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Olalex is without a doubt the gold standard when it comes to damage-reversing haircare products, used for years in salons by professional colorists to repair and prevent chemical breakage. While Olaplex is now available to the public and reasonably priced, it’s certainly not the only product in its class. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper Olaplex dupe to align with your budget or have given the line (there are now several products ranging from No. 1 to No. 7 in the range) a try with no visible results (but do be patient, because yes, bond-building treatments do take some time to work), there are plenty of other protein-rich formulas on the market to help you get your compromised strands back to a better place.
So who should be using bond builder, anyway? Well, quite frankly, if you’re reading this, you probably do. If you’ve ever wanted to go lighter (or god forbid, platinum blonde), you probably already know that failing to protect your strands can lead to spongy, cotton-candy like locks, “chemical bangs,” or falling out altogether. Whether from bleach or abusing the heat tools a little too often, if you’re suffering from major breakage, using a protein-rich bond builder can be a game-changer in the journey to repairing the damage — and well, keeping the hair you have left on your head.
And trust me, I do feel your pain — after a trip to an inexperienced colorist left me with an ombre’ job gone horribly wrong, I tried to “correct” that mishap myself with a bleach and toner kit from Sally’s. You can imagine how that turned out, and if you can’t, spoiler alert: it wasn’t good, and I lost half of my hair in the process trying to attempt a DIY color correction. With the help of a ton of TLC and patience, my hair finally came back to life.
Naturally, I’ve tried quite a few conditioners, leave-ins and bond builders (it’s all about that moisture/protein balance, y’all) during my long road to recovery, but after I recently attempted to bleach my own hair again (hey, the salons have been closed in LA and I had no choice!), I decided to do some extra research to track down the best Olaplex alternatives according to in-the-know Redditors who’ve also tried it all. Scroll through below to find the best miracle-worker bond builders similar to Olapex products to help heal your compromised hair.
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pH Plex Protect & Repair Set
Comparable to Olaplex’s No.1 and No.2, this two-pack contains step one (a patented damage-prevention lightener mix-in) and step 2 (a damage repairing post-bleach treatment that combats breakage at the molecular level). “I found the salon exclusivity of some products tiresome and personally switched to pH Plex, which was developed explicitly for home use with a professional attitude,” according to one Redditor.
OGX Restoring + Bonding Plex Bonding Cream Leave-in Treatment
This under $10 dupe for Olaplex’s No.3 and No.4 treatments has an impressive almost-five-star rating and is backed by a whopping 2,400+ glowing reviews. Of course, it’s also gotten some love on Reddit, too. “My hair was very dry and straw-like after over-processing it and after a shower, I ran about two pumps of this through my hair and made it feel a million times better. The next shower, my hair didn’t even need conditioner!,” says one enthusiastic fan of the brand.
Redken Bonding Conditioner For Damaged Hair
If you’re looking for a deep conditioning but bond rebuilding hair mask, this formula is on par with Olaplex’s No.5 treatment. There’s a reason it’s one of Amazon’s best-sellers—at just $12 you get a two-in-one formula that softens and repairs.
Ion Absolute Perfection Color Sealer
Similar to Olaplex’s No.2 and No.3, this preventative powder bond protector can be mixed into bleach to help neutralize its damaging effects and used after to help repair. According to one Redditor,”I’ll never bleach without it again honestly, because it prevents damage unbelievably for the price. I figured for the price it was too good to be true so I almost didn’t give it a chance, but I’m glad I did.”
Schwarzkopf Blonde Me Keratin Restore Bonding Mask
This affordable keratin-infused mask is a great hydrating treatment to leave on for an hour or so because it delivers protein to rebuild weak bonds, but also replenishes moisture levels to avoid over-drying from too much protein (most of the Olaplex line does either one or the other). “It works! Results most noticeable once [the] hair is dry,” says one fan of this mask.
K18 Molecular Repair Hair Mask
This recco actually comes from my boss — a bright icy blonde with long, (somehow) extremely healthy-looking hair. “This product actually works better than Olaplex, and it’s cheaper,” she says.