Rating: Not great
- Packaging is easy to recycle
- Many ingredients are readily biodegradable
- Main ingredient is not readily biodegradable
- Multiple ingredients are very toxic to aquatic life
- Contains EDTA
Olaplex is an American hair care company, which was launched in 2014. Their signature products focus on repairing hair damage.
Aside from water, the main ingredient in their No. 3 Hair Protector – and most of the other Olaplex products – is bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. (See a great explanation of how this chemistry works here). This chemical is not readily biodegradable. Some biodegradation has been observed under test conditions, but without further information it is impossible to know if this suggests that this chemical will eventually ultimately biodegrade in the environment.
The available ecotoxicity data for bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate is also a little limited. I found results from short-term tests on aquatic invertebrates, and tests on algae, which showed that the chemical has not toxic. But there was no information on the effects of this chemical on fish, or effects on aquatic invertebrates over the long-term.
More information is available for the other ingredients in this product. The other main ingredients are readily biodegradable, which means a large amount should be removed during waste water treatment. However, some of these chemicals will be released to the environment after use, and some are toxic or very toxic to aquatic life.
One of the main ingredients is glycerin, which can be derived from palm oil. Olaplex has not published any information on the source of their glycerin, or how sustainable it is.
Some of the minor ingredients – specifically, quaternium-91, cetrimonium methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride and polyquaternium-37 – are quaternary ammonium compounds. The behaviour of these chemical depends greatly on the local environmental conditions, but they are all very toxic to aquatic life under test conditions. It looks like the cetrimonium compounds will be readily biodegradable, but this looks less likely for the other two compounds.
Most of the fragrances in this product are undisclosed, being just listed as “parfum”. It is impossible to determine what the environmental impact of these substances could be without further information.
The rest of the ingredients are primarily preservatives and vitamins. This includes EDTA and another similar chemical (etidronic acid). These two are not readily biodegradable and, in the environment, they may disrupt nutrient availability and cycling.
The packaging for this product is a simple plastic bottle which should be easily recycled in most kerbside schemes.
But does it work?
Considering how well a product works is a big factor in determining whether a product is a good one or not. A product that does not work is a waste.
Image credit: Kelly in the City