefruit seed extract and vinegar. The use of DMDM hydantoin as a preservative was therefore an “entirely unnecessary risk” given safer alternatives exist, the case alleges.
Lawsuit Claims Johnson & Johnson Misled Consumers
The case claims consumers were misled by Johnson & Johnson’s representations that its OGX shampoos and conditioners could “deeply nourish,” “gently cleanse” and “repair hair.” While the products’ labels stated the shampoos and conditioners were formulated with certain oils, fruits and botanicals represented as being able to nourish and revive hair, consumers were not warned about their potential to cause scalp irritation or hair loss and would never have expected such a hazard upon proper application, the suit argues.
“Plaintiff and the Class reasonably expected a warning regarding any potential hazard to consumers, especially because the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regulations provide that cosmetics that may be hazardous to consumers must bear appropriate warnings,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Johnson & Johnson has even gone so far as to “conceal and downplay” the perhaps thousands of complaints from consumers who have reported experiencing scalp irritation or hair loss after using the OGX products.
According to the suit, the defendant’s representations that the OGX shampoos and conditioners are safe for use are “false, misleading, and deceptive.”
Who Does the Lawsuit Look to Cover?
The case looks to represent anyone in the U.S. who purchased the OGX shampoo and conditioner products listed above.
Also proposed in the lawsuit is a multi-state class looking to cover anyone in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Washington who purchased the products, as well as a “sub-class” of Illinois residents.
It’s important to note that the “classes,” i.e., those covered by the lawsuit, have not yet been certified by a judge and could change as the lawsuit progresses.
How Do I Join the Lawsuit?
At this time, there’s nothing you need to do to join the lawsuit. It’s not unusual for months or years to pass before a lawsuit reaches the point where consumers can take action by filing a claim, which occurs only if and when a settlement has been reached. If the case moves forward and settles, those affected should receive notice of the settlement with instructions on what to do next.
For now, the best thing to do is to stay informed. You can sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.