girl with curly hair painting Deva Curl scandal
Curly Hair Care

What To Do If You’ve Been Affected By The Deva Curl Scandal

The DevaCurl scandal. If this isn’t the definition of natural hair drama, I don’t know what is!

If you haven’t heard, DevaCurl, the popular curly hair care brand, has come under fire recently after two former brand ambassadors went public and stated that their hair has significantly been damaged after consistent use of their products.

And they're not the only ones who've made the same claim. In fact, many DevaCurl users (from Type 2 to Type 4) report a 50% decrease in hair thickness, burning and itchy scalp, and a disappearance of their natural curl definition.

tweet showing the DevaCurl scandal

FYI - there is now an open class action lawsuit against the company. If you have been an active and consistent user of DevaCurl and have experienced significant negative changes to your natural hair, hit the link here to join the lawsuit.

Note that they put extra emphasis on the No-Poo line, so if you’ve used those products consistently in your routine, you may qualify for the lawsuit!

DevaCurl, in response to these allegations, state that they have done a review of their products and have found nothing in their ingredient list that would damage curly hair, effectively dismissing the countless complaints lodged against them and their products.

Now, I don’t use DevaCurl regularly (I occasionally use some products here and there, but in my opinion the ingredient list doesn’t justify the price point).

It’s obviously clear though that there is a significant problem with their products, given the sheer volume of complaints coming their way.

We’re going to take a look into their ingredient list to see what the culprit could be. But unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how much of each ingredient is actually in the product, so it’s hard to exactly pinpoint what the root cause is.

Also, it’s important to remember that the poison is in the dose. When it comes to cosmetic products, it’s all about the amount of times you’re exposed to a harmful ingredient, rather than just the ingredient itself.

So if you used DevaCurl only once, then you’re probably not going to be as affected by the ingredient than if, say, you used it regularly.

Now let’s get into it! Given the emphasis on the No Poo Line by the lawsuit, we will only be looking at the ingredients found in those products.

Ready to do a deep dive into the DevaCurl products to see what’s causing all this mess and what to do if you’ve been affected? Let’s go!

meme showing the devacurl scandal

Potential “Harmful” Ingredients Found in the DevaCurl No-Poo Products

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl betaine is listed as the main surfactant (or, cleansing agent) in the No-Poo line. This ingredient is common in sulfate-free shampoos, because it replaces the sulfate as the detergent ingredient.

This ingredient is much gentler than sulfates and other typical cleansers you find in natural hair products, in an effort to be less stripping. So it’s not really a “harmful” ingredient.

But the issue with using ONLY a cleansing conditioner such as the No-Poo, is that your hair never gets the deep clean that it is needs.

We all know by now that shampoo is a necessary part of a solid natural hair routine. Even if you’re someone with a tighter texture, you should incorporate regular shampoos in your routine, but use them biweekly instead of weekly.

This is because natural hair, due to the angularity of the coils, experiences product buildup like no other. And product buildup almost always leads to breakage.

But at the scalp level, product buildup can result in scalp dermatitis and follicle irritation. This could lead to hair loss - since the follicle is so irritated, it can’t support the hair anymore.

Given this, only using a co-wash/cleansing conditioner like the No-Poo is not enough to use to maintain a healthy scalp.

If you’re someone struggling with these conditions because of the DevaCurl products, start with a good deep clean of your hair, to get rid of all the dirt. Incorporating a good quality shampoos (still sulfate-free) may be all you need to get your hair back on track. But remember to to do a pre-poo/oil massage with your favourite oil to keep the hair from over-stripping!

Try using the Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo, if you're Type 2a-3b. 

For coilies that are Type 3c and up, the Mielle Organics Pomegranate and Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo would do wonders to cleanse but won't strip your hair of its moisture.

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Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is a preservative, and preservatives are meant to prolong the shelf life of your products by inhibiting microbial (or, bacteria) growth. This helps to make sure that your product lasts longer, saving you money.

You may have heard of another common preservative: the dreaded p-word (parabens). And because we all know that parabens are TRASH for natural hair (and have also been linked to chronic and fatal illnesses, making it one of the worst ingredients for natural hair), phenoxyethanol is now used in its place.

Now, phenoxyethanol may not be as bad as parabens. But it can be a skin irritant to some people causing scalp dermatitis, a chronic condition of itchy, inflamed skin.

And remember: many former users claim they now have permanent dermatitis on their scalp (we'll get into better products to use instead.

Diazolidinyl Urea

If you think phenoxyethanol is messy, wait until you meet diazolidinyl urea.

Diazolidinyl urea is another preservative found in some of DevaCurl’s products (upon further research, it seems as though they phased out of their current product formula, but be on the look out for the ingredient in DevaCurl products that have been sitting on the shelf).

This chemical is fine by itself. But it’s problematic because it releases another chemical, formaldehyde. And formaldehyde is B-A-D, because it’s a well-known and well-understood skin allergin and potential carcinogen (!!).

Here’s the problem: these companies know that formaldehyde is a big no-no in cosmetic products – in fact, just a little bit of it have shown to trigger skin and scalp dermatitis (again, EXACTLY what DevaCurl users are complaining about).

But formaldehyde is an effective preservative, so of course brands want to use it. To bypass this issue, they put in ingredients (such as diazolidinyl urea) that will turn into formaldehyde later. Shady shady!

If you take anything away from this post, stay away from products that include the following formaldehyde releasers:

  • DMDM hydantoinImidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea and imidazolididinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate

Ethylhexylglycerin

Ethylhexylglycerin is a surfactant (washes impurities away), an emollient, a skin-conditioning agent and preservative found in the No Poo Decadence.

This ingredient, similar to phenoxyethanol, is used in replacement of parabens but has been classified by the European Union (EU) as a skin irritant. This means that some users will find that their scalp is itchy, dry and flaky, and may develop dermatitis if they are sensitive to the ingredient. The EU also reports potential eye irritation after using the product.

This product is “safe to use”, meaning that there are no potential chronic health side effects, but users should be aware of the skin and eye irritant effects.

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Polyquaternium 7

In the No Poo Decadence there is an ingredient called polyquaternium 7, an anti-static agent that stops frizz formation. Exactly what curlies are asking for!

There is some debate about whether or not this product causes contact dermatitis (some studies have said yes, it does). Scientists exposed rats to the products and found that the rats developed dermatitis over time.

Laureth-4

Laureth-4 is a surfactant and an emulsifier (keeps the product consistency intact). It’s widely used in topical cosmetic products such as shampoos, conditioners and other wash-off products.

This ingredient is safe to use on its own, but there is a risk of a byproduct being released from Laureth-4 called 1,4-dioxane, which is a known carcinogen. Although this is unrelated to many of the DevaCurl users’ issues (they are concerned with hair loss and scalp sensitivity/dermatitis), it’s important to highlight that this can occur in products that contain laureth-4.

As a side note, if the purity of the laureth-4 creation is remained intact (if DevaCurl can ensure that the purification process is upheld to a high standard), this byproduct won’t be formed. This is in no way stating that DevaCurl’s products contain carcinogenic ingredients, though. We’re just stating the facts!

Fragrance

When a product label reads “fragrance”, unless it stated that it’s from an essential oil/fruit blend, then most likely the fragrance is a mix of crappy chemicals.

In the United States, companies can hide these additional chemicals in the formula by simply labelling the entire mix of chemicals as “fragrance”, even if 200 chemicals make up that one smell. Trifling!

Usually the chemicals used in fragrances are phthalates, but on DevaCurl’s website, their products are “phthalate-free”. Nonetheless, the chemicals used to make the fragrance remains hidden and it’s unfortunate that we have no idea what the fragrance is composed of.

My Hair Has Been Damaged – What Do I Do?

So, you’ve been personally affected by the DevaCurl scandal and wondering what you should do. Here’s the first step:

Keep calm and drop the products.

No more using DevaCurl, period. If any cosmetic ingredient, whether it’s a face moisturizer or shampoo, is irritating your skin and hair, your body is telling you something.

Next, you’ll need to create a new routine. Fortunately for you, we’ve got a routine below that’s perfect for you and your curls.

What’s essential to a solid natural hair routine is your shampoo, your deep conditioner, your leave-in conditioner, your oils and your natural hair tools. Make sure you understand your porosity (if your low porosity or high porosity) before deciding on a product.

  • Shampoo – Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo (Type 2-3b), Mielle Organics Pomegranate and Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo (Type 3c-4c).
  • Conditioner – any will do, as long as it has a lot of slip to detangle (Tresemme, Aussie, etc).
  • Leave-in Conditioner: Kinky Curly Knot Today (all types, Type 2-4), Camille Rose Curl Love Moisture Milk (Type 3c-4c).
  • Deep Conditioner – Shea Moisture Manuka Honey Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Masque (all types), Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask (Type 3c-4c).
  • Must Have Natural Hair Tools: hair steamer/hot head for low porosity, wide-tooth comb, satin/silk bonnet or pillowcase.

The Bottom Line

What's happened with the DevaCurl was unfortunate, especially to those who have been affected.

But the beautiful thing about natural hair is, although its fragile and susceptible to damage, it's resilient AF. 

With the right regimen and care, your curls can get back to its former glory. Make sure you're clarifying accordingly to clean your scalp, and following it up with a good deep conditioning session.

What are your thoughts about the Deva Curl scandal? Were you using Deva Curl products? Comment down below!