Banned Olaplex ingredient linked to infertility sparks TikTok backlash

Olaplex is a staple at trendy upscale salons, but hair-raising rumors that a now-banned ingredient causes infertility have racked up 30 million views on TikTok.

The brand — perhaps most recognized as one of the products used during the coloring process — has gone viral following reports that it’s being banned in Europe. Since its introduction at salons, the complete system line is now available for at-home use and comes in eight different products designed to work together to repair hair that’s been damaged by bleach.

Olaplex credits their patented ingredient bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, which they say is the key to turning dry, weak strands into plump locks.

So, it came as a shock to the hair-obsessed that Olaplex would be revealed as an infertility risk — not due to its revolutionary compound but a simple fragrance additive called butylphenyl methylpropional, or simply lilial.

It was first revealed when health officials in the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom, announced a ban on one Olaplex product, its No. 3 Hair Perfector mask, pointing to research that shows the ingredient lilial could lead to infertility. The product is arguably their most popular in the line — evidenced by the more than 30 million views tied to the social media hashtag #olaplexno3 on TikTok alone.

The news went viral on the video mashup platform as beauty influencers reported said findings, such as TikToker Hasini Kay who cited the UK’s legislative web engine as her source.

According to Kay, “some sources say it’s already being reformulated,” she told followers. “If not, they’re likely to reformulate before the ban comes into effect.”

“We removed the ingredient butylphenyl methylpropional (lilial) from manufacturing already so you’ll still be able to purchase the product in the future,” the brand told Refinery29 in a statement.

“Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector is not being banned,” reps for the brand added. “Olaplex takes the health of our consumers and regulatory compliance seriously. While lilial was previously used as a fragrance in the Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector, it was never an active or functional ingredient. Out of an abundance of caution, we proactively removed lilial from our No.3 Hair Perfector globally and have not sold products using this ingredient in the UK or EU since January of 2022.”

Studies of lilial have indicated that it may cause adverse effects when ingested by animals — meaning there are no such studies that can definitely say how it affects humans who rub it on their heads. Moreover, the ingredient has been on the EU’s restriction list for a number of years, though only now is the ban taking effect.

Some on social media, including LA cosmetic chemist Javon Ford, have already pointed out that lilial doesn’t currently appear on the ingredients list, according to the website INCIdecoder. Prior to 2018, however, the ingredient had shown on No. 3’s label, according to the internet archive Wayback Machine.

Ford’s findings suggest that Olaplex has already reformulated to “get ahead of the EU ban and phase out the ingredient.” Added Ford: “If Olaplex is working for you without issue, no, you do not have to discontinue use.”