What is Olaplex and can it really transform hair? (Spoiler alert: yes it can)

The hair treatment to end all hair treatments

Model with blonde hair - what is Olaplex
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The hair treatment to end all hair treatments

What is Olaplex? In a nutshell, it's a 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 treatment actually improves its structure.

The Olaplex treatment line-up involves ten 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 with the broken bonds that occur as a result.

Then there are seven at-home products. These include the now infamous Olaplex No. 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.' 

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…

What is Olaplex?

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

Each of the ten 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 frizzy hair and make curls more defined.

Olaplex: Before and after

A photo posted by on

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Olaplex: A Review

by Fiona Embleton

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 No. 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 No. 1 and No. 2 in the salon so we tried that with my colour. The only difference was the extra 20 minutes added 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 No. 6, the lovechild of a styling cream and leave-in conditioner for smoothing the ends of my hair.  

Meanwhile, hair oil used to be 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 No. 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, cost 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. 

Olaplex: The Ten Steps

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

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.