3 ways to tell if your hair really needs Olaplex (and 5 other products to try instead)

Written by Akesha Reid

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Bond-building hair products have become a key part of many haircare routines over the past few years, but not everyone will benefit from them. Here’s how to know if you need them. 

Ever since the launch of its at-home product range, Olaplex is one of the things I’m asked most about as a beauty editor. It’s often a vague question but invariably boils down to the same thing: does Olaplex actually work and what exactly does Olaplex do? My answer is always the same: why do you think you need it?

Thanks to the likes of TikTok and Instagram, it’s easy to be sold on products like Olaplex and K18 (and other brilliant hair heroes) after watching a rave review. I cannot tell you how many times my finger has hovered over the ’buy now’ button after being convinced to buy yet another online purchase. If you search the #Olaplex hashtag on TikTok, you’ll see the slew of glowing reviews for the original bond-building hair phenomenon.

However, while perusing TikTok recently, I scrolled through several videos of displeased customers claiming the product doesn’t work. While this may or may not be the case, it brings me back to my frequently asked question: why do you need it?

Bond-building products, like Olaplex, work by filling in gaps in the bonds within the strands in your hair. 

The star ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate (patented by Olaplex), works by finding damaged bonds and linking these back to form healthy bonds again. 

“A bonding product is a must for those that regularly chemically treat their hair and use hot styling tools,” says Robert Kirby, owner of Robert Kirby London, Balham and Wimbledon. 

“By rebuilding the damaged bonds in the hair, the hair shafts can retain moisture and prevent issues like colour fading. Once the hair is healthy, the elasticity of the hair sits better, and hair holds its shape.”

Whether you get balayage, are bleach blonde, relax your hair or overdo it with the straighteners, hair compromised by heat or chemical damage will benefit from the science behind bond-building products. But, if none of the above applies to you, you may be wasting your money.

3 ways to tell if your hair needs a bond-builder

Doing a texture test is a quick way to reveal if you need a bond-building product. Pull a few of your hair strands straight, then run your forefinger and thumb along it from root to tip. 

“If your hair is silky and smooth, it’s a good sign that your hair is in good condition as this indicates that your hair cuticle is lying flat,” says Afroditi Koutsouki, senior stylist at Neville Hair and Beauty. 

Elasticity is also a great indicator. If you have bouncy hair that holds a style, it’s a sign that your hair has great elasticity,” notes Koutsouki. 

“Brushing your hair can identify how well or badly your hair is doing. If, when you brush your hair, you notice small bits of hair fall into the sink, you are suffering from breakage and could benefit from a bond-builder.”

However, if your hair has no damage, the ingredient has nowhere to go other than sitting on your strands and you get no benefits from an otherwise game-changing product. If your hair feels dry or you need a volume boost, many hydrating and strengthening products can aid with better hair days.

Strengthening and hydrating hair treatments

  • Briogeo Superfoods Avocado and Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfoods Hair Mask

    This mask is full of fatty acids to negate the effects of environmental pollution. Even though it’s quite a rich formula, it’ll work for you if you have finer hair too – just apply it to the mid-lengths and ends. 

    Shop Briogeo Superfoods Avocado and Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfoods Hair Mask at Cult Beauty, £15

    buy now

  • R+Co On A Cloud Baobab Oil Repair Masque

    Protein is important for your hair if it’s fine and goes a gummy-like texture when wet. This masque is enriched with baobab protein to restore strength without making hair feel straw-like. 

    Shop R+Co On A Cloud Baobab Oil Repair Masque at Cult Beauty, £40

    buy now

  • Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Intensive Treatment

    This pre-wash mask was originally created for Audrey Hepburn and contains hydrolysed elastin, castor oil, olive oil and glycerine to help with retaining hydration and restoring elasticity in hair. 

    Shop Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Intensive Treatment at Cult Beauty, £35

    buy now

  • Bleach London Reincarnation Mask

    This mask helps hair that snaps easily to regain its elasticity and boost hydration. It’s especially good for hair that has been pre-lightened before colour or has been chemically changed.

    Shop Bleach London Reincarnation Mask at Boots, £4.67

    buy now

  • Davines OI Liquid Luster

    Glass hair is within reach with this liquid conditioner. It’s not the easiest to apply, but once you get the hang of it, you’re left with silky hair thanks to the roucou and cardoon oils and the alpha-hydroxiacid closing the cuticles of your hair. 

    Shop Davines OI Liquid Luster at Feelunique, £34

    buy now

Main image: Getty

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