beauty

Overnight, the Internet cancelled Olaplex. But it's more complicated than you think.

If you like beauty and you have hair on your head, then you've probably heard of Olaplex. It's one of the biggest haircare brands with a massive cult following - and for good reason. The stuff works. Really well.

Starting out as a professional treatment, the Olaplex system was originally used to repair damaged bonds in-salon (for hair structure, strength and stability), using a patented ingredient called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. Sounds 100 per cent like a made-up word, we know.

Watch: Speaking of hair - here are 5 easy ways to lift your hair game. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Anyway, in case you haven't tried the products before, the results are pretty game-changing (hey beautiful, shiny hair), and the in-salon demand resulted in Olaplex products hitting shelves for at-home use. The best part? The products are great for all hair types - coloured, natural, straight, curly - you name it.

Since then, Olaplex products have become the go-to for many people wanting to strengthen their damaged hair (read: all of us).

ADVERTISEMENT

While Olaplex has a whole selection of products currently on the market - shampoos, conditioners, hair oils - No.3 Hair Perfector is one of the bestselling products of the bunch. 

We guarantee you've already heard of it, but basically, it's a treatment (used between one and three times a week) that experts and beauty editors love to tout for its smoothing, strengthening, and conditioning properties.

Sounds pretty dingin' good, right? So, you can imagine the confusion when we started to hear that this particular formula was going to be... banned.

Because in case you missed it, there's recently been a lot of noise around Olaplex and the dangers of their ingredients - particularly when it comes to studies related to fertility.

Below, we look at everything you need to know about what's happening with Olaplex.

What is happening with Olaplex?

Let's take a couple of steps back and look at how this all started, shall we?

If you're slinking around on the interwebs, specifically TikTok, you might have seen the buzz around Hasini Kay's viral video.

Captioned with, "when you find out Olaplex is going to be banned in the EU + UK next month," she talks about why the iconic product is going to be taken off shelves, discussing reports that an ingredient found in Olaplex named butylphenyl methylpropional, also known as lilial, has been linked to infertility.

Check out her clip below:

@hasinikay Reply to @rat_bastard why current olaplex formulas are being banned #olaplex #damagedhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #curlyhairproblems ♬ original sound - Hasini Kay

Naturally, the Internet blew up, with thousands upon thousands of Olaplex fans wondering if they're at risk, encouraging others to check the ingredients list of their bottles.

@connieeewalker That ingredient is what you need to look out for this is supposed to be linked with infertility my new bottles do not have this in!!! No way are we stopping using N°3🥲🙌🏻🙌🏻 #olaplex #olaplexno3 #hairtrend #hairproducts #blondehair #fyp ♬ Forever - Labrinth

It soon surfaced that No. 3 Hair Perfector isn't actually being banned - the ingredient butylphenyl methylpropional (lilial) has been removed from packaging, due to the ingredient being “reprotoxic”. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Under a new classification, it was legislated that all products containing lilial must be removed from shelves by the 1st of March 2022 in EU countries and Northern Ireland, with the UK expected to follow suit. 

In a statement on Twitter, Olaplex said:

In response to the recent activity on social media, Lavinia Popescu, chief scientist at Olaplex answered some questions surrounding lilial.

ADVERTISEMENT

In terms of what this means for Australia, it looks like the ingredient will be removed from No.3 Hair Perfector internationally - so it's not just the EU/UK.

"While this phase out is limited to the EU, out of an abundance of caution, Olaplex proactively removed lilial from our No.3 Hair Perfector globally," Olaplex wrote in the comment section on Instagram.

In an Instagram post, The Cosmetic Regulator shared, "Currently lilial is still listed on the Australian inventory of industrial chemicals (the list used to check permitted cosmetic ingredients) with no restrictions."

"Generally speaking, most brands will follow EU as 'gold standard'."

Can Olaplex cause infertility?

Good question. Important question. That's why we're going to look at what experts are saying on the topic - because there are so many sharing their opinion in hope of preventing misinformation and panic online.

Science educator and cosmetic chemist Dr Michelle Wong, known as 'Lab Muffin' online (if you're into skincare and ingredients, you'll know who she is!), recently posted a series of myth-busting clips looking at Olaplex and infertility.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Dr Wong, there are a lot of reasons why you probably don't need to freak out.

"Yes, there's an ingredient that used to be in Olaplex that's getting banned in the EU because of potential reproductive health effects," she said in 'part one' of her Olaplex breakdown.

"First off, this ban has been going on for a while. The EU cosmetic safety report that analysed the data was released in May 2019. The only reason it's hitting headlines now is because the deadline to stop using it is March 2022, so it isn't like it's so dangerous they're rushing to get it off the shelves."

"Now, if you actually go in and read the safety report, you can see the ban is based off animals. Specifically, they fed lilial in high amounts to rats. There's no evidence that lilial has ever caused infertility in humans."

In a follow-up video, Dr Wong goes on to explain the conclusions of the report in more detail, helping put the possibility of risk into perspective with human use.

ADVERTISEMENT

"In the report, they take the worst-case scenario and assume that you're using lilial in 15 different beauty products every day."

Dr Wong goes on to say that even with using this many products, with Olaplex you're still only getting one 80th of the smallest dose estimated to cause a negative health effect in rats.

One 80th.

It's also important to note here that Olaplex isn't the only brand with products that contain butylenyl methylproponial. 

Take a look in your shower or beauty cupboard and you're guaranteed to find multiple products with this ingredient listed on the back - and it isn't just found in hair products. 

It's found in a lot of beauty products - particularly perfume.

Hands up who else thought it was *just* Olaplex under the spotlight?

"They [the EU] are being really cautious here. Hair products contribute very little to this. They estimate that you probably need to get seventy times as much lilial from applying perfume. From hair products, you're getting about one 10000th of the smallest amount that would give a negative health effect."

ADVERTISEMENT

"So this is very much a precautionary ban. The EU treats things that can cause reproductive issues very seriously. I think this ban is a good thing. Lilial is used as a fragrance ingredient, so Olaplex will work around that. Companies have known about it for a while, so they've been phasing it out."

While it's of course reasonable to ban the ingredient, Dr Wong's opinion really puts it into perspective that lilial is incredibly low-risk compared to other ingredients you might consume in your everyday life.

As it's usually present in formulations at 0.1 per cent or less, she said "It is incredibly unlikely that using Olaplex has made you infertile".

Why does my Olaplex still have lilial in it?

So, if the ingredient is banned, then why are people still finding it in their Olaplex products?

While the new lilial-free versions have been available for a while, there are still some older batches floating around which might still be stocked and distributed - meaning you might have an old bottle.

@georgiajw26 OF COURSE MY ONE WOULD CONTAIN IT! #olaplex #olaplexno3 #infertility #ohno #badluck #fyp #viral #olaplextreatment #olaplex3 ♬ Oh No (Instrumental) - Kreepa

In a TikTok video, cosmetic chemist Javon Ford from LA, shared how the latest releases of the No.3 Hair Perfector do not contain the ingredient. However, in a product overview from 2018, lilial is among the listed ingredients. 

@javonford16 #cosmeticchemist #haircare #olaplexban #olaplex ♬ original sound - Javon Ford

With Olaplex reformulating and seemingly phasing out lilial over the past few years, newer releases of the No.3 Hair Perfector should not contain the fragrance.

Should I stop using Olaplex?

The bottom line? According to experts, if you're using or have used Olaplex with lilial in it - it's not going to have an impact on your fertility. There's just not enough present in formulations.

In Dr Wong's words on Instagram: "There are so many worse things to freak out about right now, take this off your plate and save some cortisol for all the other calamities."

Are you an Olaplex fan? What are your thoughts? Will you continue using these products? Share what you think in the comment section below.

Feature image: Instagram/@olaplex;@labmuffinbeautyscience

Are you aged under 35 and love beauty? Complete this survey to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.