Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The ol' switcheroo

When I first went CG (that's Curly Girl for you newbies), one of the first products I tried was Miss Jessie's Curly Meringue. Yes, that is an interesting choice for a white girl like me! The salon I go to had just started carrying Miss Jessie's products and my stylist felt my hair could easily benefit from Curly Meringue's magic powers. I read the label and was delighted to see that Curly Meringue contained nothing that contradicted my Curly Girl regimen.

My stylist was right. For the first time, my hair was smooth and curly. And the curls were bouncy (which I love). I noticed that the results weren't always great, but they often were, so I was happy.

And then a weird thing happened.

At the end of 2007, Miss Jessie's changed their labeling and came out with smaller sized jars of all their styling products. Well, new labels often signal ingredient changes, and sure enough, the smaller sizes listed the dreaded ingredient "parafinium liquidum" -- otherwise known as mineral oil. And it's the second ingredient, which means it figures very prominently in the product's formula.

The big jars, though, didn't appear to be changing. Several of us at naturallycurly.com wrote to Miss Jessie's to find out what gives. We all got vague, obtuse responses, none of which enlightened us at all.

Well, about a month ago, I discovered that even the big jars had been reformulated. And this annoys me for a number of reasons.

First, Miss Jessie, at the prices you charge for your products, cheap crap like mineral oil shouldn't be in the product at all. Second, how dare you just quietly change a product's formulation without any notice or disclosure to consumers? Had I plunked down another $40 for a tub of this stuff after the ingredients had been surreptitiously changed, I surely would have noticed a difference in the product's performance (mineral oil is impossible to remove without a sulfate shampoo) and I would have been out a lot of money for a product that pretended to be what I'd previously liked. I don't know about you, but I think everything about this formulation change is downright slimy. The price, the ingredient itself, the secret switch.

If you're a Miss Jessie's user and you are CG, I urge you to check the label of the product you're using. It's not likely to contain ingredients you can appreciate. Also, the company recently launched a new product called Quick Curls. You'd do best to run the other way if you are CG -- the product not only contains mineral oil but two very powerful silicones.

I don't like to badmouth a company but when they treat customers with this level of disrespect (changing ingredients without notice and incorporating lower quality ingredients to boot), I think people should be alerted.


Queen of the World said...

A lot of the "natural" companies that have changed their products for the worse (Miss Jessie's and Carol's Daughters) are usually the companies that are starting to become household names. I tend to shy away from companies whose products are becoming popular way to fast!

Alice said...

Just curious: do you have any of their responses saved? I'd like to see what they said about adding MINERAL OIL and keeping the prices. Surely it can't be for economic reasons...they were doing fine last I heard

Sage Vivant said...

Incredibly, I *do* still have the response I got from Miss Jessie's!

On November 14, I wrote them this:
"Hi. I bought Curly Meringue a few months ago and find that it hydrates my hair beautifully. I was going to buy more when I read on a curly hair message board that you guys had changed the formulation and that the product now contained oil. Is this true? Please advise."

On November 30 2007, I got the following email:

"The formula has been changed. They have added more fruit oils to the formula.

"The product is still has good staying power for the hair.

"If you have any more questions, please call toll free 1 888 537 7436.

Hapyy Holidays
Best Regards,
Coleatha Jewell
Customer Service Representative"

From others I've talked to in this business, a company doesn't have to be on the skids financially to resort to changing their formulation in order to make it cheaper. In fact, I'm told, companies will start with very high quality ingredients, build a reputation, and then when the company reaches a certain level of profitability, it will substitute cheaper ingredients but continue to charge the old prices. Most customers don't notice or care, and by that time, the company has the momentum of good word of mouth anyway.

Ah, profit. Motivator of all sorts of nefarious schemes!