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Not So Suave: Unilever Sued for a Product That Allegedly Caused Hair Damage

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Unilever is on the wrong end of a class action lawsuit over a now-discontinued Suave Keratin product that the plaintiffs allege caused hair breakage, hair loss and other kinds of hair damage.

The big problem, according to the plaintiffs lawyer, is that the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit marketed itself as “formaldehyde free” when it actually contained another chemical that they say “is mainly synthesized from formaldehyde.” Unilever tried to have the lawsuit tossed, but a judge rejected that motion and now they’re going to trial. Eeek.

But as I said, the chemical contents are just one of the problems Unilever and Suave face in this case. The others are a weak recall and a social media program that continued long after the product did. Double eeek.

The plaintiffs lawyer alleges that though the Suave Keratin product was recalled in May 2012, between a quarter and a half of the clients she’s representing bought the product after the recall was announced. And, the lawsuit says, there was never any mention of the “scalp burns” and other ill effects that customers were reporting.

Moreover, Jezebel found the product on Walmart.com (with the words “To Be Deleted”) and how-to videos on the Suave Beauty YouTube channel. You would think that if you’re recalling and discontinuing a product, you would make sure all of the channels on which that product is marketed would be shut down no?

On top of everything else, there’s a Facebook page, Suave Keratin Infusion Kit Destroyed My Hair, that Courthouse News says has been set up by hundreds of women to showcase the ruin the product caused. It’s been a year-plus since it was updated, but it’s there and it’s ugly. One of the lead plaintiffs, Josephine Wells, says that she experienced hair breakage and loss that resulted in her having to cut 10 inches from her hair. And she says “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.” The plaintiffs say Unilever tried to get them to sign releases in exchange for $50 haircuts.

However this case turns out, it’s a poorly-handled recall and an instance of bad marketing. The fact that Unilever and Suave continued to make a product available even after there was cause for concern also gives off the impression that the brand doesn’t care about its customers. Not a good look for a company that’s supposed to be about beauty and hair wellness.

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