Haircare Brand Olaplex Banned in EU & UK

An endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) has been found in the product, which can cause inter-generational infertility

Imogen Clarke
14th March 2022
Image: Instagram @Olaplex

The UK and EU have recently banned the popular high-end haircare staple, 'Olaplex No.3' due to the ingredient lilial and its link with infertility. The brand has therefore stated that the ingredient, also known as butylphenyl methylpropional, will no longer be used in their products. It is classified as a ‘Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Reprotoxic (CMR) 1B substance', and, according to Northumbria University, 'CMR's are chronically toxic and pose a serious threat to human health'. The EU also lists them as 'a substance of very high concern'. However, this issue links to wider problems of hormonal health. And, the presence of Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC's) in the beauty industry as a whole.

Hormone disrupting chemicals are found in many beauty products such as blush, hairspray, SPF, mascara, foundation and self-tan

Hormonal health has often been dismissed by clinicians, particularly when the effect is on women. Take the ignorance of issues surrounding the pill, for example. The Olaplex ban is a good sign, but similar chemicals are found in many beauty products such as blush, hairspray, SPF, mascara, foundation and self-tan. This list goes on.

Unfortunately, EDC's cannot be made harmless by lowering dosage when regulating the ingredients in cosmetics. This is because very low doses can also cause problems; our bodies are designed to react to even minute doses of hormones (this is how the pill works!). So, it is very hard to regulate how much of such chemicals should go into beauty products; the percentage of lilial, for example, does not correlate with level of risk. Therefore, the 0.1% (or less) of the ingredient used in products like Olaplex No.3 may still be causing harm. This, combined with the cumulative effect of EDC's on infertility (that can pass from generation to generation), means the EU and UK were right to ban the ingredient from Olaplex No.3. But more still needs to be done to make beauty products safe.

The ban is a positive step in the right direction, and could lead to further research into hormone damaging beauty ingredients

Olaplex as a brand is promoted by beauty enthusiasts as the ultimate hair-smoother and strengthener. What's more, their website cites No.3 to be a bestseller. Due to the ban, the brand has announced that the product will be reformulated so that customers will still be able to use it under EU rules. However, in a statement on their official instagram, Olaplex maintain that they had only used 0.0119% of lilial in the No.3 formulation, and that this was 'not enough to directly impact fertility'. However, we know that the harm of EDC's is not cumulative, and very small amounts are still serious. The ban is not a sign to discontinue using Olaplex, or to be worried if you use No.3. In fact, it is a positive step in the right direction, and could lead to further research into hormone damaging beauty ingredients. More legislation will lead to other brands being forced into formulaic changes. A win for ours, and our children's, hormonal and health and fertility.

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