Olaplex, the bond-building hair care brand beloved by salons and beauty experts, has found itself at the center of a controversy only TikTok could engineer.
Earlier this week, a video proclaiming that Europe and the UK were set to ban Olaplex went viral, fueling outrage and disappointment. The clip in question was created by Hasini Kay, a beauty influencer with her own line of hair growth products.
Kay published a follow-up TikTok explaining the origins of Olaplex's alleged EU and UK ban. Long story short: one of the brand's products — No. 3 Hair Perfector — contains butylphenyl methylpropional, better known as "lilial," an ingredient linked to infertility.
Viewers were quick to take this tidbit of information and run with it, generating even more fear and uncertainty surrounding the brand.
But in this case, context is key.
Lilial is a synthetic fragrance ingredient commonly found in beauty and cleaning products. In 2020, the European Commission categorized lilial as "reprotoxic," meaning it can adversely affect fertility and fetal development. The organization ruled that all cosmetics containing lilial must be pulled from shelves by March 1, 2022.
It's crucial to note that tests studying the toxicity of lilial were conducted on rats — not humans — that were fed the ingredient orally, and in much higher doses than any beauty product would contain. Obviously, Olaplex products aren't ingested — they're applied to the hair and then washed off, minimizing exposure to lilial.
Also important: the European Commission isn't worried about people using a single product containing lilial. Rather, they're more concerned about the health issues that aggregate exposure (the cumulative effects of using multiple lilial-containing products) might pose.
The good news? Olaplex got a jump start on the ban and began phasing out lilial last summer, a change that one resourceful TikToker verified via the WayBack machine. By January 2022, the company was no longer selling products containing lilial in the UK or EU.
A recent statement from Olaplex adds: "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."
A relief for Olaplex stans everywhere, the removal of lilail does not make the brand's products any less effective. According to a follow-up statement posted to Olaplex's Twitter, No. 3 Hair Perfector contained lilial at a concentration of 0.0119 percent for fragrance purposes, not as an active or functional ingredient.
If there's one thing to be learned from the saga of Olaplex and the l-word: do your research. TikTok is a minefield of misinformation — remember when doctors had to remind people not to inject DIY lip fillers, a trend that somehow took off online?
It's wise to stay informed about the products you use, but the next time you see something alarming on TikTok, take a deep breath, and maybe call your doctor for advice.