Advertisement
We independently evaluate the products we review. When you buy via links on our site, we may receive compensation. Read more about how we vet products and deals.

Olaplex shampoo review: I tried the celeb-loved hair treatment — here are my thoughts

The much-hyped 'bond building' hair cleanser has legions of fans — I wish I was one of them.

Olaplex's No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo on a pink background
Olaplex's No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo is meant to repair, strengthen and nourish all hair types. (Amazon)

You've probably heard about Olaplex — the hair treatment line that launched in 2014 to great fanfare. Since then, the brand's shampoos and conditioners have been highly praised (or, at least reportedly used) by celebrities near and far: from Billie Eilish to Drew Barrymore; Dakota Johnson to Jennifer Lopez. In fact, in the past decade, Olaplex has become so popular it's racked up more than 2 billion (yes, billion with a "b") TikTok views, a devoted celebrity fan base, the trust of professional stylists and even a bit of controversy.

Olaplex's shampoo has tens of thousands of five-star reviews on Amazon and is reportedly the hair-cleansing choice of multiple celebrities, including J.Lo. 

Pros
  • Pleasant scent
  • Tens of thousands of five-star reviews
  • Free from sulfates, phthalates and parabens
  • Safe for all hair types
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Heavyweight formula may weigh down thinner hair
  • Left reviewer's hair simultaneously greasy and dry
  • Hard to rinse
$25 at Walmart

What makes these products special is their "bond building" technology, which can be defined most simply as rebuilding the disulfide "bonds" (essentially the glue) that hold our hair's keratin proteins together. The strength of these bonds dictates our hair's elasticity, shine and even curl. And, while the entire Olaplex line is based on this bond building, some of the products seem much more effective than others — at least they did for me.

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo review

Writing about hair care — or any kind of beauty — is a strange enterprise. I review hair products (and other products) for a living, am paid to give my honest opinion on everything from TikTok-sensation snail serums to celebrity "Botox alternative" creams. Still, I always feel a little bad when others are disappointed in a shampoo or concealer I've recommended, and I'm even more disoriented when I come upon a product everyone seems to LOVE but I find just kind of...meh. This was the case with the Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. It's important to note here that with so many different hair textures and types, shampoos are really an "every woman for herself" enterprise. Olaplex's No. 4 may work for your hair. Take this review with a grain of cleansing, hydrating, strengthening salt.

First things first: My hair is color-treated blond, fine but not thin. It's also a bit damaged and on the dry side, which means I should be the ideal consumer for this repairing shampoo — which is color-safe and free from sulfates, phthalates and parabens — but somehow ... I was not. The first thing I noticed about Olaplex's shampoo was the consistency: This is an ultra-thick shampoo that lathers up well (maybe too well?) with a pleasant, subtle, citrus-y scent. After lathering for 30 seconds or so, I went to rinse. And rinse. This is when things got weird. I couldn't really get the shampoo washed off, which I guess would be fine except for what happened next.

When I towel-dried my hair, it felt like it still had shampoo in it, but it was also knotty and crunchy like hay, the way your hair feels when you're camping with few toiletries or backpacking through Europe in 1995 or somewhere where you don't have shampoo and feel desperate so you use a soap that should not be used on hair (bar soap — I've done it!). After I blew my hair out, I noticed it was shiny and silky-ish up top, but my ends looked completely fried. The next time I used it, the same thing happened, except this time my roots looked oily. Over the next two weeks, I alternated between the shampoo on its own and the shampoo in tandem with both the Olaplex conditioner (also meh) and a product that I happen to like: the Hair Perfector No. 3 Repairing Treatment.

The hero Olaplex product started as a salon-only treatment, but during the pandemic was made available to its devoted fans (including Margot Robbie) for at-home use. Kim Kardashian loved the hair-softening, hair-strengthening effects of this formula so much, she once used "Olaplexing" as a verb. 

$26 at Walmart

On its own, the shampoo still left my strands in the same detergent-y, dry-hay shape. As a set, the three-part Olaplex system worked pretty well, meaning my hair was smooth from root to end, though not better than other shampoos/conditioners I've used with the Repairing Treatment (which again, I believe is great!). I realize maybe I am expecting too much from a shampoo, but I did not love the way this one washed nor rinsed nor, as a solo product, the way it made my hair feel. For $30, I expect to be wowed by a hair-care product and mostly? I thought this one was just OK.

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo ingredients

Though Olaplex maintains a secret, proprietary formula, the main, most targeted ingredient is a molecule called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. The rest of the (rather long) list is here:

Water (Aqua/Eau), Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Potassium Cocoate, Decyl Glucoside, Glycereth-26, Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Methyl Gluceth-20, Acrylates Copolymer, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Amodimethicone, Citric Acid, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Polyquaternium-10, Ethylhexylglycerin, DivinylDimethicone/Dimethicone Copolymer, Polyquaternium-11, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, C11-15 Pareth-7, Laureth-9, Glycerin, Trideceth-12, C12-13 Pareth-23, C12-13 Pareth-3, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Panthenol, Acetic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pentasodium Triphosphate, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Pseudozyma Epicola/Camellia Sinensis Seed Oil Ferment Extract Filtrate, Pseudozyma Epicola/Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil Ferment Filtrate, Quaternium-95, Propanediol, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Extract, PEG-8, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum Extract, Rosemarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Fruit Extract, Origanum Vulgare Lear Extract, Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract, Articum Lappa Root Extract, PEG-8/SMDI Copolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Myristyl Serinate, Sodium Polyacrylate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Biotin, Benzoic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Fragrance(Parfum), Citral, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo alternatives

When I discussed the Olaplex line with my hairstylist, she mentioned that she felt the line was overhyped and dated. That, while it may have been revolutionary 10 years ago, Olaplex was no longer the hottest hair thing. I asked her which shampoos she'd recommend instead. Here's what she said.

This up-and-coming line, which is known for its affordable, high-quality hair-care products, is becoming more and more popular by the day. My stylist uses this bonding formula as an Olaplex dupe, but if you have fine hair like mine, I've heard great things about the Verb Ghost Shampoo too. 

$20 at Amazon

My stylist's second pick is Redken, which she said is a long-standing high-quality brand. This $13 version is a travel size (which I'd recommend you buy to try first); the next size up — 10 ounces — is $33 but for 20% more volume than Olaplex's standard $30 shampoo.

$13 at Amazon

This Shu Uemura repairing shampoo is a splurge FOR SURE, but if you're looking for a best-in-class hair cleanser that will actually help strengthen your damaged mane, it might just be for you. Experts I spoke with raved about the Shu Uemura line, and this formula is, according to the brand, meant to "gently cleanse, repair and visibly thicken fragile hair — without stripping away hydration." 

$55 at Sephora