In the hair care product world, Olaplex's No. 3 Hair Perfector holds cult status for its ability to repair damaged strands. That's because it works on the actual bonds of your hair, filling in spots where proteins have broken down (which happens when it's damaged). Recently, though, a handful of Olaplex dupes have emerged that work just as well... and cost way less.
A product like Olaplex — which costs $28 a bottle — works by recreating your hair's strongest bonds, called disulphide bonds. "These bonds are broken during chemical processes like hair coloring and bleaching, which includes highlights and balayage techniques," trichologist and Colour Collective founder Kerry Yates tells Bustle. These also get damaged from heat styling (like blow drying and straightening), chemical treatments, environmental factors, and aging. "When these bonds are destroyed, they can cause the hair to lose overall elasticity and strength, and in turn that leads to broken strands."
Bond repair treatments that work like Olaplex — which Yates says are good for all hair types, especially curly or those who "aggressively color their hair" — are formulated with essential proteins or nutrients that restore broken structures in your strands that resulted from damage. Hairstylist and colorist Juliana Ohlmeyer likens the process to spackling: "It's basically like putting spackle on a wall before you paint it," she tells Bustle. "That's what protein does — it's the spackle in missing holes in your hair." When you use a product like Olaplex or similar treatments, you'll notice a difference in how your hair feels. "Your hair becomes more malleable, more pliable, and you're able to get that slip that you want," says celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey, noting that the bond-repairing proteins in hair treatments actually smooth the cuticles that get lifted when color treated or chemically processed.
With Olaplex and similar bond-repairing treatments, experts suggest that all hair types use it roughly once a week to feel a difference. But it's also important to keep your hair hydrated when using reparative formulas like these. "The problem that happens with Olaplex is that people get really into how thick and nourished their hair feels — but it's not moisturizing," says Ohlmeyer. "To have healthy, well-balanced hair, you need moisture. If you overuse reparative treatments, your strands become like a thin twig that becomes so delicate it snaps." So be sure to incorporate moisturizing products in your hair care regimen.
To find an Olaplex alternative for your hair care routine, Yates says to just look for "plex" in the brand or product name. "Another option would be to look for product that specifically calls out bond building," she says. To help you shop, keep scrolling for three Olaplex dupes you can snag for less.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Ezure, M.; Tanji, N., Nishita, Y., Mizooku, T. (2019) The Secrets of Beautiful Hair: Why is it Flexible and Elastic? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334299225_The_Secrets_of_Beautiful_Hair_Why_is_it_Flexible_and_Elastic
Kerry Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective
Kendall Dorsey, celebrity hairstylist
Juliana Ohlmeyer, New York City-based hairstylist and colorist