DevaCurl causes scalp and hair damage?
Insights from a Cosmetic Formulation Chemist
The number of people sharing their devastating experiences with DevaCurl seems to be growing rapidly every day. Heartbreaking photos and tearful stories of hair loss, breakage, thinning, change in texture, frizz, dryness along with scalp irritation, flaking, itching, burning and even sores are rapidly filling YouTube and curly hair community threads.
For many of us, our hair is our crowning glory. When its a disaster our entire confidence goes down the drain! Curly hair can be the most difficult to manage, so when your savior product line suddenly starts ruining your pride and joy it can be catastrophic.
What could possibly be causing these symptoms? While it is impossible to tell without extensive testing of the product and each individual persons hair and scalp, there are a few things that might be contributing to the negative results.
1. Acquisition. DevaCurl was acquired by Ares Management in May 2017. New owners usually means new management, a focus on reducing costs of products and movement to new manufacturing companies. What does this mean to you, the consumer?
The integrity and story of the company’s founders is usually what drives the product. When those people no longer have control of decisions, it can affect the quality and effect of product lines. That means changes can be made that no longer truly serve the targeted consumer.
New manufacturing companies may be employed to fulfill the product line. Even without formula changes, a change in the company that produces a product can cause extreme differences. Differences in procedure and suppliers can be huge. Even just changing the supplier for an ingredient can change a product, even with no formula changes. What most consumers don’t know is that very few companies own their own manufacturing facilities, so products are made by contract manufacturers. Branded lines do not have full control of these companies, so changes and errors can be made without the brand knowing.
2. Formula Changes. It seems, from reports given by long-term users, that there was a formula change for some or all of the products in 2018. While not confirmed by the company, this does fit in with what generally happens to a product line after acquisition.
Changing the formula, whether the procedure or ingredients, can have detrimental effects on a product. Usually, product lines are tested for long periods of time before an initial launch. Sadly, once companies are launched and successful, changes are generally approved in the board room rather than tested on targeted consumer groups. While this may not be the case with DevaCurl, it is something that consumers should be aware of in all product lines. Even simple changes can have massive (positive or negative) consequences.
While most will assume formula changes mean ingredient changes, other changes may not be seen on the label even if they are felt in the product. The pH of a product is crucial for curly hair. It is possible that slight changes affect the pH of a product. That slight change can cause giant issues on your hair. We recommend having pH test strips on hand so that you can test your products and assure they are not too alkaline. These inexpensive testing strips can save you a ton of heartache and money!
3. Ingredients. There are some ingredients in the Low and No-Poo products that may cause issues for you. Remember, every person is different and will react to ingredients differently. It’s important to pay attention to your hair and scalp while you are using products. A few ingredients, which are in DevaCurl products, we would recommend that everyone pay attention to when using any product are:
a. Menthol – This can be very irritating on the skin, especially sensitive skin. Frequently used in muscle rubs. The effect intensifies with rubbing, which is happening during a wash. The sensitizing effect can compound if the product contains other ingredients that might be mildly irritating.
b. Diazolidinyl Urea – This preservative is a known formaldehyde releasing ingredient. While deemed safe for use at .05-.5%, that level might be reached in EACH product you use on a regular basis. The compounded amount per day may reach levels that are damaging, depending on your routine. formaldehyde does have the ability to break hair bonds, which is why it is used in relaxers. Continued use may, for your hair, be a cause of breakage, hair loss and loss of curl.
c. Propylene Glycol – This is frequently a base for other ingredients, such as extracts. The problem with glycols is that they are potential irritants and known penetration enhancers. Imagine an irritating ingredient that is ‘pushed’ deeper into your skin….no longer easy to remove. The formulating community is still divided on glycols, as they were about parabens. Either way, if you are prone to or are currently experiencing scalp and hair irritation, avoiding glycols would be prudent.
d. Aminomethyl Propanol – Highly alkaline and used to adjust the pH of products. The potential damage to fragile hair is not fully known, but very alkaline products are not generally healthy for curly hair due to the potential for bond breakage which can lead to frizz and loss of curl.
While we may never really know the reason people are having such negative experiences with DevaCurl products (remember the Wen lawsuit where people made very similar claims – a payout was made, but no explanation was given by the company) it is always a good idea to be an aware and informed consumer.
Addressing DevaCurl’s Public Statement
From the beginning, all of our formulas are subject to rigorous and thorough testing such as stability, microbiological testing and repeat patch testing before DevaCurl allows any product to be manufactured. During manufacturing, a variety of testing is conducted on each batch of a DevaCurl product before it is sent out to salons and customers. This includes testing for pH, viscosity, fragrance, appearance and microbiological testing to ensure our products meet strict internal quality assurance standards and regulatory requirements before they reach the market.
ALL products manufactured go through these tests (aside from patch tests, which are not required). The problem with testing is that it has nothing to do with how a product works on a consumer…..they are all just quality control tests manufacturers do to verify they have produced the product according to the company’s specifications.
In addition, we worked with an independent third-party toxicologist to verify the safety of these formulas. All these tests verified there are no safety issues with our products.
Most toxicology testing verifies individual ingredients, only, not what happens when ingredients are combined or used by a person. Also, levels of toxicity are determined per product….there is nothing that tests the combination of products most consumers use on a daily basis. So, each product you use might be a the max usage level allowed. If you use a dozen then imagine the impact.
You may have also heard that some claim that although the product formulation may not be causing the problems, it could be the packaging.
We highly doubt it’s anything to do with the packaging. Packaging testing is not required, but it seems unlikely.
The FDA does not do any finished good testing. Most companies don’t either. If DevaCurl has, they should release the independent testing results that show what was tested. Also, the FDA cannot make a company recall a product, it is voluntary.
Recalls happen only when it’s financially beneficial to the company. So unless it is a pharmaceutical product and there are deaths the FDA can only suggest recalls to companies.
The difference between actual FDA action vs. what consumers assume they do is vast.
Very rarely does the FDA pull products and do HPLC testing (which is the only way you can tell what is really in a finished good). Everything is on the honor system…they just trust what you say is in there is really in there. And the testing results the FDA uses is provided by the company…so…….not super reliable.