The luxury haircare brand Olaplex is being sued over claims its products caused baldness and blisters in more than two-dozen customers.
A lawsuit filed in California argues the company, made famous for claims of ‘bond-building’ damaged hair, made false claims about its products’ efficacy and alleges the firm obscured the fact that its formula contained potentially harmful chemicals.
It follows a barrage of negative reviews of Olaplex’s shampoos and hair protector products – which range in price from about $30 to more than $100- in the past year, with users reporting that regular use caused their hair to break off, fall out, and become damaged, dry, frizzy, and dull.
Meanwhile, cosmetics giant L’Oreal faces legal trouble over claims the company’s chemical hair straighteners, which are especially popular among black women, caused womb and breast tumors.
The suit filed, by about 30 customers, honed in on several ingredients that may have caused the hair problems, including the preservative sodium benzoate.
The FDA has determined that sodium benzoate in concentrations up to 0.1 percent by weight is safe for use in hair care products.
They also claimed that lilial, used to give hair products a pleasant smell, has been identified as having endocrine-disrupting properties that could interfere with natural hormone functions and may pose risks to fertility and fetal development.
The company announced last year that it would remove lilial from its formula after the European Union labeled it a ‘reprotoxic’.
The customers are seeking $75,000 in damages.
Olaplex built its reputation as a brand focused on repairing damage hair bonds due to chemical treatments and coloring. Celebrities and influencers including Kim Kardashian have sung its praises.
The products are widely available in the high-end cosmetics chain Sephora as well as Ulta Beauty and several online marketplaces.
The lawsuit said: ‘Far from repairing and protecting hair from damage, the products have instead left plaintiffs’ hair dry, brittle, frizzy and dull,’
‘The hair has split and broken, causing it to look unkept and as if it were cut with a weedwhacker.’
Dallas-based lawyer Amy Davis, who represents the plaintiffs, has asked the court to order Olaplex to stop what she calls false and deceptive marketing.
The California-based haircare label bills itself as a highly effective means to ‘repair the broken bonds and rejuvenate hair,’ ‘increase tensile strength and restore elasticity,’ and ‘protect the hair follicle from further breakage’
The Santa Barbara, California-based haircare company denied any wrongdoing.
The communications team at Olaplex said their products: ‘Do not cause hair loss or hair breakage… We have full confidence and believe in the safety and efficacy of our products, which are thoroughly tested in-house and by independent third-party laboratories.’
But the complaint argues that Olaplex’s products are neither safe nor effective.
And it builds on a mountain of growing controversy regarding them, primarily on TikTok and Instagram, where influencers like reality-TV actress turned beauty influencer and entrepreneur Kristin Cavallari have warned their followers to stay away from the range of products.
Ms Cavallari told her 4.5 million followers: ‘This is not an ad — at all.’
‘I was using it too much, and it literally broke my hair. That has happened to other people, so if you’re using it, just be careful.’
The latest lawsuit adds to a mountain of bad press consisting of customers warning that chunks of hair have fallen out and their scalp has broken out into a painful rash.
A Facebook group called ‘Olaplex Hair Loss/Hair Damage?’ has gained more than 5,000 followers who say that the products led to their hair becoming ‘broken all the way to the root’ and draining chemically-treated hair of color.
The Food and Drug Administration has received about 25 customer complaints about Olaplex.