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Through a headline, a beauty podcast, or a random link dropped in the group text, you may have heard about the new hair-care brand epres (pronounced ap-ray, like ski). It was developed by Eric Pressly, Ph.D., one of the chemists who invented Olaplex, and here at Refinery29, our beauty team has been fielding questions about it.
At a hair salon on the upper east side of Manhattan, I met Pressly for a formal introduction to epres. The name, I'm told, is a portmanteau (from 'Eric' and 'Pressly'). "Truthfully, it was a nightmare finding a name that made sense and that wasn't trademarked," says Pressly's business partner the brand's CEO Michael Sampson. "But epres — Eric Pressly — it works."
Unlike many hair-brand founders, Pressly is not a stylist or colourist. He's a material scientist who, like many of us, went a little stir-crazy during the pandemic. When I ask what inspired him to create a new hair-care brand, he laughs: "Well, my wife told me I had to stop playing Zelda." To kill time, Pressly began placing Amazon orders for hair and "molecular compounds," which he would tinker with in the bathroom of his Santa Monica home, a makeshift laboratory. (His wife wasn't thrilled by this either, but it seemed like a productive break from gaming.)
Toying with chemical compounds is how Pressly helped create Olaplex in the first place. In 2014, he was doing it from a garage (very Silicon Valley). Once Olaplex was out, trademarked and distributed, the technology quickly became synonymous with hair repair, the white bottles of varying numbers found in showers and salons around the world. But the pandemic-induced boredom inspired Pressly to try and outdo himself.
What is epres?
Pressly and Sampson built epres into a bond-repair system with two distinct parts: a salon-professional treatment, designed to be combined with a chemical service to reduce its damage to the hair, and an at-home treatment. Here, we're talking about the latter: the Bond-Repair Treatment that you can buy on the brand's website and spray through your hair at home.
Similar to Olaplex, epres works to "relink disulfide bonds," basically repairing hair that's been damaged from bleach or twice-a-week blowouts.
What's most interesting about this epres formula (which is patent-pending) is that it's acid-free. "Everything else on the market is an acid formula," he explains. "This doesn't have any acid, so it won't alter the pH of the hair." From my own understanding of the bond-repair category, the use of amino acids (which combine to form various types of hair-strengthening proteins) is a common thread throughout these kinds of products. It makes sense, as keratin (structures found in hair strands) is an amino acid. The tricky part, though, is that too much protein in the hair can actually cause damage, instead of repair. With epres, there's no fear of protein-overload.
Another point of difference is the packaging: epres is a spray-on treatment that applies more like a lightweight detangling mist than a heavy conditioning cream. The point of this was twofold: the smaller molecular weight allows the product to penetrate deeper into the hair strand. Plus, it's a waterless formula from concentrate, which makes it more sustainable. Its smaller, lighter packaging reduces carbon emissions.
How do you use epres?
Here's where I'll admit that I prefer epres (and some of the other, newer bond-builder innovations) to the classic Olaplex: it's a lot less complicated. Instead of a confusing numbered system, this is just one spray that you can't really apply wrong, Pressly assures me. You pour epres concentrate into the spray bottle, fill with water, shake it up, and spray it onto the hair.
On my hair, which is on day three at the time of my appointment, Pressly mists the epres spray all over my dry lengths to the point of saturation. "You can't really overdo it," he assures me when I mention that my hair is pretty fine, despite having a lot of it. "That's kind of part of the point. Because it's so lightweight, you don't have the risk of feeling like your hair is weighed down afterwards," says Pressly.
I sit with the treatment in my hair for ten minutes and then my hair gets rinsed and blow-dried. (You can skip the conditioner when using a bond-repair treatment like this one.) Model Sydney Graham shows how you would do this at home; the process is exactly the same, whether you blow dry your hair or let your curls air-dry. Think of it as a ten-minute pre-shampoo.
Does epres work?
After I leave the salon, my hair feels soft, shiny and pleasantly light, not overly glossed or shellacked.
Not only was I impressed with the immediate results, but a few days later when I washed and conditioned my hair at home, I experienced one of the nicest air-dries in a long time. Pressly says I could use this treatment every week if I want. But because I'm noticing sustained results, and only wash my hair about three times a week as it is, I'll probably do the treatment more like every two to three weeks as a quick refresh.
While I don't have a tonne of damage, to begin with, I'm impressed with the system and the before and after photos I've seen across all hair textures. Noting the many beautiful textured-hair examples, I sent a sample to my colleague, R29's senior beauty writer Amanda Mitchell. She has 4 a/b texture and said that when her wig comes off, she's eager to try the epres spray.
Will this replace Olaplex? It depends who you're asking. I know colourists who swear by Olaplex and recommend it to their clients, while others think it's a kind of Band-Aid treatment that sits heavy on the hair. Jacqueline Kilikita, R29's deputy beauty director, has published reviews of the entire Olaplex line, from No.0 to No.9. But even she, a super fan, admits that Olaplex can be confusing — and epres might just be the antidote.