Olaplex Holdings is facing a lawsuit from about 30 consumers alleging that the company’s products have damaged their hair and scalp.
The complaint filed Thursday accuses Olaplex of making false claims, including that its offers restore damaged hair and provide “the ultimate insurance against breakage.” The lawsuit also alleges that the company knowingly used ingredients that cause irritation and sensitivity, contributing to a number of hair and scalp problems.
“Far from repairing and protecting hair from damage, the products left plaintiffs’ hair dry, brittle, frizzy and dull,” the lawsuit claims. They are also experiencing hair loss and scalp lesions, according to the complaint.
In a statement, Olaplex denied the lawsuit’s claims and defended “the safety and efficacy of our products, which are extensively tested internally and by independent third-party labs,” adding that it is prepared to vigorously defend against the claims. .
“There are a wide variety of reasons for hair breakage or hair loss, as medical and scientific experts have publicly stated, including lifestyle, various medical conditions and medications, Covid side effects, skin conditions, and more,” the company said. He has refused to share copies of his research.
The lawsuit follows other claims against Olaplex by some disgruntled customers. Over the past year, posts claiming the company’s products damage hair have multiplied on social media. A Facebook group where users discuss the hair damage they attribute to products has amassed more than 5,000 members since it appeared in July.
The plaintiffs, represented by Dallas attorney Amy Davis, asked a California federal court to order Olaplex to stop what they call false and deceptive marketing. They also want unspecified monetary damages. Cosway, which the hair care brand said last year was its largest maker, was also named as a defendant and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Olaplex is credited with creating the “bond building” category of products that seek to repair hair damaged by coloring and other treatments. Against a backdrop of rapid growth, the company raised $1.55 billion in an initial public offering in September 2021, the largest in the U.S. consumer goods sector in two decades, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Annual revenues approached $600 million in 2021.
But sales gains slowed last year. Olaplex cut its annual forecast in October, which caused its shares to fall. The stock has rallied this year, but is still 70% below its IPO.
It’s unclear what, if anything, in the company’s offerings could lead to hair loss and breakage. The matter is complicated by all the factors that influence hair health, and because the company has one line of products for professionals and another for everyday consumers.
Hair gets its structure and strength from bonds called disulfide bonds which can be broken by heat, dyes and other aggressors, causing damage. Olaplex has developed an ingredient that seeks to repair those bonds, according to its website.
Valerie George, a cosmetic chemist who specializes in hair, said it’s possible some hairstylists “get a little tougher” when they use too many treatments, such as lighteners, due to Olaplex’s claims to repair damaged hair.
Carlos Wesley, a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in hair transplants and restoration, said Olaplex appears to focus on looks, not biology, meaning it doesn’t appear to address potential underlying issues with the drivers of hair growth. And topical products that are initially effective may become less effective over time, Wesley said.
In theory, this means that it is possible that the number of bond builders needed to have a positive effect could grow to the point where they cannot fully compensate for harmful factors such as heat.
One of the plaintiffs said he suffered from hair loss, breakage and discoloration, as well as scalp irritation. Many of the customers reported hearing about the products from influencers who allegedly received marketing materials from Olaplex, according to the complaint.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received about 25 consumer complaints on the products, according to documents Bloomberg received through a public records request. Olaplex said in its August 2021 IPO that it has historically received such comments, adding that the allegations could damage the brand’s reputation regardless of their merits.
So far the consequences have been limited. The word “break” saw the most growth in brand-related topics on TikTok, rising 500% in December over a year earlier, according to research published by Barclays in late January. However, that term was mentioned in less than 1% of brand conversations on the social media platform.
He “Olaplex’s brand equity isn’t as damagedas other metrics would suggest, analysts led by Lauren Lieberman wrote.
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