If you’ve spent any amount of time on beauty TikTok, beauty Reddit, or any major media website, you’ve probably heard of Olaplex. The brand is a cult-favorite, owing most of its shine to it’s No. 3 Hair Repair Perfector. The product soared in popularity because of how effectively it repairs and softens dry, damaged strands — even hair that has gone through multiple chemical processes, like bleaching. Its formula is what’s known as a bond repair treatment or bond builder, and they do exactly what the name suggests — reform the bonds that make up the hair, which means less frizz and breakage as well as better hair health overall.
“They were created to help strengthen and repair chemically-treated or color-treated hair that is fragile and prone to breakage,” says Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York. “They can span a range of products from shampoos, conditioners, and treatment products,” as well as many in-salon treatments pre- and post-color.
That sounds pretty appealing, right? But Olaplex isn’t the only bond builder option on the market. There is a whole category of products to help strengthen your strands from the inside out. But before you buy any, it’s a good idea to learn a little more about this type of repair treatment, and figure out whether it’s good for you and your hair needs.
TZR chatted with a trio of hair experts to break down exactly how bond repair treatments for hair work, and why they might be just the thing your hair routine needs to repair those split ends. Read on for your crash-course on this trending product type, and shop some of the best options on the market right now, from the classic Olaplex to new formulations.
How Do Bond Repair Treatments Work?
“As hair grows further from the scalp, it suffers accumulating lifestyle damage, and the internal structure breaks down,” says Michael Van Clarke, London hairstylist and founder of 3’’’More Inches Haircare. “The cuticle lifts and the hair shaft thins down towards the ends.” Basically, your hair strands contain keratin chains that make up that internal structure of the strands, and they help keep the hair looking shiny and healthy. When those internal structures break down, the hair can look and feel dry, limp, and dull.
“Think of the inside structure of the hair like a ladder — it has the ladder steps holding the strands tall and sturdy,” says celebrity colorist Bianca Hiller. “When you bleach, brush roughly, thermal style, and so on, you’re breaking apart these ladder steps. A bond builders will go to the inside of the hair and repair these ladder steps, create new ladder steps and mend together old broken ladder steps.” Think of a bond builder as a true inside-out repairing hair product.
How Do You Use A Bond Repair Treatment For Your Hair?
Bond builders can be used either in-salon or at home in the comfort of your own bathroom. In-salon treatments usually accompany a chemical treatment of some type — especially hair coloring. But at home, how often you use them is dependent on factors like hair type and what kind of chemical treatments your hair has at the given time (which can be an indicator of lingering hair damage). “Depending on the severity of hair damage, you can use them daily in a shampoo or weekly in a conditioning treatment,” says Saviano.
The format of a bond building product varies, which means you’re able to choose the best option for your lifestyle and budget. You can use your bond building shampoo the same way you would use regular shampoo, while some masks might take a bit longer to use in your hair (and therefore might not be best for someone with little time to spare). “Let it process in the hair for at least 10 minutes for maximum results,” Hiller says after applying your chosen treatment from roots to ends on damp hair.
What Benefits Will You See From A Bond Repair Treatment?
The beauty of bond builders is that they offer an almost immediate return on investment for your hair. “Bond builders work instantly while processing,” Hiller says. “You will notice more shine and softness to hair once using a treatment.” You’ll also benefit from less frizz, smoother ends, and less breakage, especially with regular use. If you use hot tools to style or color your hair every few months, you’ll probably notice that your strands feel stronger and less damaged, even after chemical processing.
Are There Any Drawbacks To Bond Repair Treatments?
Most experts report that you can’t overuse your bond builders, but some say too much of a good thing can be bad. “If these bond builders contain silicones, it can dehydrate and age the hair more quickly overtime,” says Van Clarke. Also, if you have virgin hair that isn’t damaged in any way, you probably won’t get visible results from bond builders.
While these products aren’t the miracle-workers that many claim that they are, bond repair treatments can be a beneficial part of your hair care routine — especially if you get your hair color-treated or chemically-styled. Whether you use it in shampoos or treatments, you’ll see the benefits from bond builders almost instantly, which makes them a wise investment for you and your hair.
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