Olaplex haircare reacts to controversy over infertility-linked fragrance, and reformulates its hair mask

  • Olaplex has reformulated its No. 3 Hair Perfector mask following an EU ban on a previous ingredient.

  • Continued exposure to the additive, lilial, was linked to fertility risks and banned from cosmetics.

  • The company phased out the ingredient globally "out of an abundance of caution."

Consumers who use Olaplex, a popular haircare line, expressed concern on social media after an ingredient in the brand's No. 3 Hair Perfector mask was linked to a risk of fertility problems.

The formula for the beloved hair mask — Olaplex's best-selling product, according to its website — used to include a small amount of a synthetic fragrance called butylphenyl methylpropional, or lilial.

Although the additive is non-toxic if used sparingly, a review by the European Union's consumer safety regulators concluded that adding up small exposures over time could pose a health risk, particularly for individuals trying to conceive.

The EU officially labeled lilial as a "reprotoxic," meaning it can be harmful to fertility and fetal development, in September 2020, with a March 2022 deadline for phasing out all products containing the chemical. According to an Instagram post by Olaplex, the company stopped selling products containing lilial entirely in January 2022.

"While this phase-out is limited to the EU and the US permits use of this ingredient, out of an abundance of caution we proactively removed lilial from our N°.3 Hair Perfector globally," the caption read.

Lilial is a common fragrance ingredient

Although Olaplex is the only brand that has publicly addressed phasing out lilial, it's among many others that have used the additive in cosmetics, skincare, and other personal care products.

A search for lilial on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website, a database of cosmetic ingredients and relevant health warnings, returned more than 1,200 product results. It was most commonly found in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products, followed by perfumes, lotions, and body washes.

The ingredient is found naturally in chamomile essential oil, and can be extracted or made in a lab to be used for its signature Lily of the Valley scent — typically in very small doses.

"The way Olaplex diligently used the ingredient as a fragrance, nonfunctional and not active, it should not cause infertility, miscarriages, or disruptions in fetus development," Olaplex representatives wrote in the Instagram caption.

While the EU ban specifically pertains to personal care products, lilial is also used as a fragrance in laundry detergent and household cleaners, according to EWG.

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