What is the Olaplex hair treatment and how does it work?

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  • We break down one of the biggest buzz-words in beauty...

    The Olaplex hair treatment is the one of the biggest advances in hair technology for years – but does it really live up to the hype when it comes to repairing damaged and brittle hair?

    Kim Kardashian reportedly swears by the Olaplex hair treatment (it’s apparently how she goes to platinum and back again without wrecking her tresses), saying: ‘When your hair is really damaged, if you sleep in that, it really works. I notice a huge difference.’

    Olaplex Kim Kardashian

    In 2019 so far, it’s been the best selling brand in Cult Beauty’s ‘disobedient hair’ category – but what do the experts think? We spoke to two top stylists and a trichologist to get the low-down on the beauty buzzword.

    What is Olaplex?

    Olaplex was founded by Dean Christal, who teamed up with scientist Dr Craid Hawker and Dr Eric Pressly to cook up a new molecule that works from inside the hair strands, to strengthen and repair damaged locks where the structure has broken down.

    Nicola Clarke, Creative Colour Director at Color Wow and John Frieda Salons elaborates for us. ‘For colourists, the biggest game-changer in hair colour is Olaplex. It maximises the strength of hair by reconnecting broken disulphide sulphur bonds in the hair, which gives hair a thicker look and healthier and stronger feeling,’ she explains.

    ‘The hair bonds break when hair is coloured and subject to regular heat and chemical treatments. It allows you to rebuild the strength, structure and integrity of hair and it is compatible with all hair types.’

    When should Olaplex hair treatment be used?

    For best results, it’s important to use it during a colour treatment, rather than after it.

    This is where some of the confusion around the hair treatment comes in – the Olaplex hair treatment is not a cure-all for dry or damaged hair. It is a scientifically-developed treatment that works on hair condition from within, as opposed to a conditioner that improves only the superficial condition of damaged tresses.

    Trevor Sorbie Manchester’s Creative Director, Vincent Allenby clarifies: ‘Olaplex is invaluable in maintaining the disulphide bonds within the hair structure during the colour process. These bonds are normally broken down during the colour process and can sometimes result in breakage and candyfloss results mainly in high lift situations such as balayage, highlights or lift tints. It’s a must for anyone heading lighter.’

    Olaplex is also split into three main stages, and when you use each one differs, with four hair maintenance products to support your hair condition.

    Olaplex before and after

    Olaplex 1

    Olaplex No 1 goes on your hair while it’s being coloured. It’s mixed in with the colour and applied directly onto your hair.

    Olaplex 2

    Olaplex No 2 is applied when you’re at the back wash sink. Once the hair dye has been rinsed, it’s applied to the hair and left on for around 20 minutes, then rinsed out. A little bit like a deep conditioning hair mask.

    Olaplex 3

    Olaplex No 3 is your turn; an at-home treatment that you use once a week. Pop it onto damp hair, comb through so that it reaches every strand and then leave for at least ten minutes. Do it for as long as you can – make like Kim K and leave it in whilst you sleep, then wash out afterwards.

    Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector, £24 Cult Beauty


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    Olaplex Shampoo and Conditioner – 4 and 5

    Great news if you’re worried about maintaining the condition of your hair: Olaplex now offers a shampoo and conditioner so that you can to keep up the good work on a daily basis.

    Olaplex No 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, £24, Cult Beauty


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    Olaplex No 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, £24, Cult Beauty


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    Olaplex 6

    Olaplex No 6 Bond Smoother, £24, Cult Beauty

    Olaplex 6

    A smoothing styling cream that’s great for frizz-prone, dry hair, Olaplex No 6 is infused with vitamins and minerals to repair and protect your mane. It promises a frizz-free style for up to 72 hours – winner!

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    Olaplex 7

    Olaplex No 7 Bonding Oil, £26, Space NK

    Olaplex 7

    The newest launch to join the Olaplex family, No 7 is a lightweight daily styling oil that offers heat protection up to 450°. Not bad, hey?

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    Does Olaplex hair treatment really work?

    With such rave reviews and celebrity endorsements, does this treatment mean we don’t need to worry about over bleaching and styling our hair any more? Not exactly. We asked trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver for her thoughts on the process.

    As a hair expert, Tarver has had both personal and professional experience of the Olaplex treatment. ‘Olaplex is a brilliant product, I actually purchased my own to take to my colourist and have used it for my last three sets of highlights. My personal experience of it is that my hair feels stronger after colouring than it normally would.’ So if you’re partial to blonde hairstyles, and regularly get your hair bleached it’s a winning choice. Incidentally, if you want to tone down brassiness, ensure you grab some of the best purple shampoo.

    But she does warn that it’s not a miracle fix for damaged hair: ‘My professional experience of it is that it cannot rewrite the rules of chemical processing. Unfortunately using Olaplex does not mean hair can be bleached multiple times without disintegrating.’

    So, if you’re worried about the condition of your hair, next time you’re headed to the salon for a colour treatment, ask your stylist whether Olaplex is an option for you.

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