I’ve been blonde again for two months now, after a two-month flirtation with red. The red was never quite right: it took much better to my roots than to my bleached lengths, so I had a vibrant auburn that faded into a slightly watery brownish-red. And I just don’t like myself as a redhead; as soon as I went back to blonde I felt like myself again.
Of course, being blonde involves a lot of damage to the hair. This time around, my hair had had enough. For weeks I smothered it in every deep conditioner and hair mask known to man, I soaked it in argan oil, I force-fed it enough protein to keep an army going – and still it was dry, brittle, and hideous.
Olaplex has been getting a lot of hype in the beauty community for awhile now. Despite seeming on the surface like a perfect candidate for the treatments, I’ve been ignoring it since I heard about it because the price tag isn’t exactly negligible. But with my extremely damaged hair, I had to go for the big guns. I had to drop 30 bucks on a 100mL bottle of Olaplex 3.
In case you haven’t heard of Olaplex, it’s a 3-step system that helps to actually repair the damaged and weakened bonds in your hair. Step 1 and 2 are salon-grade: Step 1 would be mixed into any chemical treatments (such as bleach or toner) and step 2 would be applied afterwards. Step 3 is a diluted version of step 2 and is meant to be used at home, between salon treatments. Since I do my own hair colour and since Step 1 and Step 2 are only available to professionals, I only use Step 3.
Step 3 is not a conditioner; it doesn’t add any extra moisture to your hair. You’d apply it after shampooing, leave it on your head for at least 10 minutes, and then rinse it out and finish with conditioner or a hair mask. Personally I’ve had the best results using it as an overnight mask and washing it out in the morning. I’m not a daily hair-washer, so this feels like a bit of a chore to me, but it’s only once a week so it’s not too bad. Plus, in a time crunch, I’ve found that I can go about my day without washing the Olaplex out, though my hair gets oily faster.
So, is Olaplex worth it? Well, having used Olaplex 3 weekly since the end of March, I’m going to have to go with yes. When I first went back to blonde my hair was as damaged as I’d ever seen it. Usually after I chemically process it, it’ll be pretty dry for a bit, but I can always nurse it back to health with hair masks. However, nothing was cutting it this time – no matter how many hair masks I used or how much oil I applied, it was still crunchy, straw-like, and almost impossible to brush through. I had to wear it up or in braids every day to hide the damage. In fact, let me show you how gross it was:
This was after applying a generous helping of argan oil, and you can still see how dull and dead it looks.
With my first Olaplex treatment, I left it in for 20 minutes and washed it out, then followed up with conditioner. My hair felt better afterwards, but not significantly so. However, each time I’ve used it subsequently I’ve applied it from roots to tips, brushed it through to evenly distribute the product, waited about 20 minutes, and applied another (smaller) amount, then kept it in overnight. That’s where I started seeing results. Here’s my hair after my initial short treatment and two overnight ones:
I still think it appears damaged, though it’s obviously a significant improvement which I attribute entirely to Olaplex.
And here it is yesterday, six treatments in:
You can clearly see how improved it is. It also feels so much healthier and stronger. Not only is it smooth to the touch, when wet it’s not as elastic-y as it used to be. After I bleached it again in mid-March, every time it was wet it was stringy and stretchy. Now it has regular wet hair texture. Obviously, between the last set of pictures and this one I took off several inches, and a lot of the most damaged parts were cut out. But Olaplex has certainly improved the health of my hair by a significant amount. (By the way, I did go a slightly darker blonde, but the difference in colour is mostly due to lighting!)
I think that with Olaplex there does come a point of diminished return – that is, you can only get your hair so healthy, especially when it’s hair that has sustained three years of DIY bleach damage. My hair is not in the same condition that it was pre-bleach, and I don’t know that it ever will be. But Olaplex has restored a lot of health to my hair, and it looks and feels much better than it has in about two years, which is when I first started to experience noticeable effects of bleach damage. I’ll continue to use it because it certainly can’t hurt; though I don’t think I’ll continue to see massive improvements in the wellbeing of my hair at this point, it’ll be good for maintenance at the very least.
Now, $30 for 100mL (3.4 fl oz) does seem steep. For some reason I’m happy to spend $50 on a foundation, but any hair product that costs more than $10 is a stretch for me. This is silly; if I’m going to chemically process my hair to the extreme I should be willing to put some money into its care and maintenance. And when you break it down, Olaplex 3 treatments are weekly, so it’s not like I’m going to go through this little bottle in a month. Is it still pricey for how much product you get? Yes, of course. But is it worth it to repair traumatized hair? I think so. The fact is, being platinum blonde long-term requires special care. I keep saying I’m going to stop being blonde soon as it’s so bad for my hair, but perhaps Olaplex will allow me to continue on this path for awhile yet…