It’s been hailed as revolutionary. And it has caught on in the female world like wildfire. But what is it? Answer: Olaplex is a hair treatment. The product claims that it makes hair look smoother by repairing it from the inside. It is the brainchild of hair stylist Dean Christal, who teamed up with scientists to create a product for intense conditioning. These scientists came up with a substance that they claimed could cross-link sulfur hydrogen in the hair.
Each human hair contains millions of disulfide bonds that link two sulphur atoms, which link the individual protein strands together, rather like the individual threads in a rope. These bonds give the hair its structure, strength and stability. When disulfide bonds are broken, it results in damage.
So Olaplex, it is claimed, restores damaged and compromised hair by repairing these bonds from inside the hair. And the patented chemical, the archaically named bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, has earned its discoverers more than a pretty penny since it was launched 5 years ago. The company now been valued at $1.5bn!
Does it work?
On hair – yes! On paper, the chemistry makes some sense, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the product is effective although evidence that matches the standard required for medical products is never forthcoming for cosmetics.
So, what’s the problem?
There’s always a problem with wonder products, isn’t there? In the case of Olaplex it’s not the active ingredient itself that is the issue. So far, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate has a clean bill of health. No, the problem lies with a fragrance additive of Olaplex, one called butylphenyl methylpropional, which has been determined to be reprotoxic. This means it could have adverse effects on fertility, as well as on the development of a foetus.
This naughty chemical, a constituent of some formulations of Olaplex, has been banned in the EU and must be off the shelves by 1st March 2022 in EU countries and Northern Ireland. A ban in the UK is expected to follow soon.
With this in mind, Olaplex users are being asked to check their bottles to make sure that the banned chemical is not listed in the ingredients. This is because, while the manufacturer is switching over to a new formulation that omits butylphenyl methylpropional, the now-banned ingredient may still be present in recently purchased product.
A storm in a teacup
For Olaplex users, even if the ingredient is present, there is no need for immediate panic, however. The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) of Great Britain has stated, “It is important to stress that the CMR classification of BHMCA and the ban now in force in the EU, and expected in GB in the future, is based on the hazardous properties a substance might have under a worst-case situation.”
In other words, the amount of the banned chemical in Olaplex is very low and would only have a detrimental effect at much higher doses than is present in the product.
Dr. Lora Shahine, Reproductive Endocrinologist and host of fertility podcast Baby or Bust said, “We’re still learning a lot about the impact of endocrine disruptors on our reproductive and overall health. Consumers are reassured that the poison is in the dose and although chemicals in products can be known carcinogens or reproductive toxins, the amount in a certain product is often low and safe to use. Unfortunately, we use many products with carcinogens and reproductive toxins every day and these endocrine disruptors and their impact can add up.”
If you are an Olaplex user, check your bottle. If it has the banned ingredient just replace it.