A month ago or so, I was gifted an entire WEN System - two bottles of Cleansing Conditioner, Intensive Hair Treatment, and Styling Creme. I was stoked, because I was utterly fascinated by the Chaz Dean product line. But with the inflated price tag, I couldn't see myself committed to signing up for this monthly reorder product. Not on my salary. Needless to say, getting an entire supply of products to test drive for free.99 was right up my alley.
If you have a pulse, I'm sure you've heard of WEN. For those of you who have never seen (or won't admit to seeing) a WEN infomercial; see above.
I know, I know. Some of you may be thinking, okay, big deal. Conditioner washing (or "co-washing") is nothing new - and you are absolutely correct. It's no secret that we can have or do something for eons, and once it is "discovered" by the mainstream, it is marketed as something new and revolutionary. With that said, WEN is the first mass-marketed mainstream (but not the only in existence) haircare system that is based on cleansing hair with a conditioner. Looks good, but is the system work the ticket price? I dive head first (literally) to try it out.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Vegetable Oil (Olus Oil), Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Polysorbate 60, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Amodimethicone, Citric Acid, Menthol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Geraniol, Benzyl Benzoate, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Hydroxycitronellal.C960
At first look, I see nothing wildly spectacular or different from most traditional conditioners. In fact, most conditioners on the market (regardless of price) have bases consisting of water, glycerin, cetyl alcohol, and/or cetaryl alcohol. These ingredients are popular foundations for conditioners because they are moisture imparting, humectants, and lubricating emollients, respectively. Following the lovely logic of Jc of The Natural Haven, it is understood and accepted that really the first 5 or 6 ingredients (after water) in any given product have the most substantial impact on your hair. Anything else after that performs marginally, at best (or is a marketing gimmick). Rounding off the top of the ingredient list are chamomile and wild cherry bark extracts. Chamomile is a wonderful anti-inflammatory (great for sensitive skin/scalp), and is rich in B vitamins. Wild cherry bark extract's properties help make hair smooth, silky, and give it body.
To be thorough, I emptied a whole bottle in a series of co-washes - testing out the claims that WEN makes hair healthier, shinier, and more manageable over time. Here is a summary of my experience with the Cleansing Conditioner: –Pleasant smell, with a mild cooling sensation on the scalp. –On a scale of 1 to 10, slip was about a 6.5. It wasn't the ideal in-shower detangling product, but it wasn't bad. –It gently cleansed my hair. It removed buildup, and did not leave my hair feeling heavy, greasy, or dry. In fact, my hair was quite soft and easy to detangle after washing. –Over the course of three weeks, I didn't notice anything radically different in my hair. It was soft, manageable, and had shine - but then again, my hair always does. –It performs well as a light-leave in. Doesn't eliminate the need to moisturize and seal, though!
I guess this is Dean's fancy way of saying "deep conditioner". The ingredient list tells a similar story to that of the Cleansing Conditioner:
Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 60, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Gardenia Tahitensis Flower, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Vegetable Oil (Olus Oil), Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Amodimethicone, Menthol, Citric Acid, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Fragrance, Benzyl Benzoate, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Hydroxycitronellal, Limonene, Linalool, Annatto (CI 75120)
Some of the same key players here - water, fatty alcohols, positively charged surfectant (click here for more details on stearamidopropyl dimethylamine). The Intensive Treatment mixes in some shea butter, while bumping up the sweet almond oil and aloe vera content slightly. Shea butter, a favorite among naturals is an emollient fat from the nut of the East or West African shea nut tree used to moisturize and soften hair.
I only got two uses out of the Intensive Treatment - the jar is only 4oz. After emptying the container, I found:
• It smells just like the Cleansing Conditioner - gently minty.
• The Intensive Treatment works well as a follow-up to the Cleansing Conditioner, as most complimentary products are designed to do.
• Hair was noticeably soft after both 30-minute treatments
• Hair responded better to the Intensive Treatment when combined with heat (plastic cap under dryer)
Overall, WEN Cleansing Conditioner and Intensive Treatment aren't a bad set of products, by any means. They do what they are designed to do, and do it quite well. I honestly enjoyed using WEN; and so did my mom (who is relaxed). What rubs me the wrong way is the price tag - $30 for a "month supply" of Cleansing Conditioner, Intensive Treatment and two "free" smaller sized products. Clearly, Dean isn't too hip to the natural community. A 16oz bottle of Cleansing Conditioner, and a 4oz jar of Intensive Treatment barely held up for two weeks…what am I supposed to do for the other 16 days? Chaz, quit playin'. Lastly, you may have noticed that I left the Sweet Almond Mint Styling Creme out of this review. That's because I only used it once, and found it to be a "take it or leave it" product. It didn't do anything bad to my hair - but it didn't do anything good either. It just didn't do….anything. Perhaps for those with finer textures, the Creme will work as a leave-in, or styling prep product. But for me, it was just a tube of nothingness.
A full-on review would not be complete without a few recommendations — with a substantially cheaper price tag, of course:
- If you are interested in the minty/cooling sensation WEN provides, try Suave Professionals Rosemary Mint Conditioner ($4/28oz) or U R Curly Quinoa Protein Conditioner ($8/16oz)
- If you get excited about extracts, essential oils, and botanical ingredients, take Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Conditioner ($3/16.9oz) for a spin
- If you want a conditioner that actually has sweet almond oil in the top 5 ingredients, pick up Suave Professionals Almond + Shea Butter Conditioner ($4/28oz)
- If you are curious about chamomile, grab Nature's Gate Chamomile Replenishing Conditioner ($8/18oz) — the top ingredients are nearly identical to WEN!
- If you are interested in an effective deep conditioner with a shea butter base, just pick up any jar or bottle that says Shea Moisture. Ok but seriously, check out Shea Moisture's Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque or Yucca & Baobab Anti-Breakage Masque (both $12/12oz)
Have any of you tried Wen products? What are your thoughts?