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March 6, 2012

Weighing in on Wen


by Tonya Mckay of NaturallyCurly

Celebrity stylist Chaz Dean professes a passion for ensuring his clients have healthy, beautiful hair. Over the course of his years working in the beauty industry, he developed the opinion that most commercially-available shampoo was counterproductive to this goal, and as a result, has not used it on either himself or clients in over 14 years. However, this doesn’t mean that Chaz prefers dirty hair.

He claims that there is a gentler way to achieve silky, clean tresses using oils, conditioning agents and nonionic surfactants to dissolve and gently remove oils and dirt from the scalp and hair. Using skills honed in a previous product development project, he designed a system of cleansing that his marketing material proclaims to be a “revolutionary new concept.” The result is the highly successful WEN hair care product line, founded upon the concept of a sulfate-free, non-foaming, cleansing and moisturizing conditioner.

This is certainly not a novel concept for those familiar with the “Curly Girl” or no-shampoo methods. Many have been doing this for years with all sorts of products designed specifically to be conditioners rather than cleansers. There are also products by companies such as DevaCurl and Jessicurl that market cleansers that are either no or low-shampoo. What is fairly unique about the WEN products, however, is the sheer amount of mass marketing and mainstream publicity Chaz Dean has been able to garner, particularly through his use of QVC as a publicity and sales tool.

The WEN products are fairly pricey and come with pretty specific instruction for use. In these formulas, nonionic surfactants work together with conditioning agents to help dissolve and remove sebum, product residue and environmental contaminants from the hair.

Dean recommends that a fairly large quantity of the product be applied at the roots and worked down into the hair. The number of squirts he says to use varies with hair length. Once the hair is saturated, he prescribes a dash of water be added followed by gentle hand washing.

For maximum cleansing and moisturizing, he then says the product should remain on the hair for the duration of the shower prior to rinsing. Users are then instructed to apply a final dollop to wet, rinsed hair from the midpoint to the ends for additional conditioning, shine and protection.

So how do Dean’s cleansers stack up against other shampoos, low-poos and no-poos? An examination of the ingredients should reveal a significant amount of information. There are several main categories of ingredients in his cleansing products: emollients and conditioning agents, emulsifiers, humectants, botanical extracts and other additives.

Emollients and Conditioning Agents

An emollient or conditioning agent forms a protective film over the surface of hair or skin, which adds gloss and shine to the hair, protects the hair from water loss to the environment (occlusion), and helps adjacent strands slide easily against one another. This all helps to reduce combing forces, facilitates detangling and prevents damage incurred by snarls. Conditioning agents can sometimes also act as humectants, attracting water to the hair.

Some examples of familiar conditioning agents include dimethicone, polyquaternium-10, dimethicone copolyol, amodimethicone, shea butter, jojoba oil, fatty alcohols, many proteins, hydrolyzed proteins, coconut oil, mineral oil, petrolatum, small molecule cationic surfactants and alkyl esters.

Below is a specific list of emollients found in the WEN cleaning products.

  • Cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol are fatty alcohols used as emollients that can help smooth the cuticle of the hair. They also function as viscosity modifiers, opacifiers and emulsion stabilizers.
  • Plant-derived oils such as shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil and avocado oil are highly effective and nourishing emollients.
  • Amodimethicone is an amine-functionalized silicone polymer that aids in color retention, smoothes, conditions and adds high gloss to the hair. This particular silicone polymer, while water insoluble, has been found to resist accumulation via build up on the hair surface, even with repeated use.
  • Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine is a tertiary amine surfactant used as a film former that can smooth the cuticle and reduce friction and combing forces.
  • PEG-60 almond glycerides is a useful emulsifying ingredient that possesses mild conditioning properties.
  • Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride is a cationic polymer that provides excellent moisturization and conditioning properties via adsorption onto the surface of the hair.
  • Dicetyldimonium chloride is a small molecule cationic surfactant that provides mild conditioning to hair via adsorption.
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein can provide protection and conditioning to hair via film formation at the surface and also via penetration into the cortex of the hair. People with certain hair types enjoy the results of this better than others.
Emulsifiers

Emulsifying agents (also known as surfactants) are materials, which have amphiphilic character, meaning they are both water-loving (hydrophilic) and oil-loving (lipophilic). This special property enables them to be used to create and stabilize oil-in-water and water-in-oil mixtures known as emulsions. The WEN formulas rely upon nonionic surfactants for this job, and they are effective at dispersing the non-water soluble materials in his products.

  • Ceteareth-20: This is a mixture of ethoxylated fatty acids (cetyl- and stearyl-) that is a nonionic surfactant typically used as an emulsion stabilizer.
  • Polysorbate 60 is an ethoxylated sorbitan derivative that is a nonionic surfactant used as an emulsifier.
Humectants

Humectants are materials that contain water-attracting elements, typically oxygen in hydroxyl and carbonyl groups. Some of these liquids can also act as solvents for some materials that are less soluble in water.

  • Glycerin is a moisturizing humectant that also imparts a thick, velvety texture to a product.
  • Panthenol is a pro-vitamin that is a highly effective humectant.
  • Butylene glycol is a humectant and also a co-solvent.

The remainder of the ingredients is a mixture of botanical extracts that adds little to the function of the product, fragrance, mild acids or bases for pH adjustment and preservatives.

Mainstream Haircare

The mainstream cosmetics and hair care industry is still mystified by the aversion many are developing to the use of synthetic surfactant-heavy shampoos. However, the success of products such as these might send a message to the larger companies that there is a large sector of the market that desires something different for their hair.

The main criticism of these products from a formulator’s perspective is that the ingredients list does not seem to adhere to INCI labeling standards for hair and skin care products. This makes it difficult at first glance to determine the approximate proportion of each ingredient listed. It is important if one desires credibility in this industry to strive to maintain labels that are clear and follow standard protocol.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Chaz Dean’s conditioning cleansers look to be capable of providing the same level of cleansing as many other conditioners and no-poo products designed for the same purpose. The inclusion of amodimethicone, guar hydroxypropylytrimonium chloride, fatty alcohols and small molecule cationic surfactants indicates that the product should impart a significant amount of conditioning properties to the hair as well, so it should be able to replace the need for multiple products.

The quality of the ingredients seems to be superior to most very inexpensive drug-store conditioners often relied upon for conditioner washing. However, whether WEN cleansing conditioners provide as much benefit as one would hope when considering the price remains to be seen by this curly chemist.

What has your own experience been?


CN Says:
I used the cleansing conditioner (Fig, I think?) a week ago and loved it. I was gifted some months ago and forgot about it. After the rinse, my hair was noticeably clean, soft and moisturized. Slip was like, woah. Like, crazy. I'll definitely be trying it again, but only when my hair isn't all gunked up from greasy, silicone laden products. So would I buy it? I'd need to experiment a bit more before I can answer that question... that ish is expensive!

44 Chime in!:

naadii salaam said...

i have been waiting for a post like this on CN! for me, WEN has been the gift and the curse. the product is totally a gift of the gods and my hair loves it! the curse? that would be guthy-renker sales marketing conglomerate extraordinaire...AKA king of the shady business practices. DO NOT DO WHAT I DID, which was to watch the infomercial and then order online...their website for WEN is quite deceptive (they do not show you what's in your cart before you order and they forget to mention the fact that each time you click on the product to view it, it's added to your cart). Long story short, I wound up being charged $745+ for 5 orders of the 90-day supply when all I wanted was to try out the $29.95 introductory offer, and they took their time giving my $$$ back (but I did recover all costs in the end). If you want to try, I would go the QVC route, you can purchase it individually or get on a shipment plan if you like. The comb was the bomb and the deep conditioner too, my hair laughed at that lil "texture balm stick" and the "styling creme". For me, the cleansing conditioner was worth the hype.

sarah said...

IMHO, Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle works just as well and fraction of the cost. Did a side by side comparison... couldn't tell the difference between the two in terms of cleansing and slip factors. Save yourself some money.

Anonymous said...

I'll just be the one to throw this in here...
Both my aunt and cousin used Wen and both said their hair fell out in clumps. I googled it and found similar stories online. Now... maybe they didn't follow the very detailed directions. I don't know. BUT I won't be using it on my transitioning hair. Maybe I'll try it when I'm all natural.
---MrsDjRass

hairscapades said...

One of my really good friends ordered Wen from QVC or one of those TV things several years ago. She has fine, thin hair, so she gave me the Fig to try on my natural hair. I wasn't really that impressed for the price and size. So, I never purchased, though I used up the bottle. I think I was already using DevaCare No Poo at the time and found that worked well for me, though it definitely isn't an all-in-one product.

Shelli

CeCe said...

I love WEN. It is expensive so last year when I first started using it I thought there are probably other less expensive products I can try. When I bought other conditioners, I usually had to supplement with other products for curl definition, which meant buying a conditioner plus an oil, and a leave in conditioner. So the price amounted to the same as WEN, since I use WEN and nothing else. A year later and I'm back to WEN. I buy it on Amazon on an as needed bases and will occasionally try another product, but my hair loves WEN.

Anonymous said...

I love Wen. i didn't expect much from it, thinking it was for non-black hair. But my mom bought me a bottle and I have been using it every since. I still shampoo once every 2 weeks. I buy it from QVC. My hair has grown every since I've used it.

signorinabella said...

I really like Wen. Of course, I've been gifted my last couple of bottles of it, so I might be biased. It leaves my 4 b/c hair clean but not squeaky clean like shampoos often do, and I like that I could use it as a conditioner too. I don't follow the directions on the bottle, I use whatever amount my hair needs at the time. I have not experienced hair loss, and I've been using it for almost a year. I hear there is a product called Hair One that is similar -- if anyone is looking for a less expensive alternative.

Daliah said...

I'm a Wen girl! I have been using Wen since March 2011. At the time I was still using relaxers and did see that I was losing hair when I detangled. Now that I am natural (since Nov. 2011) I use when regularly and it has made my TWA so soft and manageable. Yes, it is quite costly but when I do order I catch the specials. I purchased 5 assorted bottles around Christmas and still have more than half left in 3 and 1 bottle is unopened. I would definitely recommend "natural" girls to use this product.

Anonymous said...

Great article!!! I was hoping an article about Wen would be posted. Thanks Nikki!!

Anonymous said...

I would be curious how Sally's Wen knockoff _ Hair One _ compares with Wen, ingredient-wise.

Anonymous said...

My mother bought WEN, and I used it a few times.
It made my hair VERY dry/straw like. I personally hated it.

A friend of mine who is also natural once told me that she had started using WEN, but was experiencing dryness as well. However, she didn't believe that WEN was to blame. Turns out that it was drying her hair out just like it had with mine.

LaShon James-Major said...

To respond to the comment above the Sally's knock off is a joke. Yes, WEN is pricey but it works for my 3c hair.

Anonymous said...

Pricey but great! I had to get the gallon size on QVC! Never quite worked out the "pumps per length issue" but Carol's Daughter works great too and slightly CHEAPER, I think!
FYI:
Having an awesome time using Kimmaytubes Apple Cider Vinegar recipe to cleanse my hair. Hard to go back to ANYTHING else, after that, works better than any shampoo or cleanser, I've ever used, and gentler! It's AMAZING for my low density 3b hair! I follow up with the whole leaf aloevera juice/gel and flax oil or coconut milk in a spray bottle! And I use the Wen as my leave in! so far no regrets!

Anonymous said...

I love WEN! It works great on my hair, I only use it to detangle and as a refresher but my hair knows the difference when I don't use it!

Anonymous said...

Hey Nikki
Love your blog and visit it daily. I'm not sure if you heard about Joseph Kony or the Invisible Children Movement but I was hoping you take a look at the vid on YT and help stop a war criminal that abducts children and makes the child soldiers.

Its on youtube just type in: KONY 2012
and to anyone else who is reading this do the same. Look it up, share it on all social media sites that you can. Make KONY famous so that he's a household name. So that everyone knows the atrocities he commits and hopefully we can stop him.

Anonymous said...

WATCH THE VID KONY 2012 ON YOUTUBE. SHARE IT WITH HOWEVER MANY PPL YOU CAN ON HOWEVER MANY SOCIAL MEDIA SITES THAT YOU CAN. HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


KONY 2012

Anonymous said...

WATCH THE VID KONY 2012 ON YOUTUBE. SHARE IT WITH HOWEVER MANY PPL YOU CAN ON HOWEVER MANY SOCIAL MEDIA SITES THAT YOU CAN. HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


KONY 2012

Anonymous said...

WATCH THE VID KONY 2012 ON YOUTUBE. SHARE IT WITH HOWEVER MANY PPL YOU CAN ON HOWEVER MANY SOCIAL MEDIA SITES THAT YOU CAN. HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


KONY 2012

Anonymous said...

Hair one worked for me remember everybodys hair isn't the same and products work differently on our hair

Q said...

I love Wen because it works and is simple (i dont need a shampoo, conditioner, AND leave in) it cuts down on time spend on my hair and the amount of products I buy. Its been nothing but good for my hair but terrible for my wallet (I can never find any deals for it! so I'm trying terresentials mud wash but that isn't any ligher on my pocket :/

Ashlei H. said...

I love Wen! I really like the sweet almond mint (it tingles ahh)which I think provides more slip than the fig. It is expensive, but you can catch it on QVC! They usually have it on 2 or 3 easy payments and you can get the huge bottles. I however do not use it exclusively b/c of the price. I've found that other cowash products work just as well.

braidsntwists said...

Tried it after a good friend of mine recommended it. My hair hated it. Sure, it got my hair clean but my hair felt like a brillo pad when it was all over. I ended up giving it away to another friend who wanted to try it, who ended up not liking it either.

I ended up getting Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo and Conditioner and it does a great job on my hair for a fraction of the cost.

Latonya Green said...

I used Wen for a while after ordering it and I loved it. I also got a ton of my friends to try it and they loved it as well. However, it is pricey so when I ran out i did not order it again.But it is very good though!!

Anonymous said...

My hair type is 4A. I used an entire bottle of Wen Almond Mint even though the menthol irritated my scalp and left my hair and scalp dry not moisturized. I wanted it to work considering the price. If you have sensitive skin you need to test before committing to purchase.

Jessica said...

I've been using wen for years! When my hair was texturized it gave my curls life and they were left feeling like soft cotton balls accorrding to my best friend. Now that I am transitioning, I still use it because it does mosturize my hair well and still achieve softness.. I am still getting use to not having perfect ringlets I had when I texturized but, in due time they will be back. I expect this product to remain a staple piece in my hair care regimen!

luvmyboys said...

I LOVE LOVE the Wen line. The only thing that I noticed is every so many washings I need to use a shampoo because my hair begins to look dull.

Anonymous said...

For those who found it to be drying, maybe it was the wheat protein. Not everybody's hair responds well to wheat protein. I know mine doesn't.

JustTrena said...

I bought and used Wen and I had a LOT of shed hair on my hands. I'd read up on the reviews (after I purchased, before I used it) of folks reporting hair loss when using Wen so I was aware when I started my first shampoo. Just by me gently running my hands to smooth the product on my strands left behind a LOT of shed hairs. I wanted it to work so badly but I don't have enough hair on my head to sacrifice for the cause! lol I must say though, my daughter used it and liked it. Different strokes, different folks, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit I haven't tried Wen but to me, a cleansing conditioner should have the same results and is cheaper. I've been using Blended Beauty's cleansing conditioner for years and love it. ~KF519

Tgspearman said...

I too am very happy to see this article and the comments. I was wondering if any of us used this product. I am a WIN girl and I LOVE, LOVE this it! I’ve been using it for about a year now. I too was skeptical but my sister who has a courser hair type then I (I’m a 3c) starting to use it. Her hair is permed. I notice that her hair didn’t frizz as it normally does and it had sooo much body. So, I order some the Almond Mint from QVC. After the first wash I saw a difference! I’ve been natural for about 2.5 years and haven’t found anything that I like as much. I’ve tried just about everything. DevaCurl was good but I had to use too many products with it to get the hair I liked and the glycerin in it shrunk my hair too much. I’ve tried Kinky Kurly, Shea Moisture, Mixed Chicks, etc, etc.,

I get the duo of Almond Mint and Parmagrant from QVC on autoship. I put a little oil and water in it in a separate bottle and use as a styling cream in the mornings that I don’t cowash. It’s just great for me. I love it!

Jeni said...

Thanks to other posters for the info--I've been wondering about Wen for years. My mom recently gifted me with something called Salon Grafix conditioning cleanser that markets itself as an alternative to Wen. Haven't touched it because my cheap Tresseme is doing a fairly good job. Has anyone tried Salon Grafix?

Candice said...

I own the entire Wen line and I like it (all formulas). Very moisturizing, detangling is a breeze, and hair seems a lot healthier and less shedding. My fave is the Lavender Cleansing Conditioner.

Tashana said...

It turned my sisters hair from an afro into ringlets. We never knew she had hair like that.

Anonymous said...

I've used WEN conditioning shampoos since 2005 or 2006 but not exclusively. I'm relaxed even though I did transition from Feb 2010 to Aug 2010 until I just couldn't take the two conflicting textures anymore. The WEN is a great product for me. I have a variety collection of tea tree,s.a.mint,lavender,and fig. My hair responds well to all but the lavender because it realky seems to thicken up my tresses and builds so much volume that it's hard to comb my hair even with a wide tooth comb. Fig is my fav. Haven't tried the newer ones or limited editions. I stick with what's worked thus far,and that's the swt. almond mint and fig. Sure they cost more,but the buyer can control that by supplementing with another shampoo that has no/low surfactants and more natural ingredients. I only buy from QVC and always purchase when it's a TSV (that means bigger bottles,flex pays,and freebies). My hair also loves the Babbasu and Marshmallow shampoo bar by Chagrin Valley (I NEVER shampoo without it),or Kera Care detangling shampoo. I follow with a cassia or henna tx,and lastly finish up with a deep condition using BeeMine or Shea Moisture deep condish. With the exception of the WEN products,I learned about all the rest of the products mentioned here on curlynikki. I LOVE this forum!

PhenomenallyMe said...

I have a bottle of the WEN cleansing conditioner and use it from time to time but I don't go crazy over it. I'm wondering, since black people's hair needs sebum, how is it useful to black hair? (if someone can answer this that would be awesome!)

Seeing this makes me want to rethink using it...

Anonymous said...

I would love to use wen but i read some the reviews on it and a lot of people were complaining that wen caused them to lose a significant amount of hair and when they stoppped using it the hair loss stopped.

Passion said...

Thanks for this post. I didnt know Wen was as well known. Ive used Wen products back when I had a perm. I noticed the difference. I cant imagine how good it would work now that Im natural. I might have to pay another pretty penny just to try it out one more time.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that over long periods of use, some naturals have been experiencing thinning and hair loss. I had been curious about it, but after some reviews opted not to.

Kosmyc Kris said...

WEN IS THE MIRACLE HAIR EVERYTHING!!! Trust me...once you try this product, you will talk about Chaz Dean like he is a part of your family and will be willing to hand over your last $5 dollars to him at the drop of a hat! This product is ABSOLUTELY sensational. It is a bit expensive, but once you take into account of all of the time and money you will save by replacing detanglers, shampoos, and everything else with it, you will not have a problem with the price. It completely transformed my hair. I have 4a curls that were matting and behaving badly before. Now, when it's wet, I don't even have to use a comb...but if I did, I can get a fine tooth comb (that's a right, a FINE tooth comb) through my 4a curls withOUT losing one strand of hair. Every natural woman MUST try this!

Crystal H. said...

I brought the Wen 90 supply and hated it. It dried my hair out tremendously and even the re-moisture pack dried it even more!! I have to use my other products to add moisture back in! Very disappointed in it, but I have color in my hair and I did notice that it did not strip it out, so that is the only reason I will keep it.

Sonya said...

Love Wen. It is a bit pricey but it is worth it to keep you hair on your head and not down the drain. I tried the Sally's brand of Wen which is called Hair One and it really sucks. I had to had my own concoction to make it work and so I didn't feel like I had wasted my money. I am a Wen girl all the way.

Lori Hicks said...

My hair fell out after using it -- within a week. I have a 2" bald patch at the crown of my head and additional bald patches all over my scalp. wouldn't recommend using this at all -- not worth the risk. i have naturally curly hair that is not treated chemically or with heat. i'm convinced wen initiated the massive hair loss. i had no other changes in my life... diet, haircare, lifestyle, etc.

red_queen said...

I was a devotee of another sulphate free system and tried Wen out of curiosity. At first I didn't like it, although I appreciated the detangling aspect of Wen. I chose to stick with it and glad I did because now I love it - my curly hair is finally growing and looks a LOT thicker and healthier. Wen may not be as natural as the other line I used, but for me the bottom line is results and Wen delivers

FR33DUM_MU$3 said...

Hi! I am a 4a with a few 3c curls in he front and nape area. My friend, white female, gifted me with the sweet almond mint set, after she tried it before and it did not work. I am in love with this product. I mean while writing this, I am deep conditioning with the deep treatment. I lobe the smell and the clean, pepperminty feeling. I want to do a wash and go with this product because i like the extra hang it gives me. But, it is pricey, for me it is worth it... I am in LOVE!!!

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