What is Olaplex?
Olaplex is a line of hair repair, “bond building” treatments that’s getting heaps of buzz in the hair community, especially with people who have damaged hair from excessive bleach. It’s available in a couple of forms – Olaplex can be mixed in with bleaching products to minimise damage, or it can be used as a separate treatment. Here’s the science behind how it “repairs” disulfide bonds in hair.
Note (August 2018): I’ve updated this post, and there’s a video version now as well – click here to watch it!
The active ingredient in Olaplex is a compound called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. This is a slightly ambiguous name, but I’m pretty sure it matches this structure in the patent:
What does Olaplex claim to do?
Olaplex claims to “reconnect broken disulfide sulfur bonds in the hair.” The treatment is labelled a “bond multiplier”, which limits damage to hair during or after colouring.
A lot of people with damaged hair have managed to get amazing results from Olaplex. Here’s my friend Mary, who got her natural curl texture back with a single Olaplex treatment:
So suffice to say, it definitely does something! But is it as revolutionary as the hype makes it out to be?
How does Olaplex’s claims stand up?
First up, a bit of basic hair chemistry. I’ve posted about hair chemistry before in my explanation of how hair straightening and perming work, but here’s a quick recap:
Hair contains lots of keratin proteins, which has the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is special because it contains a sulfur (S) atom. Normally, two sulfurs will join together to form a disulfide bond (S-S), creating a link between two proteins:
All these proteins holding hands is partially responsible for your hair’s overall shape and strength. When hair is permed or straightened, these bonds are deliberately broken into two SH (“free thiol”) groups, and then reformed after the hair is pulled into its new shape. Re-forming these bonds typically takes a few days (hence not washing your hair for a few days after perming, since it warps the shape).