Some Olaplex users said their hair was damaged and fell out – Business Insider


Sarah Horrell Richardson battled dry and damaged hair after spending a lifetime curling, straightening, and coloring it for dance competitions. So she was excited to try Olaplex, the TikTok-famous brand that says it can build chemical bonds to repair weakened hair.
But within days of using Olaplex’s Bond Smoother in January 2022, she said her hair began to break in half.  
“I would see it all over the counter and my clothes,” she told Insider. She swore off the products after just six uses. “I don’t really have much hair left to lose.”
Richardson is among a number of people claiming in social-media posts and online reviews that Olaplex damaged their hair. The Facebook group “Olaplex Hair Loss/Hair Damage?” is devoted to sharing negative experiences with the brand, and has gained roughly 1,000 members within the last several weeks. 
The complaints stand in sharp contrast to thousands of glowing Olaplex reviews from celebrities, influencers, and others that helped supercharge the brand’s recent growth. Olaplex went public in September 2021 at a valuation of more than $15 billion. 
Insider interviewed 10 former Olaplex users who voiced concerns about Olaplex on social media and in emails to Insider. Their ages ranged from 26 to 63 years old, from cities across the US and the UK. Some said their hair fell out in “clumps,” or accumulated on sinks and pillows after they had started using the brand’s products. Several said their hair turned dry and straw-like. One said her hairline receded and another said she could see her scalp as her hair thinned. Some feared health problems and sought medical tests. Insider viewed documentation from users such as before-and-after photos, blood-test results, and doctor-visit summaries, as well as correspondence with Olaplex customer service.
Olaplex states its products are third-party tested, and a dermatologist said hair loss from topical treatments was relatively uncommon unless an ingredient caused an allergic reaction. Olaplex has offered refunds for up to 12 months’ worth of products to dissatisfied customers.  
“There is so much hair loss now, I’ve never, ever seen in my life so many patients, I see at least 10 patients a day,” Viktoryia Kazlouskaya, a board-certified dermatologist and dermapathologist at the University of Pittsburgh, told Insider. “And hair fall from shampoo or oil or products is super rare in general, so I would be very careful claiming that.” 
When asked about the symptoms that the Olaplex users experienced, an Olaplex spokesperson told Insider: “We take each and every customer inquiry very seriously. If a customer is not satisfied with their purchase for any reason, we are always willing to explore a possible refund.”
“We believe in the safety and efficacy of our products, which are thoroughly tested in-house and by independent third-party laboratories,” the spokesperson continued. “We remain confident in the evidence demonstrating that Olapex products are safe and effective, as millions of our customers can happily attest.”
Rosie Genute, a 30-year-old New Jersey-based makeup artist, said she started using Olaplex shampoo and conditioner no more than twice a week — consistent with the bottles’ directions — in December 2021.
Within a month, her once full, curly hair became dry and frizzy and it fell flat on her face, she said. She said her scalp became dry and flaky, she developed excessive dandruff, and her hair started breaking in half. 
“I’ve never had anything like that happen,” Genute told Insider. “I noticed as I was washing my hair in the shower, I would run my fingers through my hair and I would just be getting clumps of hair coming out.” 
Genute initially suspected nutrient deficiencies or another health problem. But the results of a February blood test were normal, she said.
She started to suspect Olaplex, since it was the only recent change to her routine. Aftering switching to a drugstore brand of hair products, she said she saw an immediate reduction in hair loss.
Genute posted a TikTok video in March 2022 describing her experience. Olaplex’s TikTok account commented: “Our products are tested by independent third parties. From that testing, there is nothing to indicate the products can lead to hair loss or breakage.”
Becky Barnhouse, a 56-year-old campground manager who lives in Ojai, California, said her hair started breaking and falling out in October, just a few days after first using Olaplex shampoo, conditioner, and hair oil. 
“Now, it’s wispy thin,” she told Insider. “I don’t put any stress on it whatsoever” for fear of losing even more, she said. She contacted Olaplex seeking a $161 refund for her products, which she purchased from a salon. In an email viewed by Insider, Olaplex denied her request, saying the salon was not an authorized seller.
Keannia Johnson, a 26-year-old based in Dallas, said her hair started falling out in clumps in her hairbrush in September, on the first day she used Olaplex’s oil treatment and hair mask, called No. 8. She said her hair also turned straw-like in texture.
Johnson stopped using the products on October 17, when she said “fistfuls of hair” were falling out. 
Johnson saw a dermatologist who diagnosed her with telogen effluvium, or hair loss tied to a variety of causes such as stress or chemicals, according to a summary of the visit reviewed by Insider. The doctor said Olaplex could have triggered the hair loss and encouraged her to stop using it, Johnson said.
Blood work ordered by a doctor, which Insider reviewed, did not show medical problems or nutrient deficiencies. 
“I was just so sad because I was convinced all of my hair would eventually fall out or break off,” Johnson said.
Mica Weekes, a 29-year-old who works in human resources in the UK, estimates she lost 50% of her hair in the four years she used Olaplex. Weekes said she initially had positive results using the shampoo, conditioner, and oil treatment in 2018. But in late 2019 and 2020 her hair became dry, broke in half, and shed more than usual.
Weekes said she saw a trichologist, or a licensed specialist who studies hair and scalp problems. The trichologist asked Weekes about her diet, exercise routine, and any life changes, then recommended she stop using Olaplex, Weekes said. She stopped using the product in October 2022, and said her shedding has since decreased.
“I feel like shaving my hair sometimes, which sounds dramatic, but you just want to start again because sometimes you look and think, ‘Is it ever going to improve?’” Weekes said. 
Jennifer Adesina, a 32-year-old Dallas area nurse practitioner, said she began using Olaplex in December 2021 to strengthen her hair, which had been shedding since she had given birth in April 2021. Adesina used the oil treatment, or Olaplex No. 3, one to two times a month.
Within a couple months, Adesina said she experienced excessive breakage and shedding, to the point where she said she could see her scalp through her hair. She first suspected postpartum hair loss, but said her OB/GYN told her that was unlikely to persist beyond a year from delivery.
A blood test ordered by a doctor, which Insider reviewed, later ruled out nutrient deficiencies. She stopped using Olaplex in September after reading reviews on Sephora’s website claiming the product damaged hair.

A post shared by Jennifer Adesina Psych NP (@jadesina17)
Adesina said “immediately” after stopping Olaplex, her excess shedding stopped. Her hair has become less brittle and has since grown fuller and thicker, she said. 
Complaints gathering momentum on message boards may seem like candidates for potential lawsuits, but lawyers and doctors told Insider consumers would face obstacles seeking recourse.
For one, shampoo and topical treatments typically are “not the reason” for hair loss unless they contain allergenic ingredients, Kazlouskaya told Insider.
Genetics and stress are the top two causes of hair loss, Insider previously reported. Androgenetic alopecia, or “male and female pattern baldness,” is not preventable, but medications like minoxidil and finasteride can slow hair loss. 
Telogen effluvium is reversible and has a wide range of causes like viral infections, giving birth, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental-health disorders. Scientists recently established temporary hair loss as a symptom of COVID-19, and the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide.
Olaplex doesn’t appear to be currently facing any lawsuits related to hair loss or damage. In general, personal-injury claims need to be more severe and costly than hair loss to be worth pursuing, as plaintiffs lawyers often get paid on contingency, Jonathan Shub, who represents customers in class actions, said. 
That means lawyers only get paid when their clients win, and their earnings are a percentage of damages awarded. This is why many consumer claims are brought as proposed class actions. Bundling claims creates a path for a collective award, which makes it potentially more lucrative for plaintiffs attorneys. 
Consumers also would face the burden of persuading a jury that the product in question caused any health effects they experienced, usually requiring plaintiffs attorneys to hire expensive medical professionals as expert witnesses, Shub said. Those types of claims are difficult to bring collectively, as health issues can often involve individual medical histories, said Shub.  
“Unless they can establish with medical records a link to the use of the products causing their injury, they don’t really have a personal-injury case,” he said. 
But there’s another way: Plaintiffs can seek what are known as “economic damages,” based on the premise that a product’s advertising didn’t tell the whole story, or warn enough about risks. 
“In general, the damages may not be great enough to pursue on an individual basis, but collective damages can be worth pursuing in a class action,” Michael Reese, a plaintiffs lawyer, said. Reese said he’s looking into customers’ complaints about Olaplex products. 
In January, a US District Court judge signed off on a $5.2 million settlement between the company behind the DevaCurl line of products and some of its consumers, Bloomberg Law reported. The consumers said the products caused maladies ranging from scalp irritation to thinning hair. DevaCurl has said that its products do not cause hair loss or irritation, citing rigorous safety testing.
A larger, $26 million settlement was finalized the following month involving claims against Wen, a brand founded by the celebrity hair stylist Chaz Dean, according to People Magazine. An attorney for plaintiffs in that case told the magazine that customers suffered hair loss and scalp irritation because Wen’s products were left behind on users’ scalps and didn’t wash out properly. For its part, Wen asserted that its product is safe and said settling was a “business decision” to avoid the time and money involved in litigation.
Cathy G., a 63-year-old who lives in Connecticut, said she isn’t considering any legal action against Olaplex. But she said she’s heartbroken after seeing changes in her once thick, curly hair.
“It was literally my identity,” she said. “I had awesome hair.” Cathy G. asked not to print her full last name, citing privacy reasons, though her identity is known to Insider.
She started using Olaplex products in April. In mid-July, she said her hair started falling out in the shower and that her hairline started receding.
She said she visited a dermatologist the next month, who diagnosed her with alopecia, or pattern baldness. In September, she stopped using Olaplex products.
“Immediately, there was a change” and her hair stopped falling out, she said.
She is now taking minoxidil, sold under the brand name Rogaine, which has helped boost her hair growth, she said. But the texture of her hair hasn’t recovered, she said.
“It’s this weird coarseness,” she said. “It’s like cheap doll hair.”
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