Former devotees of the haircare brand DevaCurl said they have dealt with hair falling out, itchy and flaky scalps, and loss of curls using its products in recent months.
Now, the company has said it's investigating and testing the products but still insists they're safe to use.
The allegations against the Instagram-famous haircare brand have spread across the internet in recent weeks. A Facebook group started by Stephanie Mero, a hairstylist in Florida who has been speaking out against the company since August 2019, has grown to nearly 30,000 members.
Many women in the group said their curls became lifeless, misshapen, and dry after using DevaCurl. They shared photos showing bald spots and flaky scalps they attributed to the use of the brand's products.
In an apparent response to the allegations, DevaCurl released a statement saying it had done testing and found "no safety issues with our products."
"We don’t speculate on why some people are attributing the challenges with their curls to our products," the company said.
A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News DevaCurl is "conducting additional testing with an independent party."
"All of our formulas are subject to rigorous and thorough testing to ensure our products meet strict internal quality assurance standards and regulatory requirements before they reach the market," the spokesperson said.
Some of the women said they only realized what was happening to their hair after watching a video by Ayesha Malik, who runs a YouTube channel about curly hair tips and tricks.
After months of issues, Malik made a video called "Why I Stopped Using DevaCurl." The video has since been viewed more than 1 million times.
Malik told BuzzFeed News she had been a hardcore devotee of DevaCurl since 2013. Even though the products were expensive, Malik said by 2014 she was totally sold on the benefits. She said she thought that it was "the best hair line out there and I'm going to use this the rest of my life."
Malik also told her followers how much she loved DevaCurl and said by 2017 she had the best hair of her life.
But in 2018, she started to notice a change in her hair. According to Malik, her hair began falling out, and her scalp became itchy and flaky. Her curls turned into waves. In early 2019, she gave her sister some of the products. Soon, her sister was complaining about an itchy scalp too.
Still, it took Malik until last fall to seriously consider if DevaCurl could be the problem.
“I was so blinded by my love for DevaCurl... I felt like I was in a cult," she said.
She decided to speak out and make the video to help other curly-haired women who also may be experiencing issues.
When Nelkis Torres from Orlando saw Malik's video, she could immediately relate. Torres had thought she was having hormonal issues and even got blood work done because her hair kept falling out.
"I remember crying every time not wanting to wash my hair because I knew how much hair I would lose," she wrote in the Facebook support group.
When she saw the video and read more and more stories, Torres told BuzzFeed News she realized "DevaCurl was the problem."
Torres had been using DevaCurl since 2016 and quit after seeing the video. She described her hair as "dry and frizzy" and said she had to keep cutting it because of the hair loss.
"I’m blessed that my curls are still here, unlike other girls, but my hair is still damaged," she said.
One of those women whose curls lost their shape is Annie Vail, a student at Cornell University. She told BuzzFeed News she had been using DevaCurl for the past four years, but she started having issues with it about a year ago.
"My hair [started] coming off in giant clumps in the shower, and my curls drastically lost their definition," she said. "I have also struggled with dandruff, an issue I never had a problem with until I started to use DevaCurl."
She added: "I was spending money to color my hair, and then it would all go to waste because DevaCurl caused my hair to fall out in giant clumps."
Vail said she initially "dismissed the possibility" DevaCurl could be the cause of her problems because it had such a good reputation online.
But recently, she went on vacation and didn't bring her DevaCurl products with her. She said she noticed an immediate difference and stopped using DevaCurl.
"Since switching, my hair no longer has been falling out, and my curls have slowly been coming back," she said.
The women who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they are now completely dumping their DevaCurl in hopes of restoring their hair to its former glory.
Torianne Smith of Ottawa said she invested in an entire DevaCurl routine after switching over to using its products in 2018.
"My hair started falling out and breaking, so I cut it very short to try to prevent it," she said, adding she now has bald spots.
Like Torres, Smith said she was so concerned about her hair loss that she visited a doctor and tried supplements and vitamins to help.
For many curly-haired women, the damage to their hair is about more than just appearances, as Karen Collis told BuzzFeed News.
"The loss of curls is the worst part, as that is part of my identity," she said. Collis said she experienced hair and curl loss as well as scabbing on her scalp from the products.
The online complaints against DevaCurl also drew the attention of attorneys interested in pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the company. Two attorneys, Gary Klinger of Kozonis & Klinger and Gary Mason at Whitfield, Bryson & Mason, are currently seeking plaintiffs for a possible lawsuit.
The spokesperson for DevaCurl told BuzzFeed News that there "has been no lawsuit filed against DevaCurl concerning our products or their safety."
They said DevaCurl is committed to hearing its customers' concerns.
"We are committed to providing our customers with all the information they need to continue to use DevaCurl with confidence," they said. "We’ll be posting updates on our website, and we encourage our consumers to share their experiences with us at email@example.com. We will go above and beyond to help anyone on their curl journey."
Malik said she is struggling with feeling guilty about recommending DevaCurl to so many people. She said she is speaking out not because she wants revenge or has animosity toward the company, but because she wants to help other women.
"Nothing can happen to get me my hair back," she said. "There's nothing that DevaCurl or anyone can do to get me what I once had."