You don't have to be a die-hard Olaplex fan to have seen the controversy surrounding the brand on social media this week. The brand have gone viral TikTok thanks to one video in particular, purporting that a certain ingredient in the brand's famed No.3 Treatment has links to infertility. Watch the TikTok below, and wince at subsequent videos of Gen Z squeezing their tubes down the drain:
WATCH: The viral TikTok video on Olaplex and fertility
Take it with a pinch of salt, people. We are in the age of misinformation and fake news. The first video has had 2.6m views: that's 5.2m ears listening to pretty bold claims. Plenty of TikTok users jumped to the brand's defence, though. 'Ladies, do your research. Don't panic after watching just one TikTok,' said one. Hear, hear...
So, what's the truth? Is there smoke without fire? Here, the lowdown.
What exactly are the allegations surrounding Olaplex and fertility?
The confusion is surrounding Olaplex's No.3 product. The product once had an ingredient named 'butylphenyl methylpropional', often shortened to 'lilial'; a molecule used as a fragrance. A recent report by the European Commission reported that butylphenyl methylpropional - AKA, lilial - was set to be banned in the EU. The ingredient fell within a category called 'Rep.1B'.
The European Chemicals Agency defines ingredients that fall within this category to have potentially 'adverse effects on sexual function and fertility or on development [...] may impair fertility [...] or may cause harm to the unborn child.'
Is this ingredient used in Olaplex's No.3?
It was - but crucially, it isn't any longer. Here's what the brand had to say about the controversy:
'It is not an active or functional ingredient. While this phase out is limited to the EU, out of an abundance of caution, Olaplex proactively removed lillial from our No.3 Hair Perfector globally. Since January 2022, Olaplex no longer sold products using Lillial in the UK or EU.'
You can watch Chief Scientist at Olaplex, Lavinia Popescu, explain more on the ingredient and its use within Olaplex below.
The UK isn't part of the EU anymore. Is this ingredient banned here?
Not yet. Here's what the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association had to say about the ban:
'The legal status of lilial in the UK is different from that of the EU/NI, as different legislations are applicable in the two markets. CTPA expects a ban on BMHCA/lilial to come into force in GB in the near future.'
Whilst Olaplex has phased out this ingredient, there are other places you'll find the common fragrance molecule: tanning products, cleaning detergents, deodorants, shampoos and more.
I've used this ingredient before. Do I need to worry?
Cosmetic scientists and chemists have been quick to clean up misinformation and sensationalist pieces. The top note? Lilial has never been officially recorded to have caused infertility in humans. Find cosmetic scientist Michelle Wong's verdict, below:
Wong highlights that the toxicologist reports always err on the side of caution. In this case, 'they assumed that the tester would be using lilial in 15 different beauty products everyday,' says Wong. 'And even if you did use the chemical in 15 different beauty products per day, you'd only be getting 1/80 of the smallest dose estimated to cause a negative health effect on rats, which were the most sensitive of the animal study.'
She reminds us that 'this is very much a precautionary ban.'
Grazia has approached Olaplex for further comment. If Wong highlights anything, it's don't throw out your bottles of Olaplex so soon - the stuff really does make hair feel good.
Main image credits: TikTok: @curlsbydaviana, @beckieeaves, @labmuffinbeautyscience