You’re Going to be Bald by 20…


J&J shampoo might not be as healthy as it seems… Graphic by N. WIlson.

Shampoos that promise smooth, shiny, and revived hair, are now in a class-action lawsuit.

Johnson & Johnson is being accused of putting dangerous chemicals in its shampoo. A lawsuit filed earlier this year against J&J alleges that they have been using a preservative known to cause hair loss in its OGX shampoo products. As frightening as that allegation may be, J&J isn’t the only company that is being sued over putting chemicals in hair products that are supposedly supposed to do nothing but “nourish and protect”. TRESemme, WEN, and other brands have faced similar accusations of their not-so-great products. 

For some TikTok users the J&J OGX lawsuit, filed June 26 by Larissa Whipple, explained a lot about what they had been experiencing with their hair. Several videos on TikTok got a lot of attention where the creator showed users with fistfuls of hair that had fallen out or the months of hair that they kept from months after using OGX. Some people could not figure out why their hair was in such bad condition until they connected the dots when this lawsuit went public.

This is the terrible thing: apparently, Johnson & Johnson knew as far back as a decade ago that DMDM hydantoin “can cause or contribute to hair loss and scalp irritation.” That’s why in 2012 they would begin phasing out the use of that chemical, or not.

What is DMDM hydantion? DMDM hydantoin is a preservative and antimicrobial agent found in a wide range of cosmetics and skin care and hair care products it’s considered a “formaldehyde” donor. That means it releases a small amount of formaldehyde over time to help keep products fresh and free from contaminants. You can find DMDM in makeups, makeup removers, shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products, moisturizers, hand soaps, and more. As a result, DMDM hydantoin increases the shelf life of cosmetics and personal care products. Preservatives are essential for such products that contain water, including shampoos, conditioners, and body washes. 

One study by researchers in Spain found that products with formaldehyde-releasing ingredients could cause allergic contact dermatitis or contact eczema in people allergic to formaldehyde. So not only is this chemical bad for hair but can also cause serious issues health-wise. 

Johnson & Johnson, who declined many stories offers, actually includes DMDM hydantoin in a list on their website of preservatives that “do not meet our safety and care standards” and the ingredient has remained in OGX shampoo products. Other brands have been through lawsuits, TRESemme uses DMDM, which they advertise as a product that is able to create “gorgeous, healthy-looking hair”, suave professionals advertise that the product “nourishes and replenishes” hair and to specifically reduce hair loss, when in reality the product contains DMDM. WEN hair care in 2016 went through a similar lawsuit when more than 100 complaints in a small amount of time came up, WEN paid out a $26 million settlement after the class action lawsuit was filed. Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner is another well-known case, back in 2010, Procter and Gamble decided to reformulate its herbal Essences shampoos to reduce the amount of carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane in them after the products were found to have high levels of the chemical.

Whether or not the companies really were aware of what they were doing, one thing is clear- it’s not always guaranteed that hair care products will really do as much “care” as they advertise, so it may be wise, as these lawsuits show, to check the labels, and read the ingredients.