A group of women filed a class action lawsuit against Unilever last year, claiming the consumer goods company falsely advertised the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit. According to the lawsuit, the women alleged that the product, which was originally marketed as a formaldehyde free Keratin smoother, actually contained a formula that chemically relaxed hair. This resulted in scalp burns, permanent hair loss, and in some instances melting hair, as seen by one of the lead plaintiffs in the case Josephine Wells:
“After proper application of the treatment, Wells noticed her hair breaking at the crown and she experienced significant hair loss at the crown and on the sides of her head. Because of the breakage and hair loss, she has had to cut approximately ten inches off her hair and has spent thousands of dollars on weaves, hair extensions, and other treatments to attempt to restore the damage to her hair. The straightening effects and damage to Wells’ hair continues to this day – nearly two years after she used the product. Her once long, beautiful, natural curly healthy hair is now dull, fragile and short. Her hair is extremely thin and the bald spots caused by the treatment are still visible.”
Last week, a judge rejected Unilever’s request to dismiss the lawsuit and agreed to send it to trial.
Chistiansen Davis Bullock, LLC, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, released a statement clarifying the company’s wrongdoing:
“Unilever may have failed to inform consumers that the Product contains a chemical known as ‘Tetrasodium EDTA,’ which is mainly synthesized from formaldehyde. Unilever also may have failed to inform consumers that the Product contains a chemical preservative known as ‘DMDM Hydantoin,’ which is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser with the trade name Glydant.
Formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Although Unilever recalled the product in May of 2012, the lawyers alleged that the company did not do enough to correct the issue. Additionally, the suit claims that Unilever attempted to cover-up the issue by getting women who reported side effects from the product to sign a release not to sue the company in exchange for a haircut.