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When I heard about the links between Olaplex hair products and infertility, I was shocked. I love Olaplex, and I think the products are great. The company recently removed an ingredient from the popular No. 3 Hair Perfector product after the E.U. banned the ingredient. The ingredient in the popular product is linked with infertility.
I decided to explore the relationship between Olaplex and infertility and provide you with everything you need to know about current Olaplex formulas.
What Is Olaplex?
If you haven’t heard of it or aren’t super familiar with it, Olaplex is a hair treatment system that can transform your hair. I can attest to that.
Olaplex is a range of products that professional stylists often use. These treatments improve the structure of your hair instead of just making it look smoother on the surface.
The full treatment line includes nine steps. Two are in-salon treatments, and the in-salon treatments are for people who bleach or dye their hair often. The Olaplex salon treatments prevent breakage when your hair goes through the coloring process, and the products can glue together broken bonds resulting from coloring.
Then, there are at-home products, including the Olaplex No. 3 mask, which has celebrity fans like Kim Kardashian.
Olaplex was formed by Dean Christal, who worked with a team of scientists to create a molecule that works inside your hair strands. Each of the nine products in the line has varying amounts of this ingredient—bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate.
Olaplex makes your hair stronger by reconnecting your disulfide sulfur bonds, which are typically broken down when you color your hair.
The products work for all hair types, and they’re incredibly popular among beauty enthusiasts. So why are there discussions about Olaplex infertility links?
Does Olaplex Cause Infertility?
We’re talking about infertility associated with Olaplex because it contains one particular ingredient.
In May 2020, the European Union announced it was banning the ingredient buylphenyl methylpropional, also known as lilial. The E.U. said the ingredient was banned because it’s a presumed reproductive toxicant. The ban took effect on March 1, 2022.
The deadline recently passed, and consumers started expressing concern that butylphenyl methylpropional was still listed on the list of ingredients in No. 3 Hair Perfector. People are worried about the safety of the bottles they haven’t yet used, and there are also concerns among people in the E.U. that they won’t be able to keep buying the product.
People were airing concerns on TikTok and other social media platforms.
In response, on February 28, the Olaplex company announced on Instagram that they wouldn’t be using lilial in any of their products from now on. This is true not only in the E.U. but worldwide.
So does that mean you should throw your current bottle away?
Olaplex Infertility Ingredient
The so-called Olaplex infertility ingredient, lilial, is a synthetic scent ingredient. The scent is created to replicate the aroma of the lily of the valley. The ingredient is found in many perfumes, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, body washes, detergents, and household products.
The European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has monitored the ingredient for years and researched its safety.
The Committee published an opinion paper in 2019 indicating that lilial can’t be considered safe. A year later, the European Commission classified it as reprotoxic. A reprotoxic substance could create risks for fertility and fetal development.
Like parabens, phthalates, and BPA, lilial can be an endocrine disruptor as well as being a fragrance compound.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with your hormones or mimic them.
Exposure to an endocrine disruptor can influence both the male and female reproductive system, causing sub-fertility, infertility, hormone production problems, and abnormalities in the menstrual cycle.
We don’t know a lot about endocrine disruptors like lilial, and research is being done.
There are much more strict regulations and monitoring of chemicals in Canada and Europe than in the U.S.
As of March 1, 2022, lilial is a Category 1B substance under the European Union (E.U.) and Great Britain Classification, Labeling, and Packing Regulations.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Perfumery Association issued a statement about the ban on the ingredient. They said that the ban is based on potential worst-case scenarios. The ban isn’t considering whether or not there’s a risk associated with any specific exposure or use.
The association went on to say that if a consumer bought cosmetic or personal care products with the ingredient, these products are still safe to use. They have undergone rigorous safety testing.
Understanding Endocrine Disruptors
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a number of chemicals, both artificial and natural, are potential endocrine disruptors. Your hormones make up your endocrine system. The chemicals are associated with reproductive problems and development, the brain, and other issues.
Many everyday products contain endocrine disruptors, including plastic containers and bottles, food, toys, cosmetic products, and pesticides.
Specific effects of endocrine disruptors can include developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, and increased cancer risk.
The ways endocrine disruptors affect your endocrine system can vary.
Some of these chemicals will replicate a natural hormone. Then your body will over-respond to a stimulus or respond at the wrong times, such as by producing insulin when it’s not needed.
Other disruptors can block the effects of a hormone from receptors. Some of these chemicals can directly inhibit or stimulate the endocrine system, causing an under or overproduction of hormones.
How Risky Is Olaplex?
If you’re concerned about the risks of Olaplex and infertility, you shouldn’t panic right away. Many products contain reproductive toxins and carcinogens, but they’re considered safe to use in such small amounts.
However, there are valid concerns about using large amounts of products with lilial. There’s also the risk you might not just be exposed to it in Olaplex, but in other products as well, which can increase the chances of the exposure’s effects compounding.
According to most experts, if you currently have No. 3, you can finish the bottle, but after that, make sure you choose an Olaplex product without the ingredient.
In future products without lilial, the No. 3 may smell a little different, but it should work the same. Lilial doesn’t affect how Olaplex works. Rather than being a functional product, it’s just something that creates a sensory experience because it’s part of a scent formulation.
Since January 2022, Olaplex says it hasn’t sold any new products with liial in the U.K. or E.U. The company is taking it out of products worldwide, as well.
In the studies the report was based on that led to the ban in the E.U., the data on reproductive toxicity was performed in animal models. The doses of the fragrance ingredient used in rats were extremely high. They were exposed to anywhere from 5 to 50 mg of lilial per kilogram of body weight per day.
The rats were also fed lilial, which led to higher absorption levels than you would get from using something just on your skin and hair and then rinse off.
Cosmetic experts say that more of a concern than something like lilial in a hair product might be its use in air fresheners or household care products. Household products often don’t list out the individual parts of their fragrance, so it’s tough to avoid certain compounds.
Olaplex and Infertility—What’s the Takeaway?
We’re exposed to harmful products and toxins daily. While we can’t avoid them all, our big goals as health-conscious people are to prevent what we can and do our research. The regulatory authority in the E.U. seems to have been taking an abundance of caution in their decision about the potential adverse effects of the ingredient in Olaplex beauty products.
Does Olaplex cause infertility?
In short, not necessarily, but it does have a particular ingredient linked to endocrine disruption and potential infertility in animal studies. There aren’t human studies that confirm these findings, and in the animal studies, the rats were exposed to much larger amounts of the ingredient than you would be using in a hair care product.
While you don’t necessarily have to panic about the current ingredient list, it is something to be mindful of going forward because of the links to infertility issues and safety concerns.
Learn as much as you can about the ingredients of all the products you use, so you can make informed and empowered decisions and take any needed precautionary measures.