Two women who say they suffered hair loss and painful scalp burns from TRESemmé keratin shampoo and conditioner have filed a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer for failing to warn them about what they say is a dangerous chemical in the products.
Robyn Lipetz and Shannon Keener, both from the greater Philadelphia area, claim that Unilever United States Inc., the maker of the TRESemmé line of hair care products, and Conopco Inc., its distributer, should be held liable for the serious damage they and others have suffered.
The hair loss and scalp injuries they suffered were caused by a chemical in the products – DMDM hydantoin – which is related to formaldehyde, their class action lawsuit says.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can cause cancer, and other less harmful reactions, when absorbed into the skin, which tends to happen when applied directly to the scalp, for instance. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, such as the DMDM hydantoin in TRESemmé keratin shampoo, may prevent microbes from forming in water-based substances.
Its use in the TRESemmé products is unnecessary, the class action lawsuit claims, because there are safer alternatives on the market now.
The class action lawsuit alleges that Unilever and Conopco have violated the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and consumer fraud laws. The company’s practice of not warning customers about the presence of DMDM hydantoin in the keratin products and the risk it poses of hair loss and scalp irritation amounts to breach of express, contract/common law and implied warranty as well as fraud and unjust enrichment, the class action lawsuit claims.
The TRESemmé keratin shampoos and conditioners are marketed as products that will “deeply nourish,” “gently cleanse,” and “repair hair,” while adding softness and shine.
“For approximately a decade or longer, Unilever has known that DMDM hydantoin can cause or contribute to hair loss and scalp irritation when used as a preservative in hair products, including keratin products,” the class action lawsuit says. Moreover, Unilever has faced similar legal action in the past, in connection with its Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion product line.
The company recalled the Suave products in 2012 and agreed to pay $10.2 million to settle that class action lawsuit in 2014.
Lipetz and Keener are seeking to represent a Class of TRESemmé customers who purchased the keratin products and suffered damage from using them. Their lawyers estimate there are “thousands, if not hundreds of thousands,” of potential Class Members.
Lipetz, 67, purchased TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Color between January and February and used the product for two weeks. She stopped, she said, when she began experiencing “redness, hotness and itchiness” on her scalp and notice she was developing bald spots.
Keener’s experience was more severe, she says. The 32-year-old bought the same shampoo as Lipetz, plus the TRESemmé keratin conditioner. She used the products for two months and in the end had to seek medical treatment, according to the class action lawsuit.
“Keener noticed scalp irritation, blisters, pimples, and a burning sensation on her scalp after the first few uses. … After continued use of the products [she] also began experiencing hair loss, where clumps of hair would fall out when showering, brushing, or even touching her hair,” the class action lawsuit says.
In February, she sought medical treatment from her primary care doctor and dermatologist due to the continued irritation to her scalp and hair loss.
She was prescribed a medicated shampoo to treat the injury, she says.
“Nowhere on the package labeling or on Unilever’s websites or other marketing materials did Unilever warn [consumers] that they were at risk of significant hair loss and/or scalp irritation,” the class action alleges.
Have you experienced hair loss or scalp injury after using TRESemmé keratin shampoo or conditioner? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Lead plaintiff Lipetz and the proposed Class Members are represented by Jonathan Shuba bd Kevin Laukaitis of Shub Law Firm LLC; Melissa R. Emert and Gary S. Graifman or Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.; Andrew J. Sciolla of Sciolla Law Firm LLC; Daniel K. Bryson, Harper T Segui and Caroline Ramsey Taylor of Whitfield Bryson, LLP.
The Hair Loss Class Action Lawsuit is Robyn Lipetz, et al. v. Unilever United States, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:20-cv-06350, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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