Free to Be Lather-Free
When Chaz Dean--celebrity stylist, philanthropist, salon owner, and brand founder of WEN Hair & Body Care--introduced his lather-free approach to haircare, it came as an extension of his life philosophy, which celebrates the beauty of the natural world. In his products, his design, and his work, Dean promotes a simple, conscious approach to beauty.
Dean's interest in hair design was a result of his early interest in photography.
"I started out taking photography courses all through high school," Dean shares. "When I graduated high school I took a commercial course in photography. I felt I was missing the ability of how to accomplish hairstyles and make up that I was looking for within my photography; I could explain to a stylist what I envisioned, what the model should look like, the scene, but the hair and makeup never came out exactly how I envisioned it.
"That’s why I decided to go to beauty school. I wanted to create the image that was inside my head, and then capture that on film.”
After establishing himself in Los Angeles, and growing a loyal clientele, Dean explored his vision for a product line. He first introduced his brand, WEN Hair & Body Care, to his guests at Chaz Dean Studio in Hollywood (a bungalow-style retreat which he has since expanded to six bungalows; he also has a New York location in a renovated brownstone)--and then he took it to the world.
The product line quickly gained popularity, growing steadily to eventually capture the title of number one haircare brand on QVC in 2015. To date, he has sold over over 40 million lather-free Cleansing Conditioners--and counting.
Today, the WEN line consists of over 350 products which includes a full range of styling products, skincare, body care, lip care, fragrance, home, men’s, kids and pet care. In 2020, WEN secured seven prestigious QVC Beauty Award wins, including Best Shampoo, Best Hair Treatment, Best Hairspray, Best Body Lotion, Best Self Tanner, Best Men’s Product and the QVC Icon Award.
Dean continues to see clients ("I still love coloring and cutting hair; it's my passion and creative outlet") and he prioritizes time with friends and his beloved dogs, his "angels," Bella and Riley. He contributes to many organizations including The Fight Against Pediatric AIDS, Oprah Winfrey’s™ Leadership Academy Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and Best Friends Animal Society.
MODERN asked Dean to answer some questions about his background, beauty beginnings, and where he's going next--and he kindly obliged.
Catching Up with Chaz Dean
MODERN SALON: Where did you grow up and when did you come to Los Angeles?
CHAZ DEAN: I originally grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At the age of about 13 1/2 my family moved to Simi Valley, California. I feel like I definitely had a perfect balance of my environment during my young adolescent years of growing up. LA influences my work and career because of its diversity. There's so much Los Angeles has to offer whether it's the city, nature, or culture.
MS: Giving up lather was a new concept when you launched WEN. Did it take a lot of convincing for people to embrace this suds-free way of cleansing?
CD: Getting my clients to give up the lather wasn't that difficult because they already trusted me. They did think it was a little bit crazy but they also trusted me and knew that I wouldn't steer them wrong. Especially once I explained to them what lather was actually doing to their hair, scalps and color, they knew that I was onto something new.
MS: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to develop and launch their own product line?
CD: Owning your own brand can be very exciting and rewarding, but at the same time it takes a lot of passion, dedication and hard work, especially once it launches, staying on top of all aspects of it. I would say make sure it's something that you really want and know that in order to do it properly it takes a lot of your time.
MS: What is next for WEN and for your career as a stylist and entrepreneur?
CD: I have always been very connected with my clients, customers and fan base. I always listen to their comments, feedback and suggestions and always take it into consideration as I move forward with new upcoming projects and products.
Most recently, I've been working on a WEN Styling Tool. It's a beautiful, very lightweight blow dryer with interchangeable attachments and separate heat/speed controls. It should launch in September 2023. I'm also working on an ammonia free, cruelty free, vegan at home color glossing. It is a theory/concept/signature formulation that I've been doing at my salon for the past 25+ years. It's something our clients have been asking for, for years now, so to see it finally unfold is very rewarding.
MS: What did you learn about yourself from working your way through the WEN class-action? (Users of the product had claimed it caused hair loss and other problems.)
CD: It was a lengthy process. I firmly believed (99.9%) with all the testing we had done and selling close to 40 million Cleansing Conditioners, WEN was completely safe. But I
decided to step forward and engage in every test possible to prove to our customers that WEN could not possibly cause hair loss. This was a long process because each time the world renowned scientists/professionals would approach me with new tests we could embark upon, I would agree to enter into testing, hoping that with each negative test result we received, it would give our customers/people reassurance that WEN was not only safe but also one of the most tested products on the market.
After years of extensive and thorough testing, we have at this point done every test possible. And every test has come back negative. What I know is that in the current climate in which we live, anybody can and does sue for any reason, whether it carries any validity or not. That is unfortunate and I would not wish this experience on anyone. I have built my life and career on my word and integrity and this lawsuit took a toll on my legacy. That is something that can never be undone.
*Attorney Statement for WEN By Chaz Dean Inc.
Per: Byan Sullivan of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP
All lawsuits were settled years ago purely for business reasons and was decided among all interested parties, including us, our licensees, retail outlets, and insurance companies, because it would be more expensive to pay defense costs than to settle. We firmly believe we would have won the case at trial, especially considering that we have never been presented with any evidence or legitimate scientific theory showing that the Product could cause hair loss. Further, we have thoroughly tested the Product, conducting over 40 tests, studies, and analyses and assessing the Product's impact on all feasible interactions with the human body. All testing has shown that the Product is safe.
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