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How to Build Your Perfect Olaplex Set

Launched in 2014, the Olaplex name is synonymous with luxuriously soft, vibrantly healthy-looking hair. From humble beginnings in a Californian garage, this brand quickly shot to hair care stardom, garnering a worldwide fan base that includes A-list celebrities and pro stylists alike.

And just how did it manage that? Well, by making incredible-sounding hair repair promises, and then actually delivering on them!

How and why does Olaplex work?

To understand how Olaplex works, you first need to understand the structure of hair and how it becomes damaged. Hair strands are made up of strings of proteins, which are held together by disulfide bonds. When those bonds are broken open (for example through chemical color treatments), some of their molecules are able to bind with too much oxygen, leading to the creation of Cysteic acid which then starts to eat away at the proteins. The result? The hair strand loses its sleek, smooth shape, which shows up in the mirror as frizz, split ends, and an increasingly dull-looking color.

Olaplex all started with the creation of Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, a patented ‘magic ingredient’ that binds to these molecules faster than oxygen can, repairing the broken bond and preventing the formation of hair-damaging Cysteic acid. With its bonds repaired, the hair strand is once again silky smooth, plus strong enough to retain its natural shape – whether that be poker straight or corkscrew-curly.

What types of hair damage does Olaplex repair?

All types! Because Olaplex products reverse bond breakage, and bonds can become broken through everything from chemical perms to bad brushing techniques, it has the potential to repair your damaged hair almost regardless of how it came to be that way. For example, Olaplex can fix:

Thermal damage from heat styling such as hairdryers, curling irons, flat irons, and heated rollers.

Chemical damage from color treatments such as dyes and bleaching, or other treatments such as perms and relaxers. (Speaking of which, did you know that perms and relaxers work by actively breaking the disulfide bonds, so that the hair strand loses its natural structure and can be reformed into a new shape?)

Environmental damage from factors such as UV light, humidity, over-exposure to cold weather, and air pollution.

Mechanical damage caused by pulling on the hair – especially when it’s wet which is when it’s at its weakest – such as tugging a comb through tangled hair, or towel-drying it too roughly. If you’ve ever heard a hair snap when brushing, that’s the sound of its bonds being ripped apart!

The Olaplex kit – a non-toxic hair repair system

All Olaplex products are cruelty-free, and are kind to both your hair and the planet. Their formulas are free from over 50 toxic ingredients that are often found in hair products by other brands, meaning you won’t be coating your hair in harmful chemicals – or dumping them down the drain and into our waterways once it’s time to rinse the product out.

Just a few of these ingredients that all Olaplex hair care is 100% free from are sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, coal tar, formaldehyde, triclosan, retinyl palmitate, and mineral oil. The brand also keeps synthetic fragrances to a minimum, so chances are good that you can use any product from the Olaplex hair kit without problems even if you’re sometimes sensitive to added fragrance.

What Olaplex do I need?

There are 9 primary Olaplex repair kit steps, but you probably don’t need them all – and a couple are only available via professional treatments. Here’s a quick rundown of what each one does, so you can plan out the perfect Olaplex hair care routine for your lifestyle and level of damage:

No. 0 – The Olaplex Intensive Bond Building Treatment

Designed to be used in conjunction with No. 3, this is a booster product that primes the hair to absorb it deeper into the hair structure, for even better repair compared to using No. 3 alone. Before applying the No. 3, be sure to allow No. 0 to soak into the hair for at least 10 minutes so that it can take full effect.

No. 1 – The Olaplex Bond Multiplier (Professional use only)

Not sold for home use, this is available in salons or in the Olaplex Traveling Stylist Kit for professional home hairdressers. It’s designed to be mixed in with chemical products such as color treatments, since using Olaplex when bleaching or otherwise chemically changing the hair will minimize damage by beginning to repair bonds the moment they get weakened.

No. 2 – The Olaplex Bond Perfector (Professional use only)

The second step of an Olaplex salon kit for professional hairdressers, this is applied after other chemical treatments have been rinsed out of the hair, and is essentially a higher-strength, more intensive version of the at-home No. 3 Hair Perfector.

No. 3 – The Olaplex Hair Perfector

The bestselling Olaplex product! If you’ve had a salon treatment, you’ll likely be recommended this product to continue improving your hair at home. You can also jump right in and start with No. 3 without any prior Olaplex treatments. It contains a little less of the bond-repairing Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate ingredient than No. 2, but still plenty enough that you’ll see a difference. Use it alone, or after applying No. 0 to really unlock its full restorative potential.

No. 4 – The Olaplex Bond Maintenance Shampoo

Once again with Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate among its ingredients, this pH-balanced shampoo gives your hair a little bond-repairing boost every time you wash it, making it easy to stay on top of repairing daily damage. There are actually two versions – No. 4 and No. 4P – so which Olaplex shampoo to use? No. 4 can be used by anyone, while No. 4P is a purple shampoo. This Olaplex toner shampoo incorporates a purple coloring agent to neutralize brassy tones, keeping blonde or grey hair looking extra bright.

No. 5 – The Olaplex Bond Maintenance Conditioner

Just like the shampoo, this conditioner searches out and fixes broken bonds with every wash, while also saturating your hair with deeply-hydrating ingredients such as avocado extract for hair that feels wonderfully soft and swishy! If you have particularly long or dry hair and think you’ll be getting through a lot, know that you can buy a really big bottle of Olaplex conditioner.

No. 6 – The Olaplex Bond Smoother

Olaplex’s version of a leave-in conditioner, this rich styling cream continuously moisturizes, eliminates frizz, and delivers the hair-strengthening power of Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate for up to 72 hours after application.

No. 7 – The Olaplex Bonding Oil

This Olaplex oil is a weightless, non-greasy formula which delivers much the same benefits as the No. 6, but for those who prefer the texture of oils to creams in their hair. It will tame flyaways, increase shine, offer protection against UV damage and heat styling (up to 450°F) and of course, repair any broken bonds it finds along the way.

No. 8 – The Olaplex Bond Intense Moisture Mask

Once a week, swap out the regular conditioner for this deep conditioning mask, which is infused with the same miracle ingredient as all Olaplex products, and which has been clinically proven to leave hair six times smoother and twice as shiny! It’s great for when your hair needs a little extra pick-me-up between salon treatments or applications of No. 3.

Olaplex Home Usage

So which Olaplex products should you start with? The No. 3 Hair Perfector has one of the highest concentrations of Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate outside of the professional-only products, making it an ideal place to kick-start your Olaplex journey.

As for which other products to use with it, we all wash our hair so you can’t go wrong with the 3-piece No 3., No. 4 and No. 5 Olaplex set (that’s Hair Perfector plus shampoo and conditioner). The shampoo and conditioner alone also make for a good Olaplex travel kit, so you can maintain your silky-smooth hair texture even when vacationing – especially useful if you know from past experience that sunlight, sea salt, and dry airplane air are going to be wreaking havoc on your locks!

From there, add in other products as you see fit. For example, if you already use a hair oil, you can swap it for Olaplex’s No. 7. Or if your hair is in particularly poor condition, then you might want to purchase the No. 0 in addition to the No. 3.

Olaplex FAQs

Still have questions about using Olaplex? Let’s clear them up for you!

Can Olaplex damage hair?

Absolutely not. Olaplex actively repairs the hair strand, only acting on areas that are damaged, so it’s impossible for it to leave the hair in a worse condition than before you started. Plus, as we mentioned further above, it’s free from over 50 toxic ingredients such as hair-drying sulfates.

How long does the effect of Olaplex products last?

Some products temporarily smooth your hair by simply coating the strand, which will gradually wear off. Olaplex on the other hand actively repairs the hair itself at a molecular level, meaning that it’s a permanent fix – although that bond can become damaged once again through further heat styling, coloring, rough brushing, and so on. Think of the Olaplex effect as restoring your hair to its natural, intended state. After that, you’ll need to treat it nice to make sure it stays in such fab condition!

Does Olaplex help with hair loss?

Olaplex works on the hair strand, not the hair follicle. That means that the answer to “will Olaplex help my hair grow?” is, unfortunately, no. It doesn’t promote new hair growth, and isn’t designed to treat thinning hair. However, it will keep the hair you already have as strong as possible, which will minimize further hair loss as a result of breakage. Additionally, in a consumer study of 80 people, a huge 94% reported feeling like their hair had fuller body after using the No. 8 mask.

Will Olaplex fix split ends?

Yes! Each hair strand is made of protein chains that wrap around each other, held in place by the disulfide bonds. Split ends happen when your hair becomes dry and brittle and those bonds break down, which causes the strand to literally start unravelling at the end like a fraying rope. Olaplex restores the bonds, bringing the protein chains back together so that the hair strand looks sleek and smooth all the way to the tip.

Which Olaplex is best for damaged hair?

All Olaplex products contain the same key ingredient, Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, so they all help to repair weakened or broken bonds in the same way. The No. 1 and No. 2 professional-use products contain a particularly high concentration of it, so they’ll deliver better, faster results than the DIY route. That said, it is still possible to achieve a fabulous transformation at home. No. 0 can be bought online and actually contains the highest concentration of this molecule, but it isn’t designed to be used alone – for maximum repair in a single treatment session, combine No. 0 with No. 3.

Is it okay to use Olaplex for curls?

Yes – whether you’ve got straight hair or type 4C coils, you can use Olaplex! Olaplex won’t straighten hair that’s naturally curly, or curl hair that’s naturally straight. Instead, it restores your hair’s natural structure – turning kinks back into coils, limp waves back into bouncy ones, and straggly-looking straight hair back into a cascade of sleek and glossy tresses.

How many Olaplex treatments do I need?

That depends very much on your hair’s starting condition. Many call this a miracle product, and you’ll notice a difference right from the first use, but if your hair is exceptionally fried and frizzy then expect to need a course of treatments to get it back to full health. Using Olaplex’s shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis, which contain a lower dose of the same bond-repairing ingredient, will ensure that your hair’s condition continues to improve even between more intensive treatments.