(HACKENSACK, N.J.) — Lexi Garcia slid down her shower wall and started sobbing. She patted her head in disbelief as she formed a big ball of hair under her fingertips. “This can’t be true,” she thought to herself, and carefully pulled her hair again, only to feel more strands come out. “No, no, no, no,” she exclaimed, pulling her hair harder. “This can’t be what I think it is!”
Only half an hour ago, Lexi — a twenty-two-year-old TikTok influencer who has lived in Santa Barbara her whole life, was swaying her hips to Doja Cat’s Woman and applying hair products, anticipating what her new hair color would look like. All of a sudden, she found herself frantically discovering a big balding spot on the crown of her head.
As Lexie’s twenty-second birthday approached, Lexi Garcia felt an irresistible urge for a change. Lexi, who has been a social media influencer for over five years now, has accumulated over 26 million followers on TikTok and 8 million followers on Instagram. She has always weighed her looks heavily. She believes her image is important to her overall online persona, which she says relates to her role as a content creator.
Lexie added the Olaplex number 7 Bonding Oil to her hair regimen because she saw on Tiktok that this product can cut down on drying time, protect from UV rays, and it can help restore dry brittle hair.
The Olaplex brand grew in popularity on Tiktok in March 2020 thanks to many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Billie Ellish who have and use the product. Olaplex came out in 2019 and it was advertised as a hair product that helps repair damaged hair.
Lexie said she feels most beautiful when her hair is straightened so she straightens it every day. Her hair had gotten a little dry and brittle from overly straightening it, so she decided to try the Olaplex number 7 Bonding Oil for approximately 4 months before she really noticed any major hair shedding.
When she decided to dye her naturally long olive-brown-toned hair into an ash blonde, she used box dye at home. Because she had previously colored all of her friends’ hair, she assumed coloring her own hair would have been an easy task.
The hair products she used include Ion Color Brilliance, Bright White Creme Lightener: check. Salon Care 30 volume developer, Wella T14 Toner: check, Wella ColorCharm 20 volume developer: check, Wella 050 additive. She bleached her ends for 30 minutes and applied bleach to her roots for another 10 minutes.
After 30 minutes, by the time Lexi finished bleaching her hair, she washed her hair with Olaplex number 4 shampoo, Olaplex number 5 conditioner, and a hair mask she had just bought before she started to feel her hair fall out in clumps. At first, Lexi was under the impression that she left the hair bleach too long in her hair and that’s why she had felt the bunch of falling hairs in her palm. She quickly rinsed the product out of her hair and rinsed her face as well. But, as she slowly opened her eyes, she screamed again, this time at the top of her lungs. She quickly reached for her mirror as she frantically tried to figure out where the hair was coming from. She was shocked to find a small bald spot right in the middle of her head.
On February 9, 2023, a federal lawsuit was filed against the company. In a 61-page complaint, the suit states that all the Olaplex products from Number 0 through 9 can cause major hair loss, hair breakage, and scalp injuries such as burning, open sores, and irritations. Lexie used Olaplex number 4, the bond maintenance clarifying shampoo. Following with the Olaplex number 5 Bond maintenance control and then finally using the Olaplex number 8 Bond Intense Moisture Hair Mask.
The lawsuit accuses the company of “false truth”, stating that the brand does not result in healthy, and restorative hair properties. The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. District Court Central District of California.
The lawsuit explains how Olaplex states in its marketing materials that all the products such as shampoos, conditioners, and oils “restore and replenish dry damaged hair,” and the results are “proven by science.” But, the lawsuit said, that claim is false.
Over 100 customers are filing a lawsuit against Olaplex. This affects the company’s brand because now people believe the company is causing a transgression and deception towards their buyers. This is a big deal because a lot of buyers can pick up their products from Sephora.
Dashuna Mullins, a 25-year-old junior hair stylist from New Jersey stated that Olaplex is used for hair that’s been chemically treated, such as highlights and color[ed hair]. Mullins said she believes the active ingredient in Olaplex called “Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate,” works by building a bridge between two bonds in the hair, repairing the hair completely after chemical services.
Mullins added that Olaplex is not a damaging product on its own, but that the customers, “Probably have multiple sources of damage in their hair such as heat from hot tools or over-processed hair from too much styling and chemical work and not enough rest time in between the process.”
Lexie was heartbroken about her hair but since her twenty-second birthday was approaching in a few days she had to come up with a plan. She did not want her friends to see her bald spot so she went on google and looked up getting a wig in the color she was attempting to dye her to. She went on Google and looked up an ash blonde wig nearby, she saw that the nearby beauty supply store had one and she found the perfect wig. She quickly wiped her tears, got in her car, and started speeding to the hair store. Once she purchased her wig she went back home and stayed up all night watching videos on Youtube and Tik Tok on how to install a HD Lace Front human hair ash blonde balayage wig. She never wore a wig before so this process took a while to learn. On her birthday all of her friends and family loved and complimented her hair, even though nobody knew it was a wig.
One month had passed since her birthday, and Lexi was still wearing the wig. The bald spot was still there and she also noticed that her hairline was also starting to shed. After a few months, her hairline receded so much that she almost had no hair left in it. Only after Lexie’s hairline started receding and chunks of her hair started falling out. It was by this point that she finally decided to tell her mother. “Lexie honey, I am so sorry this is happening to you. I’m going to find a dermatologist who can take you right now and look at your hair to see what is going on.” Her mother took her to see multiple doctors and specialists, but nobody could find out what caused her hair to fall out. Most of the doctors she saw suggested that the cause was most likely the use of bleach but they also suggested that if that were the case, she would have been bald by then.
Due to her hair loss Lexie’s mental and physical health started declining. Lexie had stopped exercising, eating regularly, and seeing her friends as before. She is away in her sorrows because she loves her hair and didn’t expect this to happen. Lexie still uploaded her content but she wore a wig the entire time and she faked her happiness. Right before Lexie uploads a few of her videos she always mumbles to herself, “I feel bad for lying to my followers, they don’t deserve that but, I am too embarrassed to show them what’s going on.”
Lexie’s mom took her to a salon a couple of days after going to the doctor. Her hairstylist suggested that she was probably overusing Olaplex because the brand of hair bleach she used is an okay brand to use but she should have never used box dye to dye her hair.
She stopped using Olaplex and started going to her hairstylist every 3 months to bring her hair back from the dead. Once Lexie’s hair started growing back, she returned to the hair salon to have her hair colored the proper way.
Lexie’s level of participation in the lawsuit is that she is one of the many women who want to rectify the damages of the product’s advertisement and negligence. She feels as if the product’s main slogan should not be “restores damage and compromise hair” and “proven by science.” Also, she wants Olaplex to specify how to use each product when to stop using it, and a warning if something goes wrong.
Lexie is not alone in this lawsuit because multiple women are in this exact circumstance. There is a Facebook group called “Olaplex Hair Loss/Hair Damage.”
The group has over ten thousand members and when Lexie joined she found a lot of women with the same hair issues as her. She was happy that she found a group of people that could relate to her prior experience.
One of them, Gretta G, is a 23-year-old woman who has been a member of the Facebook group since 2022. She said that a friend of hers recommended she use Olaplex after her hair had become dry and brittle from dying it red. After using the product daily for over a year, her hair stylist pointed out that she had been using the product incorrectly, which made her hair even more brittle.
Yet another woman, Isabelle L. who is 32, had been using Olaplex number 3 hair perfector, Olaplex number 4, the bond maintenance clarifying shampoo, Olaplex number 5 Bond maintenance control or years because she has naturally frizzy, curly hair, highlights, and on top of that she straightens it every time she washes it. She said felt that Olaplex had made her hair less healthy, and made it break more often. Isabelle joined the Facebook group in April of 2023 to see if this same issue was happening to other women.
The women in the Facebook group were so upset with Olaplex, that they decided to take action against the company. The woman invited Lexi to be a part of their fight and recommended that she be a part of the ongoing lawsuit that is currently going on with Olaplex. But many of the women from the Facebook group who have had similar stories like Lexi’s and Gretta’s had all used Olaplex daily. However, the correct way to use Olaplex number 3 hair perfector bottles is to use them 2-3 times a week between chemical services to strengthen hair.
Are the women who are suing Olaplex using the product correctly or incorrectly? Women have to remember that sensitivity to a certain product can vary between people and they have to take into consideration the concentration and exposure to specific ingredients. The Olaplex advertisements state that the product is “scientifically proven,” “safe for all hair types,” and “free from harsh chemicals.” When in reality they may contain harmful chemicals.
Danielle S is a 26-year-old from Oregon who started using the OGX shampoo when she hit puberty because her hair was thinning. Her hair naturally comes just beyond her shoulders and her hair texture is wavy. She was coming into her apartment from being at the pool that day. She came in and turned on the shower, stepped in, and started lathering her hair with shampoo. When she ran her fingers through her hair she knew something was wrong. She felt the skin on her scalp…no hair. She gently pulled her hands away and then on the shower floor was a brown patch of hair. It took her a second to realize this but then she looked at her hands and strands of hair were intertwined with her fingers. She remembers watching another large clump of hair slowly fall to the wet shower flower where she instantly fell to her knees to cry. She remembered scooping up hair before it went down the drain and just crying as the shower water sprinkled over her body.
Since she is a TV anchor her hair is a crucial part of her job. Her industry is so subjective that she relies so heavily on looking a certain way because there’s so much competition. She was devastated. She remembered sitting on the couch and feeling her bald spots that came out in three spots all at once. It was one of the worst moments of her life.
She went to a dermatologist who ruled out she had a hair loss condition and that it was damaged from a product. She found out what happened through TikTok because thousands of other girls like her lost their hair from the same brand of shampoo. She decided to use OGX shampoo because she always genetically had thin hair and wanted growth and volume since the product had biotin in it.
Danielle and Lexie both had the same issues but with different hair care products. What is the beauty industry going to do to prevent this same incident from reoccurring? Women don’t want only answers, they want a hair company that they can trust. Not a company that falsifies their advertisements.
The beauty industry is currently under some pressure because they are not holding their companies accountable quickly enough. The same situation has occurred with health and personal care giant Johnson and Johnson product OGX. The 2021 Johnson & Johnson new class action lawsuit is under some heat because the brand’s shampoo and conditioners contain harmful ingredients. Consumers are saying that this product is causing hair loss, headaches, dermatitis, and scalp damage. The lawsuit states that OGX includes DMDM hydantoin which is a carcinogen of formaldehyde and it can cause baldness, irritations, and allergic skin reactions in some people. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics formaldehyde is the main ingredient that’s harmful to hair health because, when the chemical is present in personal care products, it can be easily ingested or absorbed through the skin.”
As the legal process for the Olaplex company continues, the outcome of the lawsuit is still uncertain. The case is expected to proceed to trial in 2024, meaning they have enough time to gather more evidence.