Before Olaplex launched in 2014, the hair-repair technology the brand is famous for was only available at the hands of a professional stylist.
"Prior to bond building products, you could only repair your hair in the salon," says Adel Chabbi, celebrity stylist and founder of Manhattan's Adel Atelier Salon. But now, eight years later, the brand has set the gold standard for keeping hair strong and healthy at home. Case in point: One Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector pre-shampoo treatment sells every 3 seconds, and the brand's line of bond-building products has garnered thousands upon thousands of five-star reviews on Sephora's website.
As consumer interest and awareness in this type of tech has risen, so too has its accessibility, and a new wave of hair repair products are now readily available at the drugstore.
How bond-building treatments work
Your hair's texture, elasticity, and density of hair are determined by keratin protein structures within each strand. Those structures are held together by three different types of bonds: disulphide bonds, which can be damaged by chemical and color treatments; salt bonds that can be disrupted by a shift in pH; and hydrogen bonds that react to heat and moisture. When these bonds are broken (which can happen as a result of heat damage, UV exposure, and even rough towel drying), damage occurs, which is where bond-building treatments come in. They help heal broken bonds to smooth and fortify the cuticle (aka the outermost layer of your hair) and deliver healthier-looking hair overall.
"Bond building technology is fairly new, but has become extremely popular due to its repair abilities," says Chabbi.
Hair repair products hit the drugstore
Considering the efficacy of this type of tech (coupled with the fact that it's repeatedly gone viral on TikTok), it's no wonder everyone wants to get their hands on it—which explains why it's trickled down to the drugstore.
"Who doesn't want stronger hair?" asks Dhairius Thomas, a bicoastal celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Ziwe, Jazmine Sullivan, and Winnie Harlow. "In the hair-tech industry, brands are always looking for the next trend consumers are demanding, and I believe this is exactly what happened with this bond-building product surge."
Though Olaplex set the stage with its luxe product line, you can now find hair repair products at the drugstore for less than the cost of a fancy latte. In April, celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons launched his namesake haircare line, and 18 of the 23 formulas (including shampoos, conditioners, and treatments) offer bond-building technology for $14 apiece. UK-born Climaplex Haircare came to the US in March with its dermatologically tested (and silicone-free) Climaplex™ Technology, Priyanka Chopra's Anomaly offers a $7 quinoa-powered Bonding Treatment Mask, and Revolution Haircare launched in February with six bond-building formulas that all retail for less than $10.
Below, shop eight under-$15 Olaplex dupes that you can find at the drugstore.
Thomas keeps the ceramide-rich Virgin Repair Restructuring line from Andrew Fitzimons in his own styling kit. “It has amazing packaging and offers a full wet line that’s infused with bond-building technology,” he notes of the formulas designed to reduce breakage by creating stronger, more elastic strands.
Designed for color-treated hair, pH Plex’s products are applied in steps as soon as you step into the salon (or start your at-home dye job). Step 1 mixes into color kits or perms and relaxers for protection, Step 2 delivers long-term repair, and Step 3 can be applied every week or so “stabilize,” which the brand describes as a “fitness workout for your hair.”
For anyone hoping to avoid silicone formulas that weigh hair down, this is the choice. Climaplex™ Cp Reparative Technology comes in a vegan formulation that “protects and regenerates the hair and the scalp from damage caused by the climate, pollution, chemical treatments, and heat styling,” says Ostler.
The entire eight-product Bond Plex line from Revolution targets multiple layers of the hair fiber to bolster strength and restore internal and external damage. Beloved as a post-bleach treatment, one five-star review describes results of this third step as follows: “Hair felt amazing afterwards, and a much better price than other products that do the exact same thing!”
Inspired by at-home recipes, Curlsmith’s nourishing salve contains curl-friendly kitchen staples like shiitake, kale, prickly pear, blackcurrant and chia seeds. It also addresses all three types of bonds (disuphide for chemical treatments, salt for pH, and hydrogen for heat and moisture) for well-rounded protection.
This L’Oréal Paris wash and condition kit comes with a promise to repair weak bonds from damaged hair in just six uses. It’s also gentle on dye jobs, making it a colorist-approved choice.
If you have five minutes (and better yet, a hair cap) this collagen-rich treatment coats hair in ceramides and aformula including soy protein extract, allantoin, and ceramide 3. Vegans take note: Pig collagen components are included in the recipe.
Prevent damage in the first place by following along with the hair-health-friendly styling hacks in the video below.
Want even more beauty intel from our editors? Follow our Fineprint Instagram account) for must-know tips and tricks.
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