What is Olaplex – and why you should be using Olaplex 3 on your hair

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  • In a nutshell, Olaplex is the haircare range that every hairstylist worth their salt swears by for keeping strands healthy. 

    You see, it doesn’t just paper over the cracks, making hair look smoother. Olaplex actually improves its structure.

    So it’s no wonder Google searches for the brand have recently skyrocketed as the compass has swivelled towards self care in haircare.

    The Olaplex line-up involves seven steps, two of which are in-salon treatments for those who frequently bleach or dye their hair. These prevent breakage during the colouring process and ‘glue’ together the broken bonds that occur as a result. 

    Then there are six at home products. These include the now infamous Olaplex 3 mask, which Kim Kardashian swears by, saying:  ‘When your hair is really damaged, if you sleep in that, it really works. I notice a huge difference.’ 

    Olaplex Kim Kardashian

    All deliver shine, strength and manageability to all hair types and textures, coloured or not.

    In other words, Olaplex is an adjunct to the other rules to follow for healthy hair.

    But what do the experts think? We spoke to a top stylist and trichologist, as well as putting the range through its paces ourselves…

    Beauty Drawer

    What is Olaplex?

    Olaplex was founded by Dean Christal, who teamed up with scientist Dr Craid Hawker and Dr Eric Pressly to create a new molecule that works from inside hair strands.

    Each of the eight Olaplex products contains varying amounts of this hero active ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, which repairs broken disulfide bonds in the hair.

    Nicola Clarke, Creative Colour Director at John Frieda Salons, elaborates for us: ‘Olaplex is the biggest game-changer in hair colour. It maximises the strength of hair by reconnecting disulphide sulphur bonds. These are normally broken down during the colouring process or when hair is subject to regular heat treatments.’

    ‘It allows you to rebuild the structure and integrity of hair and is compatible with all hair types,’ she continues.

    That includes Afro hair as it will help to reduce frizz and make curls more defined.

    Olaplex: The Seven Steps

    Conveniently the system is numbered so you know precisely what order to use the products…

    Olaplex 1 Bond Multiplier

    For in-salon use only, it is mixed in with the bleach or colour. The Multiplier is made up 100 per cent of bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate and is applied directly onto your hair while it’s being coloured.

    Olaplex 2 Bond Perfector

    This is applied when you’re at the back wash and the hair dye has been rinsed out. A bit like a deep conditioning hair mask, it’s left on for around 20 minutes to repair those bonds and add a whole lot of protein to your hair.

    Olaplex 3 Hair Perfector, £26, Space NK

    Olaplex, Olaplex 3 Hair Perfector, £26, Space NK

    Now it’s your turn. This is the at-home version of  Olaplex 2 and is designed to be used once a week before shampoo and conditioner.  Apply 1-3 teaspoons onto damp hair, comb through so that it reaches every strand and then leave for at least ten minutes.

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    Olaplex 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, £26, Lookfantastic

    Olaplex, Olaplex 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, £26, Lookfantastic

    Use in place of your regular shampoo to hydrate and repair. The coconut-oil derived surfactant in the shampoo means it still lathers up without stripping away your colour.

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    Olaplex 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner

    Olaplex, Olaplex 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, £26, Lookfantastic

    A daily strengthening conditioner, which should be left on for three minutes before rinsing.

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    Olaplex 6 Bond Smoother, £26, Space NK

    Olaplex, Olaplex 6 Bond Smoother, £26, Space NK

    A leave-in styling cream that hydrates with vitamin E and coconut oil and tames frizz for up to 72 hours. 

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    Olaplex 7 Bonding Oil, £26, Space NK

    Olaplex, Olaplex 7 Bonding Oil, £26, Space NK

    Lightweight plant oils means this doesn’t involve heavy schmearing. One pump does everything (protects up to 450°F, smoothes frizz, adds shine).

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    Olaplex: A Review

    Six years ago I saw Nicola Clarke at John Frieda after a hair colour disaster at another salon.

    To cut a long traumatic story short, my colourist had left the bleach on for waaayyy too long and, in the ensuing frenzy to get the foils out, I was left with broken pieces of hair.

    I looked like an angry child had taken a pair of scissors to my hair. It was that bad I even forewent my regular colour session for 6 months – which is as controversial as a Strictly pro skipping self-tan.

    But old habits die hard, and I desperately wanted a sun-kissed, beachy do for summer. ‘Not yet,’ said Clarke, leading me to the salon’s back room.

    Here she shoved a test tube containing the Olaplex 3 into my hand. She had syphoned it off the first UK sample being trialled at the salon. ‘Use it three times a week without fail and come back in three months,’ she whispered. 

    I felt like I was in possession of fairy dust and religiously applied it, praying to the hair gods for a miracle.

    Gradually the softness and elasticity returned. It was like I was resuscitating lifeless hair.

    By the time I next saw Clarke, she was in possession of the Olaplex 1 and 2 in the salon so we tried that with my colour. The only difference was the extra 20 minutes added on to my appointment time for the Bond Perfector to be applied once the foils had been rinsed out.

    For the first time in ages, my new colour not only looked great but my hair actually felt strong – not frazzled – when I ran my fingers through it.

    And the products?

    With results this good, of course I followed up with all the at-home products. 

    Special shout outs go to Olaplex 6, the lovechild of a styling cream and leave-in conditioner for smoothing the ends of my hair.  

    Meanwhile, hair oil used to by my nemesis. I hated it and more often than not ended up a hot greasy mess when I used it on my fine hair.

    Olaplex 7 changed all that – lightweight, effective, it babies my hair but is also great in place of a heat protecting spray. Read more about my relationship with the Olaplex Bonding Oil here.

    All of which, I know, costs a pretty penny. So have I lost my head in trying to save what’s growing on it?

    I asked trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver for her thoughts.

    ‘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,’ she says. ‘My personal experience of it is that my hair feels stronger after colouring than it normally would.’ 

    So should you believe the hype? It’s a big, resounding yes from me. 

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