Class Action Claims Suave Professionals Products Contain Preservative Linked to Scalp Irritation, Hair Loss
by Erin Shaak
Lewakowski v. Unilever United States, Inc. et al.
Filed: June 18, 2021 ◆§ 1:21-cv-03276
A class action lawsuit claims Suave Professionals shampoos and conditioners contain an ingredient known to cause significant hair loss and scalp irritation.
A proposed class action claims Suave Professionals shampoos and conditioners, despite being advertised as safe and healthy to use, contain an ingredient known to cause significant hair loss and scalp irritation.
According to the 41-page lawsuit, defendants Unilever United States, Inc. and Conopco, Inc. have falsely advertised the Suave Professionals products as able to help “nourish” and “replenish” hair while concealing from consumers that a preservative in the shampoos and conditioners, DMDM hydantoin, could have the opposite effect.
“Defendants used DMDM in the Products despite their actual knowledge that the ingredient is unsafe to consumers, and in direct contradiction to their misrepresentations that the Products are safe and healthy for use as shampoo by consumers,” the complaint, filed in Illinois federal court, claims.
The lawsuit relays that Unilever has marketed its Suave Professionals line with the statements “lasting smoothness” and “gently cleanse,” and as able produce “vibrant and shiny hair” and “reduce hair fall.” Unbeknownst to consumers, however, the defendants’ shampoos and conditioners, until recently, contained DMDM hydantoin, a formaldehyde donor that works by releasing small amounts of formaldehyde when it comes into contact with water, the suit explains.
Although nearly all shampoo and conditioner products contain preservatives, there exists “a variety of synthetic and natural preservatives” that are safer than DMDM hydantoin, according to the case.
Formaldehyde is a “colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical” and known human carcinogen that, when leached by a formaldehyde donor such as DMDM hydantoin, has been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions, the lawsuit explains. According to the suit, studies from as early as the 1970s have shown that DMDM hydantoin can cause dermatitis, i.e., skin irritation, especially in those pre-sensitized to formaldehyde. The case says the prevalence of dermatitis caused by DMDM hydantoin is “well documented,” with the FDA listing the preservative as among “allergens that cause most allergic reactions from the use of cosmetic products.” Per the lawsuit, reactions to DMDM hydantoin can produce “itchiness, red rashes on the skin, or more extreme reactions.” Moreover, dermatitis on the scalp has been linked to hair brittleness and loss, the case says.
According to the lawsuit, Unilever has used DMDM hydantoin in the Suave Professionals products for more than a decade despite knowing that the ingredient could cause scalp irritation and hair loss. Nevertheless, the defendants, the suit alleges, have advertised the shampoos and conditioners as having smoothing, repairing and restoring benefits while concealing the potential for adverse reactions.
“Unfortunately, for Plaintiff and Class Members, the Suave Products do not smooth, repair, or restore hair,” the complaint reads. “Instead, the Suave Products contain DMDM hydantoin, which exposed Plaintiff and at least thousands of consumers to potential hair loss, allergic reactions, and skin and/or scalp irritation.”
Per the lawsuit, Unilever only recently removed DMDM hydantoin from the Suave Professionals products, shortly after the plaintiff’s counsel filed a separate lawsuit centered on the alleged use of the preservative in the defendants’ TRESemmé line of shampoos and conditioners. Similar suits have been filed as of late over the alleged presence of DMDM hydantoin in OGX, Mane ‘n Tail, and Selsun Blue shampoos and conditioners.
According to the case, the defendants have failed to properly warn consumers about the risks of using the Suave Professionals products and continued to conceal the dangers of using the shampoos and conditioners in order to boost their bottom line.
“Unilever misled and deceived the public, and placed its customers in harm’s way, all for the sake of increased profits,” the complaint scathes.
The lawsuit claims the following Suave Professionals products contained, until recently, DMDM hydantoin:
The case looks to cover anyone in the U.S. who purchased Suave Professionals shampoo or conditioner products that contain DMDM hydantoin. A separate class has been proposed for residents of California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Washington who purchased the products, and an additional class has been proposed for Illinois residents exclusively.
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