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DevaCurl Faces Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Hair Loss

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

For years now, more and more people have been embracing their natural hair. They're choosing to let it curl rather than straightening it with heat and chemicals. And if you're part of the curly hair community, you know this natural hair movement runs deep.

One company's products dominate this corner of the hair care market, DevaCurl. But now DevaCurl is mired in controversy. Earlier this week, a group of consumers filed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that its products were causing them to suffer from scalp irritation, damaged hair and hair loss.

We invited DevaCurl to speak on the program. They declined but provided a statement which reads in part, quote, "we are aware that a lawsuit has been filed, but we do not discuss active litigation. We stand behind the quality and safe use of our DevaCurl products" - end quote. So we've called up someone with direct experience with the company's products, Stephanie Mero. She's a hairstylist in Orlando, Fla. Stephanie, thanks for joining us.

STEPHANIE MERO: Thank you so much, Leila.

FADEL: So for our listeners, can you explain the significance of DevaCurl to the curly hair community?

MERO: So DevaCurl really is, I feel like, the focus and center of the whole curly hair movement, if you want to call it, or natural hair movement. And so they've created this huge brand that's everything from stylists and products to salons. And even the original founder, Lorraine Massey, wrote the "Curly Girl" handbook.

And since then, it's really evolved to where there's all these sort of - you could call them copycats in the industry, all these other product lines coming up. But if you want to say that they jumped on the bandwagon, I would say that DevaCurl is the driver of that wagon.

FADEL: So what led to this lawsuit? I mean, what was happening to you? You're a hairstylist, right? What was happening to you and your clients?

MERO: So my hair became more important to me when I started doing YouTube videos. And what I noticed was it was - I was going through this amazing healthy hair journey. People were really obsessed with watching my hair grow out because I had chopped it all off. And it started to change. But I didn't attribute it to the products because I had used them for four years on my clients, on myself with no issues at all. Everyone had super healthy hair, no complaints.

And I had moved actually from Orlando to Miami. And around that time was when my hair started to change, so I just attributed it to, like, dryness or something else. But it got so damaged that I no longer could attribute it to weather.

And then I started to realize that all my clients that use DevaCurl, which was 99% of them - their hair, the texture of it was looking like mine, even if we had totally different hair. And the bald spots and stuff - I noticed that after the fact. So people are upset, as you can imagine.

FADEL: Yeah. When you have - when you find a bald spot, you get a little upset, I would imagine. But you created a Facebook support group for other people to share their stories, stories like your own. And it now has 40,000 members, over 40,000 members. What's the overall response been to, you know, the allegations?

MERO: Well, there's a - there's two very far apart ends. It's either I believe you and I believe this is happening and it's happening to me and I'm super upset, and what do I do now? Help. And then there's the people who are like in there just to see what's going on but believe this is not at all possible and feel this, like, really strong relationship to the brand.

FADEL: So you're a hairstylist, like we talked about. So how has this impacted your work? I know this used to be kind of the central product you used on your clients, on yourself. What are you doing now?

MERO: It's completely changed my work. I had to totally rewire my brain because I couldn't use the skills I was taught, for example, at DevaCurl academy for styling because that's for healthy hair. Severely damaged hair has to be treated completely different. And honestly, realizing the scope of this, stylists are going to need training on how to work with it because I cut all my damage off, but most people are not prepared to do that. And that means they need to learn how to work with it. And it's the stylists' responsibility to become educated in whatever we need to know to be able to give the person in our chair whatever they need to feel the best about themselves and their hair as possible.

FADEL: That was Stephanie Mero, a hairstylist in Orlando, Fla. And we should say again we offered DevaCurl an opportunity to speak on the program, but the company declined, providing a written statement that reads, in part, quote, all of our products have gone through rigorous testing that has confirmed they are safe and adhere to both quality assurance and regulatory standards. We also recognize that any changes to curly hair for whatever reason demand a special type of attention that safety tests alone can't address. That's why DevaCurl is committed to creating a professional curl care council of trusted medical professionals, dermatologists, independent industry experts, professional stylists and members of our Curl community to help us all better understand healthy curls and scalp. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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