My History With Deva

March 2020

I have to address the Deva scandal because shampoo and curls is a topic that needs serious attention. There is scandal brewing unlike anything I’ve seen from a professional hair brand. Largely due to overselling their “philosophy” to sell mainstream- there’s a litany of issues that all boil down to Deva ignoring hair loss and damage. 

Here’s the deal. I’ve always had mixed emotions about DevaCurl. I was never “in love” with the brand, products or how they were directly marketing to hair salon clients, yet called themselves a “pro” line. Especially didn’t like that. If I choose to carry a line, I must first love it. So the Deva scandal is not a huge surprise because the brand has had put a mixed message out there since day. But I also don’t have curly hair- and for years I’ve heard my curly clients’ hair struggles. 

Red Flags

In 2014 I paid $500 to become Deva curl care & cut certified, it was expensive. After a 2 day class I applied what I learned with caution because there were 2 things I didn’t like from the start. First off, I was fortunate to start my career in a salon with a strong cutting foundation. I’ve learned to appreciate how rare it was. I was excited because Deva cuts were something new. After all, they called it “their technique.” I was disappointed to see them teaching the same curl techniques I had learned way back in the 90’s from my salon mentor. Buzz kill.

Red Flag # 1 of the Deva Scandal

Secondly, I didn’t agree with how they reinvented the simple act of a shampoo, or hair “cleansing” as they called it. They pitched like shampoo was bad in general, but especially for curls. I’m a big organic and holistic approach kind of gal, but this was a slippery slope. I looked around the room and stylists were acting like Deva Curl had just split the atom. So I asked “not to state the obvious, but how do you advise removing buildup, since it occurs easily in the naturally open cuticle of curly hair”. The educator nodded (who had a luscious head of beautiful curls btw) and  said clarify “as needed”.  As needed?

So many questions.  Well what if they have color? Clarifying can shift color so we don’t advise deep cleaning shampoos as a daily shampoo. Besides, a gentle lathering shampoo should remove build up on average air. Curly haired people often have above average thickness. If clarifying is done through salon treatments or a shampoo, and Deva didn’t have a clarifying shampoo- how were we supposed to communicate “as needed” to curly haired people? With a brand whose whole schtick was “No Poo” AKA no shampoo, yet use all our products? Or for a brand that had an evolved multi step method- why not add a clarifying treatment as part of the routine? Just as I was about to ask my questions, she’d moved on to the cute names of different curl patterns.

Red Flag # 2 of the Deva Scandal

The Deva Curl Explosion

Another thing I was never comfortable with was how Deva sold product knowledge to stylists as “curl certification”, which was required to be listed on their website. Salons had to become certified to get listed as a brand “approved” salon. Ironic since I didn’t approve their philosophy.  Yet any licensed stylist could buy the products at the professional beauty store, plus Deva also sold products directly to the public from the Deva site. 

Capitalizing on the stylists who helped make their brand big through an expensive certification annoyed me. Salon brands offer free product knowledge as a standard, if they want salons to carry it. Double dipping for profit is basically what their certification was.

When bottom line rules, the bottom will drop eventually.

Free product knowledge is just good business since our customers buy their products, and stylists don’t need “certification” to offer hair care advice. That’s literally our job. But Deva was the first line to focus on ONE salon client, those with curl or texture. That was new to our industry and people were tired of straightening or getting relaxers. Embracing natural curl care was a new emerging market and people lost their mind over it. 

 Ok, but Deva also so says 90% of people have some wave or curl to their hair. Wait, that’s almost everyone! Why not offer free education? They didn’t have to because they were the first to get on top of a new market! They targeted salons first, which was genius. By 2015 DevaCurl was a whopping 38% of online hair search, right behind balayage. Curly hair care was something people wanted to know about.

Deva Gets Sold

If you wanted to be in the curl salon scene, you had to jump through Deva’s hoops because they had already cornered the market.  With little enthusiasm, I paid for each of my staff to become curl certified. As an owner I knew if a stylist left, they took that certification I paid for with them, but I can’t be everything education wise to my staff. The conditioning and styling portions of Deva worked well, so I did it. 

In 2017 the brand sold for $300 million, and I feel that’s when things went downhill. They seemed more product driven, versus the original “curl care” focus they touted.  Deva pumped out new products like crazy. Too many! It was already hard to stay on top of what we had so I kept what we carried limited to what we knew. Continuing product education was supposed to be included in the certification costs. I’ve tried getting an updated Deva product class for years. Unless I wanted to pay to get more stylists certified, they’d only have a product knowledge class to my existing Deva stylists.

Deva Scandalously Double Dips

Are you kidding? We carried their line, they were selling directly to the public with little home care advice, plus selling to non certified stylists in the supply stores. If we train our new stylists free on everything we offer, shouldn’t a multimillion dollar company I already paid 3k to do the same? I was over Deva. 

 By this time the brand had grown to have a massive following, but education is key in our industry. Without it, error and failure occur. Education didn’t seem important to them any longer. It’s important to me, so we were already phasing out Deva before this “scandal” broke.  It was a lesson to follow my gut instinct if a brand’s core philosophy is not in line with ours. We risked looking uninformed by advising people to shampoo, though it directly conflicted with the brands philosophy. People came here because they searched Deva, but I was responsible for Studio 39, not Deva.

Build Up Concerns Build

They came out with a product called build up buster a few years ago when the first concerns arose. They did not offer much info on yet another product in an already layered system. One more thing a Deva user has to buy, but like Deva said, they wrote the book on curl. I do think Deva founder, Lorraine Massey,  was passionate about curl solutions. But without brand support, all we could do was advise Deva users to use Build up Buster or a similar product, get deep cleansing treatments in the salon, and SHAMPOO your hair. Do whatever it takes to avoid build up. We advise this to everyone regardless of texture. To my knowledge none of our clients have experienced hair loss, but that’s what the scandal is about. Hair loss due to buildup induced follicle suffocation. 

No More Deva Here

We’ve always advised Deva seekers to use shampoo or buy the Deva Low Poo lathering cleanser over the cream No Poo cleanser. If they used No Poo, we recommend an alternate shampoo or the Build Up buster. But with Deva direct selling, it was confusing to clients because Deva is SO against shampoo, the names of their 2 cleansers reflect that!  No poo and Low Poo were clearly saying shampoo is bad, don’t shampoo. Yet here we were, advising people to still shampoo. 

It’s sad really, it could have been avoided with some common sense. Always take advice from your stylist over a brand. We are invested in you and your hair because we know you. You pay us for professional care! Brands sell their culture so you are loyal, but shampooing is as important to hygiene and health as washing your face or brushing your teeth. 

Deva’s Statement On Hair Loss

To be fair, I called Deva to see what they’re advising salon owners. They had nothing to offer, just a product return line as “support” and it’s a multi step process just to get return “approval”. The whole thing is a mess. Since we already started phasing out Deva before this whole scandal, unfortunately we cannot accept returns on a line we don’t carry. Especially since we’re spending more to bring in new curl lines. Deva left everyone in the lurch, and their stance online is denial. 

In their defense, they say there are no issues with the products themselves, overall I agree with that. The products are clean and high quality, they are just too laden with shea butter and coconut which accumulate on the hair. This combined with their no shampoo flaw approach is why this is happening. They weren’t vigilant in educating that shampooing is necessary to clean the hair, so they can’t admit anything is “wrong’ because it blows apart their whole no shampoo concept. It’s caused a curl pandemic, and curly hair lines are in a tailspin because the Curl kingpin is sinking fast. Salons are dropping Deva and it’s been a lesson to me to follow my gut instinct about making sure a brands ENTIRE philosophy is in line with ours.

You can read their statement here on their site. 

On the bright side, unlike Deva, I fully embrace our new curl options. We have brought in Surface and you can read about the line in the next post, with tips to get off No Poo.

Read the next post about Curl Cuts and products.