This is exactly why Olaplex is so transformative, according to a hair artist
Whether or not you’ve tried Olaplex before, you’ve likely heard the name echoing around your local hair salon. The cult brand launched in 2014 as an in-salon treatment process, preventing the damage associated with bleach and revolutionising the way stylists worked with colour.
Four years later, Olaplex hit high street shelves with shampoos, conditioners and styling products available for us regular beauty buffs to shop. Even Jennifer Aniston and Margot Robbie swear by it to keep their locks in shape between glam shoots and red-carpet events.
Yet despite its worldwide recognition, the same questions still circle the internet: is Olaplex actually good for hair, and how should you use it? Luckily for you, Olaplex and I are joined at the hip – it’s the only brand which helped repair my once frazzled ends. So, if you’re intrigued to know more, read on to discover why it’s such a haircare hero.
What is Olaplex?
The Olaplex treatments are based around a patented active ingredient that seeks out and repairs the broken bonds in your hair fibres. The formulas are powered by a compound called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate (rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) which fuses compromised bonds that have been damaged by chemicals, thermal heat, or mechanical factors like vigorous brushing.
Many conditioners and deep treatments simply smooth the surface of your hair to make it look sleeker and shinier, but Olaplex penetrates within the hair shaft to repair it from the inside.
Much of the buzz also comes from its ability to protect your hair from the damage associated with harsh bleach, such as breakage and brittleness, before it happens. ‘It works during the colouring process to limit potential damage from happening, but it can also be used retrospectively to repair existing damage dramatically,’ says Tom Smith, Olaplex artist.
‘Mixing Olaplex into all types of hair colour allows colourists to mitigate hair damage, which will leave the hair healthier even without further home care’, he adds. Tom explains that while your hair bonds are in the process of ‘breaking’ during the colouring process, Olaplex helps to heal these so that damage doesn’t even happen in the first place. See it as a bodyguard protecting your hair from anything that may harm it.
‘It creates a new disulphide link between any two broken bonds, and it does it so quickly that it takes effect before the peroxide [bleach] can stop it’, says Tom.
Olaplex isn’t solely reserved for bleached heads of hair either, you can equally reap its benefits even if you’ve never stepped into a colouring salon. Heated styling tools (including a hair dryer) can also damage the bonds in your strands, so using the at-home Olaplex line will make them more resilient in the face of any future processing.
How should I use Olaplex?
Each product is given a number, which indicates the order in which it should be used. Olaplex No.1 and No.2 were designed as in-salon treatments that can only be used by a licensed professional. ‘They contain more concentrated levels of the active ingredient which are only used in professional settings where colouring chemicals are being handled too,’ explains Tom.
While most salons mix No.1 and No.2 in with the colour or bleach, Tom says that you can even get booked in to have this duo used without any colouring to kick start your road to hair repair.
The No.0 treatment and No.3 mask are add-on treatments your hairdresser might suggest you use at home. ‘They give the user the ability to continue repairing their hair whenever they'd like', says Tom.
‘They can be used regularly depending on the extent of hair damage, which can then be lessened once the damage has been rectified. From there, they can be used to combat future damage from heat styling,’ he explains.
There are also a few new Olaplex launches outside of the treatment realm that have been met with fanfare, including a dry shampoo and lash serum. So, here's a run-down of all the different products.
Olaplex No.1 Bond Multiplier
No.1 is a solution-based treatment that works to repair damaged hair. It’s a concentrated first step that hairdressers use to lessen the unwanted effects of chemical dyeing such as brittleness and breakage. It can also be added to glosses and toners.
Olaplex No.2 Bond Perfector
This also contains bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, but in a smaller quantity and in combination with a variety of conditioning agents. It is also applied in the salon and used as your post-colouring conditioner treatment. Cleverly, it seeks out the broken bonds that may have been missed in step one and gets busy repairing them. See No.2 as a more concentrated version of No.3 (more on that to come), but not quite as punchy as No.1.
Olaplex No.0 Intensive Bond Building Treatment
Now stepping into the at-home arena, No.0 is a primer that should be applied from roots to ends before slathering on the No.3 mask. This isn’t a necessary step in the Olaplex system but is an additional one you can take to maximise its benefits. It also contains the highest level of the bis-amino compound available at a consumer level, so it’s a powerful solution that can help revive even the most battered of bonds.
Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector
Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector is where it gets really exciting. Contrary to popular belief, this little bottle isn’t actually a conditioner, but a pre-shampoo treatment. It should be slathered onto towel-dried (but not freshly washed) hair before shampooing and left to do its thing for at least ten minutes. To get the most out of the treatment, you can leave it to soak in overnight before washing out as normal in the morning.
Ultimately, the first four Olaplex products are your SOS steps for bleached or heavily heat-styled hair. But its offerings don’t end here – there are other products in the range that can be used to boost the efficiency of the salon treatments.
Here’s the know-how on the rest of the collection...
Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
This shampoo works to cleanse hair and impart deep moisture and strength. It's colour, sulphate, paraben, gluten and nut-free, as well as vegan-friendly. The consistency feels silky and luxurious, and you only need a small amount to create a rich lather. It makes a brilliant follow-up to the hero No.3 Hair Perfector for weekly washes.
For blonde hair, there’s No.4P which neutralises brassy tones, while No.4C is a detoxifying shampoo designed to cleanse your hair from all the nasties (think hard water minerals, chlorine, oil build-up and dirt).
Olaplex No.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo
Earlier this year, Olaplex extended its styling range with the launch of a dry shampoo. No.4D is a super lightweight formula that uses rice starch particles to soak up excess oil. As well as detoxifying and soothing your scalp, it creates a freshly washed finish without leaving any residue.
Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner
This thick, creamy goodness leaves any hair type feeling soft and hydrated after washing. The salon-like shine is second to none, but it also helps to repair any shattered bonds in-between your salon visits or styling sessions.
Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother
This intensive hair treatment doubles up as a styling serum, making it a must-try. Not only does it strengthen and moisturise, but it also revs up blow-drying time and helps to control flyaways.
Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil
Moving on now to this powerful repair oil that's a reliable go-to if your hair has really been through the wringer. Used as the final step in your routine, simply smooth the silky oil through dry or damp ends and let it nourish them back to strength. Offering heat protection up to 230°C, it will also keep your strands safe when styling.
Olaplex No.8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask
If your hair is in dire straits (aka split-end city) opt for No.3, but if hydration is what you’re after, the Bond Intense Moisture Mask is the way forward. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and avocado oil, it delivers moisture to even the most brittle strands – plus, of course, a generous helping of the brand’s patented ingredient to strengthen.
Olaplex No.9 Bond Protector Nourishing Hair Serum
Unlike the rest of the Olaplex range, this serum is formulated with red algae extract – a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage. Coupled with the trademark bis-amino compound and hydrating hyaluronic acid, it’s the perfect finishing touch to protect your hair and keep it looking sleek and healthy.
How long does it take to notice a difference with Olaplex?
Like many areas of life – say, marathon training or learning to surf – you aren’t going to see results instantly, and the same rule applies to your hair. Ultimately, the outcome will depend on how strictly you follow your Olaplex routine.
Start by using the No.3 mask once a week and the shampoo and conditioner every other hair wash. You can then amplify their efficacy by using the No.7 Bonding Oil as a post-wash styling treatment.
Just one use of the No.3 mask should leave brittle ends looking healthier and feeling noticeably softer. If you stick to the system and treat your hair with kindness (no more pulling as you brush), you should notice improvements in its length and thickness a couple of months later.
Consider your personal hair history, too – if you’ve used chemical dye for years, it’ll unsurprisingly take longer to repair the damage.
The verdict: Is Olaplex really worth the money?
I can’t remember a time when Olaplex wasn’t in my life; even as a financially struggling student, I managed to budget in my fix. So good and hard-working, it was never ever left in the communal bathroom for my housemates to steal.
If you’re assuming that a salon-grade treatment must come with a sky-high price tag, I’ve got some good news. One £28 bottle of No.3 (my holy grail) lasted three months, making it affordable enough to keep me out of my overdraft.
I didn’t give my bottles an easy time, either; over the years I’ve bleached my hair three times, malnourished it to the point of falling out and repeatedly frazzled my ends with a straightener. Glossy shine? Nah – my hair shone like a rusty penny. However, no matter what I threw at it, my Olaplex routine always bought it back from the brink.
Today, my hair is the healthiest it’s ever been; it’s thicker, shinier and my ends no longer break at the tug of a brush. The key for me was persistence. Whether you’re reaching for a new PB in the gym or are keen to expand your cooking skills, progress doesn’t happen overnight – and the same goes for your hair’s health.
That said, I noticed an instant improvement in the softness of my formerly straw-like hair after using the No.3 mask; I’d often catch myself twiddling my silky ends during the day, particularly after leaving it to marinate overnight.
It wasn’t until I reached the four-month mark that I noticed a major difference in the health and thickness of my hair. In fact, a friend asked me if I was wearing extensions, to which my response was ‘Nope, just Olaplex!’
I use the shampoo and conditioner for every other hair wash – as it’s a reparative treatment, you don’t need to overdo it. I then switch between my No.3 and No.8 hair masks once a week, and I’m never without the No.7 Bonding Oil to protect my hair from heat damage.
By booking in for regular trims, eating a healthy diet and sticking to my Olaplex regimen like a sergeant, I have grown my hair into something I never imagined it would be: strong, healthy and full of life.
Stay loyal to this system and you'll soon see the difference. Trust me, when it comes to Olaplex, you can believe the hype.
Is Olaplex safe to use?
Olaplex has been making headlines in the news recently, and not for good reasons. The brand has entered a lawsuit against 30 female plaintiffs who are claiming over £60,000 in damages after allegedly experiencing hair loss, breakage, bald spots and scalp irritations – specifically after using No.0 and No.9.
Olaplex swiftly made a statement on Instagram saying: ‘We are prepared to vigorously defend our company, our brand, and our products against these baseless accusations. We want to reassure our community of professional stylists, customers, and fans that they can continue to use our products with confidence.’
Despite the claims being made against Olaplex, it remains one of the industry's leading haircare brands and has been recommended by stylists and experts for almost a decade. It also remains a treatment process that we continue to use and support. However, if these claims make you wary of trying Olaplex for the first time, there are many other brands lining the shelves that Women’s Health would also recommend to repair damage.
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