I have been using OlaPlex to help heal and strengthen my once-damaged curly hair, and it's made a world of difference! Learn what these bond repair treatments are and how they work in this post to see if it's right for your hair. I also talk about a few other things about how to heal damaged hair that has healed my hair, like protein treatments, deep conditioning, and doing a big chop.
How does hair become damaged?
- In the sun – sunlight can break down the proteins in the hair
- Manipulating from braiding, brushing, styling, adding in a weave or extensions
- Hair dye
- Chemical straightening
- Blow drying
- Curling irons and wands
- From products that contain harsh ingredients like sulfates, drying alcohols, and silicones
- Swimming – chlorine and salt water both do a number on hair
A little chemistry lesson about hair if you'd like to understand how damage, such as that listed above, is done to hair. If this bores you to tears, then skip this section and move on to how to heal damaged hair!
So, hair is made mostly of a protein called keratin. If we look inside keratin, we see copies of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine bonds with other cysteine copies forming disulphide bonds. Those tiny bonds are what hold the protein together and give it strength. This is the most important bond in human hair, as it accounts for as much as 90% of your hair's overall strength and toughness. However, it is easily broken when a substance of a pH of 5.5 or greater is applied.
During the perming, coloring, bleaching, and straightening processes, the chemicals break down the disulfide bonds and harden them into a new shape.
For a long time, nothing could be done to restore the broken disulfide bonds except to cut off the damaged hair. Now we have many different products that restore the bonds!
Products to Restore the Disulphide Bonds
- OlaPlex No. 3 treatment to use at home (1 and 2 can be used in the salon)
- ION Bond Repair Therapy Mask
- Redken pH Bonder Post Service Perfector
- ALL HD Plex Bond Treatment
- Matrix Total Results Rebond Shampoo & Conditioner
What I've Used
I've only ever used OlaPlex No. 3 at home and have had steps 1 and 2 done in the salon, so I cannot speak for the other brands. It has done wonders for my hair! Each time I use it (and I've used it almost once a week for 6 months), my curls spring back up, and my hair is bouncy, shiny, and happy. My hair stylist told me about the Redken Bonder and said it was really good, and they now carry that in my salon because it's half the price of OlaPlex! So I think I'll buy that one next and try it out to see if it's better.
How I Use It
I've always followed the directions on the bottle.
- Apply to wet, towel-dried hair from roots to ends
- Comb it through
- Then I put on a shower cap and let it sit from 30 minutes to an hour (the bottle says to leave on for 10 minutes)
Other Ways to Heal Damaged Hair
Hair is essentially made of protein (keratin), so a temporary fix is to add in more protein to support and strengthen the hair. Protein treatments work temporarily to fill in the gaps of the outer layer of the hair cuticle (bond repair treatments go to work in the inside of the hair, the cortex) and fill in the gaps with protein to strengthen hair. It is recommended to to do them every 4-6 weeks, as everyday wear and tear and products can reduce the protein in our hair.
Don't Be Afraid of Protein!
I've talked to many women who are afraid to use protein at the first sign of wonky, frizzy, uncooperative hair. Protein overload can be an issue when too much protein is used, say, one or twice a week. I really encourage you to throw that fear aside, yes, even for low porosity curly girls. Even they need protein – not as often or as much as those with high porosity hair, but it is still needed from time to time. And then pay close attention to how your hair responds to the treatments to see when you need to do one again.
There are three different types of protein treatments that I've used they have all greatly helped my hair! My recommendation is to do just one treatment and see how your hair responds.
- DIY Gelatin Treatment – this can be made from gelatin packets at the grocery store. Super cheap and easy! This post explains how to know when you need a protein treatment.
- Aphogee Protein Treatment – This treatment saved my hair from hygral fatigue! It works really well. It is made mostly from gelatin. (I don't use the second step because it contains silicones which build up on the hair and prevent moisture from getting in)
- Rice Water Rinse – you can actually make a protein treatment from the rice water! The protein molecules in rice are larger than gelatin, so they do not penetrate the hair cuticle as easily. So this is less strong and effective than gelatin. If you try a rice water rinse that doesn't help much, I highly recommend doing a gelatin rinse to see how your hair responds.
Both Protein and OlaPlex
You can use both in conduction with one another! OlaPlex even recommends it on the bottle. Bond repair treatments and protein perform different functions and have different ingredients, so your hair can benefit from both.
When I first started doing the Curly Girl Method, I did one protein treatment a week for one month and one OlaPlex treatment a week for a month. Then I backed off of the protein because I could tell my hair was strong and needed a break (it was getting a little hard and stiff), and just did OlaPlex twice a month. I do protein on an as-needed basis now. My hair is continually getting much healthier, shinier, bouncier, and softer, so I'd say this plan has been working!
We are all different, so I can't say that my plan will work for you, but it could give you a starting point, at least.
Cut off the Damage
For some of us, hair can get so damaged that it's irreversible. I know, sad day! Chemical straightening can really do an awful number on hair, as can bleaching and coloring. This happened to me – I was coloring my hair at home, and because I didn't really know what I was doing, I kept pulling the color out about four inches each time I did it. So I was coloring on top of color each time, and it caused major damage to my hair! After doing the Curly Girl method for four months, I had the damaged ends cut off. It's called a Big Chop, and I wrote about it in this post!
Curly hair especially needs lots of hydration, so deep conditioning (with a heat cap such as this one) is how I heal my hair, along with the protein and OlaPlex treatments. I have seen my hair go from very frizzy, not lasting more than one day after washing, to getting rid of most of the frizz and going for 4-5 days in between washes in just 6 months! In this post, I share why deep conditioning is so helpful and what my routine has been!