Olaplex Is Removing Lilial From Its No. 3 Formula

The European Union (EU) continues to set the precedent when it comes to ingredient safety in cosmetics — and beauty brands, including Olaplex, are following suit worldwide. In May 2020, the EU’s European Commission updated its classification of butylphenyl methylpropional (most commonly known as lilial) to presumed reproductive toxicant, and banned the ingredient as of March 1, 2022.

As the deadline passed this week, consumers grew concerned that butylphenyl methylpropional was still listed in Olaplex’s best-selling No. 3 Hair Perfector. Not only did the ingredient ban leave people worried about the safety of their half-empty bottles, but many also feared they wouldn’t be able to continue to purchase the beloved product in the EU.

As people took to social media to air their concerns in TikTok videos and tweets, on Monday, February 28, Olaplex took to Instagram to announce that lilial was no longer being used in any of its products — not just in the EU, but globally. 

If you have used Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector, you’re likely wondering whether or not you should toss your bottle. Let’s start from the top. 

What is lilial?

Lilial is a synthetic scent ingredient that mimics the aroma of lily of the valley. It can be listed by many names, including butylphenyl methylpropional (p-BMHCA), 2-(4-tert-butylbenzyl) propionaldehyde, lysmeral, and lily aldehyde. This fragrance is found in all kinds of beauty products, including shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, body washes, and perfumes, and it’s even common in detergents and household products. 

Why is it banned? 

The European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has been monitoring lilial for years now, as research around its safety continues to develop. In May 2019, for example, the Committee published an opinion paper concluding that “considering the aggregate exposure, arising from the use of different product types [with the ingredient] together, [it] cannot be considered as safe.” A year later, the European Commission classified lilial as “reprotoxic.” This means that the ingredient has potential risks to fertility and fetuses. 

Similar to BPA, phthalates, and parabens, lilial can act as an endocrine disruptor. “Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones,” reproductive endocrinologist Trisha Shah, M.D., explains. “This interference can impact both male and female reproductive systems by potentially causing sub-fertility, infertility, improper hormone production, or perhaps menstrual cycle abnormalities.” However, she notes that more research is needed to completely understand the impact lilial has on the reproductive system.