Seven years since it was founded in Dean Christal’s garage, Olaplex is planning an IPO.
The cult haircare brand is looking to raise $100 million according to its S-1 filing, and could be worth as much as $1.5 billion upon its public debut, though it’s unclear when exactly it will begin trading. The company has come a long way from being used exclusively at salons to becoming the best selling haircare brand at Sephora.
For most of his life, Dean Christal had been immersed in the hair business through his family: His brother launched two haircare brands of his own, his father was a beauty distributor, and his mother ran her own salon out of the family home. But it wasn’t until after Christal spent 20 years running a skateboard brand that he considered getting into hair.
Christal built Olaplex from his Santa Barbara garage, hiring scientists to create a chemical that would dye hair better than existing brands without causing damage. After three years of slow progress, Christal nearly gave up when one of the chemists he hired came up with what Christal described as a “beer-like...liquid” that would “cross-link sulfur hydrogen in the hair.” And sure enough, it did.
Olaplex’s big break came when Christal was introduced to celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham, who immediately realized the value of the product.
“After a thirty minute meeting one rainy night in Beverly Hills, I gave Tracey a bottle of Olaplex and she used it the next day on Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez,” Christal told Modern Salon. Tracey told me that she would never color again without it. That’s when the real work began.”
In 2019, after a handful of years of steady growth, private equity firm Advent International acquired Olaplex for an undisclosed amount and named JuE Wong as CEO. That same year, Olaplex had a major legal battle with L’Oreal, who was also once in talks to buy the brand. The beauty giant was accused of stealing trade secrets and infringing on two patents, and was ultimately forced to pay Olaplex $91 million.
According to our data, Olaplex remains a relatively small company — it currently has 117 employees, a 46% increase year-to-date. That growth in headcount mirrors the company’s revenue growth — despite $22 million in losses in 2020, Olaplex’s revenue grew 90% from the previous year. It then generated $270 million in the first six months of 2021 alone, compared to $100 million during the same period last year.
There’s a lot in store for Olaplex as it continues to dominate beauty — after adding consumer facing products to its traditionally DTC lineup, it plans to use the proceeds from its IPO to focus on new haircare products as well as a foray into skincare.