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When Science Meets Beauty: Olaplex

We all know the drill: every time you color, perm, or even heat treat your hair, you run the risk of damaging it. But does that stop us? No, because the allure of that icy blonde or glossy brown mane (or straight-as-a-pin tresses, or corkscrew curls) is too tempting. So while we chase the latest color trends and styles, we cross our fingers and wish for a magical potion that will protect and heal our damaged hair.

Well, it turns out that science, not magic, held the answers all along. Chemists have discovered the key to repairing – really repairing, at a molecular level – the injuries we’ve been inflicting on our hair all this time. And at the same time, they’ve unlocked the secret to preventing further damage while you color, so you can chase the latest trends with confidence.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (to hide your treatment-frazzled hair, perhaps?), this groundbreaking treatment is Olaplex. This famous multi-step process literally repairs damaged hair shafts, working from the inside out. It also steps in between your hair and the chemicals in dyes, bleaches, and perm solutions to guard against new damage.

To get the details on just how – and how well- Olaplex works, we dug deep into experts’ assessments, client reviews, and compared tons of before-and-after shots. The results were undeniable – happy clients are reporting lustrous, shiny hair that looks and feels healthier, even right after bleaching or perming.

From startup to stardom

Olaplex shampoo and conditioner

So what is this celebrity-approved miracle of technology, all about? Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and each keratin molecule is bonded to the next with cysteine. If we didn’t subject our hair to chemical processing and heat treatments, these bonds would remain pretty strong. However, our quest for the perfect wave, balayage, or platinum ‘do can’t help but harm the delicate balance.

Hair color and other chemicals interfere with the disulfide bonds between keratin molecules, weakening and often breaking them – and the consequences are dry, brittle, lifeless locks. Sure, you may have the color or curls you always wanted, but at what cost? Olaplex addresses the problem at its core. The formula contains a crucial molecule that seeks out damage on each hair shaft as it’s applied.

Once it finds the broken bonds, this molecule (Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate- no, we can’t pronounce it either) fuses and heals the damage. You read that right: Olaplex actually repairs your hair cuticle and the interior of the shaft as well, making it light-years better than the previous generation of products for fragile, brittle hair.

Like any great startup story, the Olaplex saga began in a garage. Two chemists developed the now-patented bond builder, and with the help of hair pros, launched their company in 2014. The buzz was immediate and built up to literal superstar heights once stylists for Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kylie Jenner began touting the results. Olaplex has steadily developed, tested, and released new products over the last half-decade, including many you can use at home to boost performance and keep your newly repaired hair in shiny shape.

The view from the chair

For Olaplex’s gold-standard treatment, get thee to a salon, because we’ve got great news. Your hair professional will combine the company’s high-tech treatment with your color and chemical service to both repair existing damage and prevent new harm from being done. The bottom line? You can finally go from chestnut to platinum without fear.

Olaplex products

The Olaplex process involves two steps at the salon; the rest will be up to you at home. Your stylist will begin with the Bond multiplier treatment, mixing it with your color or perm solution. It’s especially important to the lightening process, as bleaching will strip your hair. During the processing, Olaplex’s active ingredient kicks into gear to protect the delicate surface and core of your hair shafts so the harsh chemical agents can do their thing without wreaking havoc on your locks. Be warned: Olaplex can increase your time in the hair chair, so expect this appointment to take a little longer, but it’ll be time well spent.

After your hair is colored or permed, your stylist will then apply the Bond Perfector – a slightly weaker version of the first treatment, meant to boost hair’s health and protect against future damage. If you’re not interested in a color treatment or changing the curly or straight look of your hair with a perm, don’t despair! Stylists can skip the first Olaplex step and give you great results with this second solution. Most colorists will leave the Bond Protector in your hair for about twenty minutes, give or take.

Home hair care

The third building block to restored, luxe locks is the Hair Perfector, which you’ll apply at home. It’s a thick conditioning treatment that provides backup to the work Olaplex did at the salon, but like the products we review a little further on, the Hair Perfector is also a nice option for those of us who want to try Olaplex at home. You can use the Hair Perfector without visiting the salon. It’ll improve the appearance and feel of all hair types.

Happy attractive caucasian joyful brunette woman in bath towel applies hair conditioner in bathroom after shower at home. Hair care

Just massage it in from roots to the end, leave it on for at least ten minutes (or take a page from the book of celebs like Kim Kardashian and let it do its magic overnight under a shower cap). The rich, carefully formulated complex will help texturally repair and strengthen your hair. It’s a good way to dip your toe into the Olaplex pool, especially if you’re a heat-styling addict. Blow dryers, curling irons, and straighteners can cause just as much damage to your tresses as chemicals.

Other powerhouse Olaplex products for upkeep at home include Bond Maintenance shampoo and conditioner. Whether you wash your hair every day, every other day, or closer to once a week, you’ll have extra assurance that your post-salon results will last until your roots need attention. The gentle formulas skip sulfates, parabens, and phthalates, so they’re safe for color-treated and delicate hair. Bond Maintenance shampoo and conditioner fight frizz. As one review put it, a little goes a long way toward nourishing even very dry hair.

Once you’ve shampooed and conditioned your lustrous, silky-smooth locks, you can safely style (and keep tenderly treating those newly bonded keratin molecules) with Olaplex Number 6. This a bond-smoothing styling cream that allows you to blow dry your hair without fear of flyaways. You can also use the Bond Smoother on dry hair to touch up your style.

Again, this Olaplex product can be used whether or not you’ve had the salon treatment, alone or with any of the other at-home formulas. And if you’re heating the curling iron or straightener while you dry your hair, look to the line’s Bonding Oil for maximum heat protection (up to 450 degrees). It’ll provide an extra barrier without weighing your hair down.

No matter what level of Olaplex bonding treatment you opt for, keep in mind that if your hair is already extremely damaged, brittle, or compromised, you may not see near-miraculous results. The system will almost certainly improve the look and feel of your hair, but where Olaplex shines the most is at damage prevention: that’s why stylists recommend you use it during chemical processing. If you fancy a new look, ask your salon pro about including Olaplex in your next color or perm session, or explore the home products to see you form a bond with the brand.

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