Say or hear the term “Old Spice” and what comes to mind? A shirtless man riding a white horse on a faraway beach? A centaur under a showerhead? Former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis soaring atop a gigantic blackbird through an electrical storm?
Old Spice has achieved massive popularity in the last 5 years with its zany ad campaigns that feature actors and former athletes delivering over-the-top monologues while performing ridiculous feats like bursting through a wall or sprouting a third arm.
What many TV viewers and consumers don't associate Old Spice with is the not-so-funny truth that its deodorant is allegedly responsible for scarring hundreds of consumers with so-called chemical rashes. The deodorant brand now joins the growing ranks of commonly used men’s products that have turned out to be dangerous. The worst part is that Procter & Gamble, the $200 Billion corporation that manufactures Old Spice, completely refuses to help, or even acknowledge any of its victims.
The People Vs. The Deodorant-Maker
Rodney Colley of Alexandria, Virginia is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against Procter & Gamble on March 11th. The 23-year-old college student (who had used Old Spice before without incident) allegedly applied the deodorant to his armpit and soon thereafter suffered severe and painful burns.
Colley's excruciating experience isn't unique – Consumer Affairs reveals that Old Spice deodorant has caused similarly severe rashes in hundreds of other customers. Some reports suggest that victims may number in thousands, especially when counting the waves of complaints on social media. So far, the class action lawsuit seeks compensation of over $5 Million.
Bad Ingredients or Common Allergy?
No official, scientific studies on the deodorant have been performed yet, but many consumers believe that their rashes are from a change in formula within the past 2 to 3 years. Like Rodney Colley, dozens of rash victims used Old Spice for years without issue – only since 2014 did the complaints start rising to a frantic level.
Justin Ko, M.D., director of medical dermatology at Stanford Health Care told Men’s Health that the deodorant could be giving victims contact dermatitis, a form of an allergic reaction. The cause may be due to the amount of aluminum in Old Spice’s products. Artificial fragrances, which contain potentially harmful chemicals like phthalates, could be another source of pain and discomfort for consumers.
In their official response to the lawsuits, Old Spice tried to explain the rashes:
"…A small number of men may experience irritation due to alcohol sensitivity, a common ingredient across virtually all deodorant products."
But if this is a case of simple irritation caused by a common ingredient, why are no other major hygiene companies making headlines for potentially burning and scarring hundreds of men?
Consumers who have suffered severe burns and lesions from products like Old Spice explain that it’s difficult for them to go to work, or even to go out in public looking as they do. The wounds and raw skin of some customers made it difficult for them to simply wear a shirt without gritting their teeth in agony.
Other alleged victims of Old Spice reported burns so bad that they were unable to take showers or sleep for days due to the pain. Several people were hospitalized by their reaction to the deodorant. Being unable to sleep, bathe, work, or dress properly for weeks is psychologically traumatic and can put a huge strain on a family’s finances and well-being.
Procter & Gamble Turns Its Back on Consumers
So far, Procter & Gamble, which has a recent history of dangerous products needing to be recalled, has shown an utter lack of sympathy towards its customers. One victim wrote on the Consumer Reports forum that he developed sores so intense they kept him from sleeping. When he called Old Spice, the company representative simply brushed him off, remarking, “you must have sensitive skin.”
It’s disheartening, and a sign of potential negligence, that neither representatives nor executives of Procter & Gamble are willing to entertain the notion that their customers are not lying and that something is wrong with their product. The evidence? P&G has not issued a recall on any of their Old Spice products, nor have they given any inclination that they will change the formula of some of their deodorants.
All of the quirky ads in the world won’t stop slighted customers from feeling betrayed by a company that refuses to see or hear them. Old Spice would do well to remember this as the headlines and accusations continue to accumulate.