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DevaCurl, a staple in the curly hair community for making the No-Poo alternative shampoo mainstream, faced a stunning blow to its reputation in February after a group of consumers filed three class action lawsuits against its parent brand, Deva Concepts.

Filed in New York, California, and Florida each lawsuit describes how DevaCurl products cause a litany of problems for their customers’ mane such as hair loss, excessive shedding, scalp irritation, balding, and changes in their hair texture. 

A Brand Made For Naturally Curly Hair

The appeal of DevaCurl products with women who have naturally curly and wavy hair lies in its ingredients: they purportedly contain no sulfates, parabens, or silicones so people with textured hair can maintain their manes’ natural oils. 

However, the lawsuits’ plaintiff allege that DevaCurl’s premium products knowingly contain harsh chemicals in its ingredients list that are causing women to lose their hair and accused Deva Concepts of failing to disclose this information.

Image: Stephanie Mero

Hair Loss, Scalp Irritation, Texture Change, & More

Orlando-based hair stylist, Stephanie Mero, initially was a big fan of DevaCurl products. 

She was just like every other woman within the curly hair community: recently excommunicated from her hair straightening routine she now embraced her curls, relying heavily on DevaCurl products for a frizz-free, moisturized curly mane. Mero was such a big fan of DevaCurl products that she used them on her clients, who were also going through various stages of curly hair acceptance like transitioning or the Big Chop

But Mero’s view of the brand changed after she began creating YouTube videos documenting her hair growth using DevaCurl products from January 2016 to March 2019.

“And what I noticed was [...] I was going through this amazing healthy hair journey,” Mero says in a February 2020 interview to NPR discussing her lawsuit about DevaCurl products. “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.”

The more she watched her own social media feed and YouTube videos and saw the noticeable changes to her once healthy hair, the more concerned she became. 

“[...] 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,” Mero reveals. “The bald spots, sores on my scalp, scalp sensitivity and pain - I noticed that after the fact.”

So Mero decided to take action. She created a private Facebook support group for other people to share their hair loss stories in August 2019. As of today, the group has ballooned to over 55,000 members.

Image: Stephanie Mero

Mero shared a set of photos with NaturallyCurly for the purpose of this article that document the decline of her mane’s health. “This is not an easy trip down memory lane for me,” she says in an email. “Going through the photos of my hair decline, from flourishing and healthy to having to shave it off, breaks my heart all over again.”

Mero’s Facebook group isn’t the only place on the Internet where you can find consumers, largely women, who allege that DevaCurl products have damaged their hair. Sephora’s beauty insider community has complaints stemming from 2016. 

Ayesha Malik, a YouTube influencer who also was a DevaCurl ambassador, ended up parting ways with the brand after she noticed the same allegations as Mero and the class action lawsuits highlight. What differentiates Malik’s claims from others is the fact that she’s been religiously using DevaCurl products for the last 6 years sans mixing it with other products. Malik details her experience in a video that has since garnered over 2 million views. 

Are Product Build up or pH to Blame For Hair Loss?

Manes by Mell, a YouTube influencer with a channel that focuses on curly hair care questions if the cause of the DevaCurl fiasco is rooted in using too many products on your hair or scalp--an actual condition known as product build up (or scalp build up).

Although Mell uses DevaCurl products, in a recent YouTube video she shares that she doesn’t use them on a daily basis and her experience with the brand has remained positive. 

Mell, a self-described textured hair specialist with a mane of curly hair, theorizes that many customers may be suffering from various causes such as product build up which can cause folliculitis or dandruff. Product build up can also create the symptoms the class action lawsuits allege--hair loss, shedding, brittleness, dryness, and texture change

If you are styling your hair daily with DevaCurl products and solely using the brand’s non-lather or lathering version of the No-Poo cleanser, you may need a clarifying shampoo to properly remove dead skin, sebum, and sweat from your scalp, Mell rationalizes. The residue of product and debris can accumulate and work concurrently to clog the hair follicles turning the scalp’s environment into a breeding ground for fungus like malassezia. This scenario can cause hydrophobic hair that is dry, brittle, and prone to hair loss and scalp irritation.

Mell’s video also postulates that DevaCurl products may have a pH that is more alkaline or basic (i.e., higher than 7) which may be behind the straightening effect the lawsuits allege the plaintiff's hair underwent. To put this into context, a chemical relaxer which includes sodium hydroxide, a chemical found in lye, has a pH between 12.5 and 13.5, causing the texture of your hair to change.

Mell encourages customers to run a pH test on their DevaCurl products since many factors can cause your products’ formula to become more alkaline such as shelving them in warm temperatures. 

Deva Concept Responds

It’s not that Deva Concepts hasn’t acknowledged the issues that DevaCurl customers are facing. The brand has been quietly trying to address these allegations since 2016. 

As a response to the backlash, Deva Concepts created the Curl Care Council, where customers can get answers to their questions about hair damage they allegedly experienced after using DevaCurl products. “We’re here, we’re listening, and we’ll continue to support you on your curl journey,” reads the Curl Care Council website.

Deva Concepts also released a lengthy statement that directly addresses the negative online conversation facing DevaCurl products, which reads, “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.”

But for their customers who have photographic proof that shows their misshapen curls, blatant bald spots, and scalp rashes that have spread to their necks and hands, the brand’s words just aren’t enough.

One lawsuit alleges that Deva Concepts “appears to be aware of the issues” yet “conceals and fails to disclose.” 

On Deva Curl’s website, the brand attributes other factors such as health conditions, pregnancy, menopause, weight loss, and stress for hair loss--not their products. We recommend using hair products that have anti-hair loss ingredients.

Expert Tips & Product Recommendations to Treat Damaged Hair

Courtney Williams, a licensed cosmetologist and founder of The Curl Conqueror hair care method, says it is possible to repair the damage experienced by DevaCurl customers.

Williams (known as the @TheCurlConqueror on Instagram), specializes in natural hair care and recommends consulting with a trained hair care professional.

The Georgia native suggests adding an intense, hydrating treatment to your hair care routine. “Hydration treatments are amazing,” she shares. “They work six times better than a deep conditioner [and] promote curl definition and moisture--two key elements for popping curls.”

She encourages “consistency” but is also transparent: “A lot of treatments are not an overnight success,” she says. “They are more so like medicine. The first time you use it, you may notice a slight difference, the next time you use it you may see even better results.”

As of note, Deva Concepts has not recalled any DevaCurl products nor has it offered monetary compensation to customers.

The United States (U.S.) Food & Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have not issued recalls, warnings, or launched investigations into DevaCurl products.

We want to hear from you. Have you experienced any of these hair concerns? Please share below or directly e-mail [email protected] to share your hair story.