By: Shea Lenniger, Contributing Writer
and: Richard Garner, Editor in Cheif | Trichologist | Hair Loss Educator for The Hair Society
The Hair Society, its writers, and staff are not endorsing any specific product in this article. Rather we are taking an objective look into the Good and the Bad of Monat as reported through the Internet, News Media outlets and other digital stories.
Whether it’s because of the multiple lawsuits, friends in the program, or perhaps the more positive reactions, you’ve most likely heard of the American-based hair care company Monat. Founded in 2014, Monat operates through a multi-level marketing scheme. Known as “market partners”, these sellers earn rank, revenue, and various bonuses from Monat by recruiting new members and by selling their products. Though they boast an impressive roster of products with treatments for all sorts of hair concerns, why are there so many lawsuits against them?
Monat’s vegan and cruelty-free products include shampoos, conditioners, serums, oils, masques, hair spray and more recently, pet products. Whether it’s for hydration, color enhancement, or styling purposes, Monat’s various product lines offer solutions for all types of hair concerns. The Renew shampoo is often the first product that new customers purchase. At $35 a bottle, this salt-and-sulfate free shampoo promises to help improve the strength and shine of the hair. For those looking for a nourishing oil, the Rejuvenique Oil Intensive is another popular choice. This oil treatment boasts “nourishment, anti-aging benefits, and long-lasting shine” with over 13 plant and essential oils, nutrients, and antioxidants.
With a large collection of products and the market partner program appeal, Monat saw tremendous success right away. By 2017, they had 300 million dollars in sales and projected 1 billion dollars in sales revenue for 2018. However, some were skeptical of the giant’s skyrocketing popularity and began questioning the integrity of what their products promised.
While it’s not unusual for companies to receive some complaints about their products, it’s not so typical to be hit with as many lawsuits as Monat has. Since 2017, a total of 15 lawsuits involving Monat have been initiated.
The class action lawsuits, of which are filed by both consumers and professional hair specialists, claimed the company’s various hair products had caused issues such as “significant hair loss”, “scalp injury” and “scalp irritation.” With such accusations coming from long-time experts in the hair care field, they’re should be a major cause for concern. A few claims even came from former Monat distributors who refused to stand by these products upon discovering their negative effects. Many of the lawsuits attacked the company for purporting to use “harsh chemicals” and “known human allergens” which may have caused these alleged reactions.
Monat has ardently denied that their products contain any sort of chemicals and instead responded that customers with negative reactions should discontinue use and consult a physician.
One case, in particular, involved the creation of a social media support group against Monat. Founded in 2017, by North Carolina woman Vickie Harrington created a Facebook group claiming that Monat’s products caused “balding, hair loss, and scalp damage.”
Harrington, who was a Monat market partner herself, had originally purchased various products from her neighbor, but soon saw negative effects from the treatments. When she expressed her concern over her major hair loss, Harrington’s neighbor assured her that it was just a part of the “detox” process. (It should be noted that Monat’s “Truth About Monat” website specifically states that “hair loss is not part of any Monat purifying or “detoxifying” process.”)
Within her Facebook group, she posted various photos and warnings to customers to discontinue use of their products. Other Monat users shared shocking photos of balding spots, huge clumps of hair that had fallen out, and sores on their scalps. On January 26th, Monat filed a federal lawsuit against her, claiming that she “defamed Monat by actively spreading harmful information regarding Monat’s products that she knew to be false.” The lawsuit explained that her Facebook post attacks had no “scientific or factual basis”.
A Monat representative stated that they believed her Facebook group was a “concerted effort by a Monat competitor disguised as a spontaneous social media uprising to smear the company” which Harrington denied (BuzzFeed). Monat’s president, Stuart MacMillian, even claimed that Harrington was probably connected to the company’s various hair care competitors and was friends with Mags Kavanaugh, a hairstylist who also spoke out about Monat’s products months before. The two reported that they, in fact, did not know each other and had never met. Nonetheless, the company then sued Harrington for defamation and libel, which she eventually agreed to pay to settle the claims against her. In addition to the aforementioned suit, Monat has also filed lawsuits against hair stylists Toni Miller and Kayla Baker.
Baker posted complaints to social media, mainly addressing the problematic ingredient red clover, which she claimed could cause scalp sores and balding. Due to its estrogenic activity, studies have shown that red clover can be dangerous for women with breast cancer, ovarian cancer or endometriosis and can increase the risk of bleeding. Despite these issues, Monat responded that the amount of red clover in their products was too insignificant to cause such damage and sued her for defamation as well.
Toni Miller took her accusations even further, claiming that Monat’s products can cause issues such as “miscarriages, harm to unborn babies, migraines, chemical burns, menstruation issues” and more. The company believed that her drastic claims negatively affected sales and shared that over 1,000 product orders had been canceled in the two months leading up to the lawsuit. Again, they did nothing to address a customer’s valid concerns, and instead, blamed her for their decrease in sales.
The company filed 4 defamation lawsuits in total against those who they believed were intentionally trying to harm their brand by spreading false information. In April 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of Monat, allowing the company to protect themselves from attackers trying to damage the company’s reputation. This ruling does not preclude someone from sharing their own personal experience or recommendation, however, it does ensure that Monat has a legal remedy if the claims rise to the level of defamation or slander.
Monat also attempted to shift focus towards how these attacks affected market partners. If customers didn’t want to believe the company itself, maybe they’d be sympathetic towards those trying to make a living off selling the products. Britany Pillars, a Monat spokeswoman stated, “MONAT is being forced as a last resort to use litigation to stop online defamatory attacks on Market Partners like me and on our products. We’re the real victims of the falsehoods and online bullying that has come from attackers who are trying to hurt our company.”
However, are the 900 complaints currently listed on South Florida’s Better Business Bureau really just online attackers out to get Monat? The hundreds of posts are filled with consumers trying to express their issues, negative side effects, poor customer service experiences, and overall dissatisfaction with Monat’s products. Despite lengthy and valid concerns, Monat representatives often respond with comments such as, “Although MONAT’s ingredients are naturally-based, safe, pure and sustainable, we understand that some may experience a reaction and should discontinue use. We also suggest that you ask your physician with any questions regarding any medical condition that a consumer may have.” In other words, these reactions are not Monat’s problem, they’re personal health issues that one should consult a doctor about.
Despite this immense backlash, the hair care giant continues to sell products and even launched in the UK in May of 2018. There are plenty of users who share amazing before and after photos of thicker hair after months of Monat use. The company also boasts multiple awards, including Bronze, Silver, and Gold Stevie Awards plus a 2018 “Making a Difference Award” from the Direct Sellers Association of Canada. Their products have appeared in various South Florida Magazines, Arizona Foothills Magazine, NBC, CBC, and have received praises from Arden Myrin, Jennifer Gould, Amelia Neo, and other big names. To be fair, many if not most magazines and news outlets permit paid advertorials, news stories that are in fact written by the paying company on their own behalf.
The multiple lawsuits and complaints against Monat can be extremely concerning and the company continuously reminds people that everyone reacts differently to certain ingredients. Monat could definitely show more concern over the dramatic side effects that some users experience, but instead, they have scared many customers into silence with their multiple defamation lawsuits. While some users may experience negative hair and scalp reactions, others may find that Monat solves their lifelong hair issues. Just because the products boast natural and organic ingredients doesn’t mean side effects aren’t possible. It’s extremely important to do proper research of listed ingredients before purchasing Monat or any product for that matter in order to prevent potential allergic reactions. Or, with the terrifying side effects reported. If you are truly concerend, then it may be best to steer clear of Monat until these issues are cleared up once and for all. We always urge our readers to use common sense and caution when researching any product. In the end, the decision is ultimately yours.
When it comes to hair loss, there is a myriad of reasons, from genetic, hereditary, medical, dietary, and even stress, as for why one may be experiencing thinning hair or hair loss. There is no one size fits all solutions, and you really should consult with a Trichologist and or hair loss professional about your specific concerns and causes. Sometimes wet care lines are the solution, other times it may be low-level laser light therapy, stem cell therapy, even oral nutraceuticals or a combination of all the above. Remember, you would not go to an auto mechanic to have them bake you a cake, so logic would dictate that you would not rely on just a salesperson to diagnose and recommend a treatment protocol for hair loss. When it comes to professional salon wet care lines, we suggest you consult with your licensed cosmetologist for their professional opinion on which salon product would best suit your specific hair care needs.