What is Olaplex and how to use Olaplex No 3

The truth about Olaplex “being banned” in the UK over claims it causes infertility

16th February 2022 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

UPDATE: Olaplex has been hit with a new legal challenge in the form of a lawsuit that claims Olaplex causes hair loss, skin irritation and blisters.

Legal documents, filed at the US District Court for the Central District of California show that a group of 28 women is collectively seeking $75,000 (£62,200) in damages.

The plaintiffs in the Olaplex lawsuit claim that using Olaplex products caused them to lose their hair, “in some cases…leaving bald spots”.

Olaplex has strongly denied the claims and has published third-party test results that prove its products don’t cause hair loss.

It comes off the back of claims that Olaplex was going to be banned in the UK over the use of a perfuming ingredient that has been linked with infertility. You can read more about the Olaplex hair loss lawsuit here, or continue reading to learn more about the truth about Olaplex being banned in the UK.


Original article continues below

Even though mamabella is a beauty site, our background is in science and technology journalism.

As a result, when reports about Olaplex being banned in the UK because of links to infertility started doing the rounds, we spent some time looking into the details.

Having scoured through many, many European Commission reports, amendments, and annexes as well as scientific papers, we’ve rounded up the facts of the Olaplex ban and infertility claims below.

Where possible, we’ve tried to reduce the amount of overly scientific language and legalese but if any of you are left still feeling concerned, please contact us on hello@mamabella.uk or via our Instagram or Facebook pages and we can help make sense of it all.

FURTHER READING: K18 vs Olaplex: Is Olaplex No. 3 or the K18 hair mask better for repairing your hair?


Is Olaplex banned in the UK?

Olaplex dealsOlaplex

Before we explain the background of the Olaplex ban confusion, we wanted to address the biggest question about whether Olaplex is banned in the UK or not. The short answer is no. Well, the longer answer is also no but there is more to it than that!

Olaplex is not banned in the UK. Olaplex does not cause infertility. Olaplex is also not banned in the EU either.

So what’s the truth?

An ingredient called lilial that used to feature in the formula for Olaplex’s No.3 treatment was banned in the EU as of 1 March 2022. This is because it has been shown to “interfere with reproduction processes” i.e it has been linked with infertility. We explain more about this in detail in our Olaplex ban section beneath.

Olaplex No 3 best hair maskOlaplex

Olaplex removed this ingredient ahead of the ban and confirmed that all No.3 Hair Perfectors sold from January 2022 globally are lilial-free. This means the product doesn’t breach regulations and can still be sold.

Even if Olaplex was banned in the EU, it would not be banned in the UK by default. As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it is not obliged to adhere to such regulations.

That said, the UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) released a statement that confirmed that while lilial is not banned locally, a UK ban is expected in due course.

The statement reads: “The legal status of lilial in GB is different from that of the EU [and Northern Ireland], as different legislations are applicable in the two markets. CTPA expects a ban on lilial to come into force in GB in the near future.”

Should I be worried?

Mehmet Göker, Dermatology Specialist at Vera Clinic told mamabella: “There is minimal need for any concern if you’ve been using the existing Olaplex formula, this ingredient has been used in cosmetics and household care products for many years and the chances of the ingredient affecting fertility is extremely low.

“Olaplex is making the change as a precautionary measure, however, if you have any concerns with any products you should stop using them immediately and speak with a health professional.

Göker continued that “there is also no need to worry that your beloved product will be any different” because the ingredient in question is only used for fragrance purposes. As a result, Olaplex No.3’s performance and results will remain the same, “just the smell will be slightly different.”

Further commenting on the reports, the CTPA added: “It is important to stress that the CMR classification of [lilial] 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.

“It does not take account of whether there is any risk associated with specific uses or exposures. Consumers who have bought cosmetic and personal care products that contain [lilial], can be reassured that these products are still safe to use. They will have undergone a rigorous safety assessment by an expert safety assessor to ensure their safe use.”

FURTHER READING: The ultimate Olaplex guide: What is Olaplex, what does it do and how to use Olaplex No 3 at home


Olaplex ban: Where did the claims come from?

In December 2008, the European Commission (EC) published a regulation that controls how products are labelled, classified and packaged. This report outlined the different types of substances that were allowed to be used in products, and the categories they fall into.

The relevant part of this regulation that relates to the Olaplex ban refers to how substances in the CMR category were classified. CMR stands for carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic.

CMR SUBSTANCES

CMR stands for carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic.

Carcinogenic means the substance has been linked with causing cancer

Mutagenic refers to substances linked with causing mutations to our DNA

Reprotoxic is used as shorthand for “reproductive toxicity”. It means the substance is toxic for reproduction. In short, this means it has been linked with infertility or the causes of infertility

Almost a year later, in November 2009, a follow-up regulation was released. This report specifically talked about the identification, classification and labelling of CMR substances in cosmetic products.

Article 15 of this report said: “a cosmetic product must not contain a substance classified as a CMR” unless it fell within certain parameters or exceptions. 

It should be noted that cosmetic products across the board are full of substances with varying levels of toxicity. The level of toxicity, however, will be within a safe limit. Products can’t be sold in the UK if they don’t meet strict regulations. We explain more in our skincare ingredient checker guide.


Substances with exceptions

Any CMR substances that are given an exemption under Article 15 – meaning they are permitted to be included in cosmetic products under certain circumstances – have to be accompanied by adequate labelling.

The inclusion of these substances can’t exceed certain limits and consumers have to be warned so as not to avoid misuse of the product and expose themselves to dangerous amounts of the substance in question.

All of the substances with exceptions are found in Annex III of this regulation. An annex officially called “Annex III: List of substances which cosmetic products must not contain except subject to the restrictions3 laid down.”


Lilial and its restrictions

Between 2009 and 2021 this annex included a substance called Butylphenyl methylpropional, more commonly referred to as lilial.

Lilial is a synthetic fragrance, which means it is created in a lab and is used to give products a floral scent. It’s found in all sorts of products from fabric conditioners to cosmetic products including shampoos, conditioners, body washes, perfumes, and more. One such product was Olaplex No.3.

Lilial is given a score of 7 in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database – 1 is the best and 10 is the worst. The details are in the image below.

Olaplex infertility lilial dangerous EWG ratingEWG

The annex in the 2009 regulation explained that cosmetic products could (at that time) contain lilial but if the amount of lilial exceeded 0.001 % of the formula for “leave-on products” or 0.01 % of the formula for “rinse-off products”, then it had to be listed on the product’s label.

However, in May 2019, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (which is the scientific committee for consumer safety of the EU Commission) tested lilial in animal studies.

FURTHER READING: Skincare ingredient checker: Get to grips with what’s in your skincare with our ingredients guide


Toxic for reproduction

These tests determined lilial is toxic for reproduction. The report concluded that the use of lilial in both rinse-off and leave-on cosmetics could therefore not “be considered as safe” and a motion was filed to have lilial removed from the exemptions listed and reclassified as reprotoxic.

In November 2021, lilial was officially removed from Annex III in another EC regulation and reclassified as reprotoxic. As part of this regulation, it was added to the banned list and this ban came into effect as of 1 March 2022.


Lilial Olaplex and infertility

At the end of February, TikTok user Hasini Kay brought this ban to the attention of Olaplex fans when she posted a video captioned: “When you find out Olaplex is going to be banned in the EU + UK next month.”

@hasinikay No bc why is 2022 like this already? #olaplex #damagedhair #curlygirl #curlyhair #curlyhairproblems #curlyhairproducts ♬ original sound – lounginwithtony

This sent fans into a frenzy and searches for “Olaplex hair infertility”, “Olaplex infertility”, “has Olaplex been banned” started trending on Google as breakout searches.

In response to concerns, Olaplex said: “In September 2020, the EU regulatory authority announced their intent to Butylphenyl methylpropional commonly referred to as ‘lilial’ phased out by March of 2022.

“At Olaplex, lilial was previously used in small amounts as a fragrance in No. 3 Hair Perfector. 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 lilial from our No.3 Hair Perfector globally. Since January 2022, Olaplex no longer sold products using lilial in the UK or EU.”


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