Is Olaplex Safe For Your Hair?

Olaplex on a green background with brown lines


Key Takeaways

  • A group of consumers is suing luxury hair care brand, Olaplex, claiming that its products contain allergens and irritants that cause hair loss, breakage, and brittle hair. 
  • In response, Olaplex said its products do not cause hair loss or hair breakage. The company plans to defend its brand and products against the group’s accusations. 
  • Experts say that if you’re using Olaplex products and not having any hair-related problems, you can keep using them.

Nearly 30 women are suing the luxury hair care brand Olaplex. The group alleges that the company falsely advertised its products as being safe for people with dry or damaged hair to use.  

Olaplex makes a variety of hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, and oils that are sold online and at popular retailers, such as Sephora and Ulta. 

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening with the lawsuit, and what experts say you should do if you’re using Olaplex products.

Why Are People Suing Olaplex?

According to the lawsuit, the consumer group claims that the Olaplex hair care products they used left their hair worse off than before.

The group also claimed that Olaplex’s products have allergens and irritants in them, which the group believes caused hair loss, allergic reactions, open sores, bald spots, and hair that is dry, brittle, frizzy, and dull. 

Olaplex has denied the allegations and said that its products are safe and effective for customers to use.

A company spokesperson told Verywell that Olaplex knows that “hair loss and hair breakage can be distressing, and we empathize with those who are experiencing hair loss and searching for answers on what may be causing it. However, OLAPLEX products have been tested for safety and efficacy, and they do not cause hair loss or breakage.”

JuE Wong, the CEO of Olaplex, addressed the allegations in a video posted to the brand’s social media channels.

In the video, Wong stated that the group’s claims “are not true” and that Olaplex’s “patented products are designed to relink broken disulfide hair bonds, not cause hair damage.”

Does Olaplex Test Its Products?

After the suit came up, the company released test results from independent third-party laboratories that used industry-standard human repeat insult patch test (HRIPT) or human clinical tests to make sure that the products will not cause skin irritation, inflammation, or sensitivity.

Wong said that if a product passes an HRIPT test, it means that “it was not shown to cause sensitivity or inflammation to the skin, including the hair follicle, which is the primary cause of hair loss” and that “every one of our Olaplex products passed this HRIPT test.”

Susan Massick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Verywell that while Olaplex products have passed HRIPT tests, the number of people who had the patch tests in the studies was only around 100, and fewer people (51) who did the tests had sensitive skin. Plus, the people who were part of the testing were only followed for a limited time.

“Issues may not become apparent until used in a wider population, with ongoing use and exposure,” said Massick, which suggests that “people’s experience in the real world may differ from lab tests.”

For some people, Massick said that irritation from a product can happen with long-term use, and may get more obvious with time. People can also develop allergies to ingredients over time rather than having immediate reactions. With ongoing exposure, an allergic reaction can get worse.

Does Olaplex Have Problematic Ingredients?

Suzanne Friedler, MD, a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology with expertise in medical and cosmetic dermatology, told Verywell that without looking at each patient and the condition of their hair, it’s hard to say if the allegations are true.

“The only thing that would likely cause someone to have an adverse reaction is if someone had an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients that is in the Olaplex products,” said Friedler.

Friedler also pointed out that Olaplex products did contain a fragrance called Lilial (butylphenyl methylpropional). While it’s commonly used in perfume, cosmetics, shampoos, and cleaning products, Lilial was banned by the European Union (EU) after animal studies showed it was associated with infertility. The ingredient was not linked hair loss.

According to Friedler, Lilial was subsequently removed, from Olaplex’s products because of the animal studies associating it with infertility and the EU ban—not because of any concerns about hair loss.

Even with the ban and removal from products, some experts say there is not enough research evidence to prove that the ingredient specifically causes any long-term effects.

Ken Williams, DO, hair and scalp specialist, surgeon and founder of Orange County Hair Restoration in Irvine, CA, and the president of the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery, told Verywell that there might be “some truth to butylphenyl methylpropional being a local irritant and causing inflammation in some patients, but there’s no medical studies to show that.”

According to Williams, the only thing that’s been demonstrated by research came from the studies that were done in Europe on mice and on reproductive fertility issues.

Should You Keep Using Olaplex? 

Friedler said that if you’re currently using hair care products from Olaplex and have not experienced or noticed any symptoms, you can keep using them as long as you’re comfortable doing so.

“If you’re using the Olaplex and you’re not having any reaction to it, you’re probably fine,” said Friedler.

However, as with any product that you use on a regular basis, Massick said to watch for symptoms of skin irritation, hair breakage, burning, pain, redness, and itchiness of the scalp, which can be signs that an ingredient in the product could be causing a problem for you.

The best way to find out what’s causing hair loss, balding, redness, and other symptoms of hair irritation is to see a hair care specialist or dermatologist. 

“Dermatologists are the best people to assess what’s going on,” said Friedler. “They can do a hair pull test, examine the hairs, examine the scalp, and look for other sources of what could be triggering the hair loss.”

Finding the Best Products For Your Hair

Everybody has different types of hair and hair care needs, so experts recommend choosing a product that’s best for your hair type.

For example, if you have a really oily scalp, Friedler said a salicylic acid shampoo can be helpful for that. If you have a dry scalp, using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner can help.

To find the best products for your hair, Williams recommends researching specific brands and products—which includes finding out more about the ingredients in them—before purchasing or using them. You may want to consider using products with shorter ingredient lists or ingredients that are all-natural and organic.

“I think the tendency to use all of these additives can be potentially toxic for society, in general,” said Williams. “We have to change our approach to more organic and natural shampoos and conditioners.”

At the end of the day, experts say that it’s about being aware of your unique hair and skin needs and finding a product that meets them.

“It could be a baby shampoo, a really fancy and expensive one at the other end of the spectrum where you’re paying $100 a bottle,” said Williams. “But you have to find the one that best suits you and there are many different products that are available.”

What This Means For You

A group of consumers is suing Olaplex because they believe using the products damaged their hair. If you currently use Olaplex hair care products and are not having any hair-related problems, experts say that you can continue using them if you want to. If you have concerns or questions about your hair care needs, reach out to a hair specialist or dermatologist.

1 Source
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  1. Environmental Working Group. Lilial and fertility: EU bans toxic fragrance ingredient from personal care products.

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.