October 18, 2016
Google “Olaplex”, and Kim Kardashian’s name pops up soon enough among the results. That’s where most people first heard of this supposed “holy grail” hair repair product, made to revive even the most distressed of tresses – from an endorsement by Kim K herself, which then made Olaplex basically the next big thing in salons. What’s the magic behind it, then?
How I knew it was high time to finally give Olaplex a try, after hearing so much about it: one bleaching session followed by three rounds of dyeing was what I had subjected my hair to in a mere four months, and boy, was it showing. Obviously, the texture change was evident on the outside: split ends, daily tangles, with an unexpected benefit of some newfound volume – because my hair had become that much like hay. But what had all these harsh chemical procedures done to my hair on the inside?
One of the biggest downsides to bleaching your hair is how much more often you have to head back to the salon to touch up the colour, to keep the brassiness that seems to creep in so quickly at bay. All this spells even more damage for my hair, but my trip to the Picasso Hair Studio at North Bridge Road would be different: this time, my hair would be given a nutritious serving of Olaplex together with the dye.
What exactly does it do, though? “Olaplex maximises the strength of the hair by building and reconnecting broken disulphide sulphur bonds in the hair, which makes it healthier and stronger,” explains Claribel Pan, who’s the director of Global Style – Singapore, a local distributor of Olaplex. And it’s not just like any other hair-repairing treatment – Olaplex really goes deep within the hair structure to fix it, Pan says.
A diagram of the hair structure before and after Olaplex, from olaplex.com
Olaplex is a three-part process. First, straightforwardly named No. 1: Bond Multiplier, is mixed into the dye to get the bond-building started. After the colour has been rinsed off, No. 2: Bond Perfector goes on to seal in the effects and keep them there for the long term. You take home No. 3: Hair Perfector to sustain what has been achieved in the salon, by using it as a weekly treatment before shampooing.
“No.1 is made of an active ingredient, Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, and is meant to help mitigate damage during the colour, lightening and relaxing process,” Pan lets on. “No. 2 is not a conditioner. Containing the same active ingredient as No.1, it finds more single sulphur hydrogen bonds and crosslinks them back together without other chemicals working against it.”
Plenty of advanced chemistry here, but that’s where Olaplex’s power lies. Pan is quick to warn that it’s no excuse to relentlessly subjecting your hair to more chemical processes. “Olaplex helps to strengthen the hair bonds, but it is not a miraculous healing potion,” she says. “Attempts to bleach the hair multiple times without it disintegrating is almost impossible. Nonetheless, clients with severely damaged hair can opt for a series of Olaplex treatments prior to the colouring session.”
Olaplex No. 3: Hair Perfector is the most important at-home step, if you want to get the results of your Olaplex treatment to last. “Simply apply to wet, towel-dried hair and leave it on for a minimum of 10 minutes,” instructs Pan. “After which, you can choose to rinse, shampoo and condition as with any cleansing routine, or leave it on for up to 12 hours for damaged hair, before washing it off.” Kim Kardashian goes as far as leaving it on overnight, apparently.
She lets on that hairstylists who have tried Olaplex have found it to be an essential tool in creating bolder hairstyles for their clients, since they no longer have to worry about pushing the hair too hard and creating irreversible damage with Olaplex. It’s how I got to leave the salon with hair a fresh hue of blue-tinged grey – the daring colour I’d always wanted but never really dared to push my hair to – while upon touching the strands, they truly felt like they had been fortified from the inside.
Hair before and after Olaplex and a colour touchup by Picasso Hair Studio.
Olaplex is currently available at 268 salons islandwide, so just ask your hairstylist if it’s available at yours. It definitely pays to play safe, especially if you’ve been taking chances with your hair and chemical treatments. It’ll be one step closer to getting your hair looking #flawless.
Main image: Tome Spring/Summer ’17, courtesy Aveda.