An honest review of Olaplex

I first started coloring my hair in high school with Nice 'N Easy or one of those semi-permanent at-home kits; I believe it was some sort of deep red color that no one is actually born with but that appealed to me in my (thankfully short-lived) grunge-goth phase. In college, I graduated to highlights, and that's where my troubles began. I've now been bleaching my hair for close to 25 years, and all that hydrogen peroxide has taken its toll. My hair was not thick to begin with, but over the years, it has become so thin and brittle that it started to break. I really noticed this back in 2020 after six months of not coloring my hair due to the pandemic, when a much healthier root started to grow in. Of course, as soon as I was back on the bleach, my breakage returned too. So when my new stylist recommended Olaplex, I was willing to try anything. After six months of using the system religiously, I can assure you that the hype is real. Here's my honest review of the four Olaplex products I've been using: No. 3 Hair Perfector, No. 4 Bond Maintentance Shampoo, No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, and No. 6 Bond Smoother. 

No. 3 Hair Perfector

If you buy one Olaplex product, buy this one. It has seriously transformed my hair, and continues to do so—I've had my hair colored twice since I started using it, and each time, my stylist has told me my hair feels even stronger. I will admit, I am very lazy about leave-in conditioners, which is probably partially why my hair was in such tough shape. But instead of a deep conditioner that goes on after you shampoo, No. 3 Hair Perfector goes on before you shampoo. My stylist said I could even leave it on overnight, but I keep it on for about 30 or 45 minutes—I rinse my hair, work a nickel-sized amount from roots to tips, put it in a bun, then work out. Then I rinse it out in the shower and follow with either the Olaplex shampoo and conditioner or my other favorite, R+Co On a Cloud. I've been buying the 3-ounce bottle, which lasts about 3 months for me (I'm on my second one). One thing to note: there's been a lot of controversy recently about No. 3 containing lilial, a synthetic fragrance that was recently banned in the EU for being an endocrine disruptor (e.g. it can potentially cause infertility, among other hormonal problems), however Olaplex quietly began removing lilial from its formula last fall, and since it's not an active ingredient, this does not affect the efficacy of the product. Olaplex No. 3 is safe to buy, but you can always double-check the ingredient listing to be sure. 

No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

I had no idea this shampoo was so controversial until I started reading the reviews, but I will say, I think the Olaplex No. 3 works best when I use it in conjunction with the No. 4 shampoo and No. 5 conditioner. The shampoo is super concentrated—you only need a dime-size amount—and in spite of being sulfate-free, it lathers really well. In conjunction with the Hair Perfector and conditioner, it makes my hair really soft, smooth, and manageable, plus my hair does not get tangled when I use it, which is huge. HOWEVER, all of those things are likely due to the presence of silicones, which can build up on your scalp and cause breakage, which is likely why there are so many adamant one-star reviews. My advice is to rotate between this and a shampoo with sulfates, which, although they get a bad rap, actually clean your scalp and help prevent buildup. As I mentioned above, I switch between the No. 4 and R+Co On a Cloud, which is also sulfate-free, but makes my hair feel super-clean without stripping out any moisture. 

No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner

This conditioner is THICC and seems to get even more so over time—when I get to the end of the bottle, I have to take off the flip top and squeeze it out through the neck. And like the shampoo, a little goes a long way; in my case, I use even less of it than the shampoo, to the point that I've gone through two bottles of shampoo to one bottle of conditioner. Also like the shampoo, it contains silicones (dimethicone to be exact), so if you use too much, it can make your hair kind of stringy. But if you use exactly the right amount, your hair is shiny, bouncy, and so healthy looking, you won't believe you just bleached the living daylights out of it last week. I leave the conditioner in for 3 or 4 minutes—however long it takes me to wash my body and exfoliate my face—and I make sure to rinse it out thoroughly. Getting the exact amount right can take some trial and error, but once you do, it's an unbeatable combination. 

No. 6 Bond Smoother

This product is basically a leave-in conditioner that eliminates frizz and protects your hair from heat styling. And you need even less of it than the shampoo and conditioner; the consistency is almost like a paste, and if you have fine hair like I do, you can easily overdo it. (When I told my stylist, who's admittedly a little heavy-handed on the styling product, that I was using No. 6, she said it was even too intense for her.) My biggest quibble is with the flip-top cap, which makes it hard to control how much product is dispensed, but Olaplex recently updated the packaging with a much more manageable pump. That said, this is my least favorite Olaplex product that I've tried; it's not bad, but in terms of styling products, I feel like my hair has more bounce and manageability when I use, say, Oribe or R+Co (Centerpiece is my favorite). I do, however, really like this product on second-day hair, particularly if my ends are looking a little dry and scraggly. Like the shampoo and conditioner, No. 6 has dimethicone in it, so your mileage may vary. 

My honest review

I'm always a little skeptical of products that have so many rave reviews, but when it comes to Olaplex, it deserves them all. Not only am I amazed at the transformation my hair has undergone in the last six months—it's much stronger, smoother, and shininer, with way less breakage and frizz—but it continues to improve every time I use it. While the No. 3 Hair Perfector is truly the holy grail product, I think it works even better in conjunction with the No. 4 and No. 5 Bond Maintenance shampoo and conditioner. If your hair is damaged from color and/or heat styling, I can't recommend these products enough! 

Where to buy Olaplex







Gail Is This Mutton? said...

Great review! I had an Olaplex treatment in the salon a few years ago and occasionally use the products at home. I've also got highlights so have to look after my hair. You make a good point about not using too much. I tend to do that and then get poor results, or have to wash my hair again the next day. Thanks for linking

Mica said...

It's great that these work so well for you even with the silicones in them and that you've found the perfect routine! :) I've often heard good things about this brand but haven't tried it yet - I tend to stick with the same shampoo and conditioner for a while and my current go-tos are often on sale so I keep repurchasing, haha!

Hope that your week is going well :)

Away From The Blue

Lovely said...

I have always been on the fence about these products, glad to know you had a great experience with them. Thanks for the review!

Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

I heard already so much good of this product. I have a lot of hair and it is very thich but superdry. Have to see if they have something for dry hair too!

Laura B said...

Thanks for your honest review! I've never tried this line, but now I think I need to!

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