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The Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit promised to smooth your style and give it a keratin treatment. Instead, hundreds of women suffered hair loss and scalp burns when they tried it. Those hundreds of women joined several class action lawsuits against Unilever, maker of the Suave products, and the Seventh Circuit has upheld a $10 million dollar settlement in the case.
The company will also reimburse thousands of women the $10 it cost to buy a hair product that caused visible bald spots, broken hair, and burned scalps.
The smoothing kit caused such notorious damage that a Facebook group was started, called "Suave Keratin Infusion Kit Destroyed My Hair." And if you're into photos of horrendous hair damage, by all means take a gander. Complaints with the product began almost immediately after it was released in 2011, and continued until it was "discontinued" in May 2012.
The plaintiffs in this case contend Unilever knew there were problems with the product even before its release, but failed to warn consumers and even used deceptive advertising to get more women to purchase it. Even worse, the lawsuit claimed Unilever:
"...engaged in a campaign designed to obtain unconscionable and unenforceable releases from consumers injured by use of the product. Upon information and belief, Unilever has solicited and obtained numerous releases from California consumers and others in the United States who were injured by use of the product, without advising them of their right to obtain legal counsel to review the form releases."
A (Not so) Hairy Situation
Unilever has agreed to set aside $10,250,000 as part of the settlement: $10 million for consumers who suffered some bodily injury as a result of using the smoothing kit and another $250,000 to reimburse users for the purchase price. Individual settlements can range from $40 to $25,000, depending on the damage done.
And that damage can be extensive. The lead plaintiff in one of the class action cases claimed her hair began "melting" immediately when she applied the product. Another was still feeling the effects two years after she used the product: "Her once long, beautiful, natural curly healthy hair is now dull, fragile and short. Her hair is extremely thin and the bald spots caused by the treatment are still visible."
Oh, and the smoothing product also claimed it did not contain formaldehyde. But it did contain DMDM Hydantoin, a chemical that releases formaldehyde.