I Tried The New £12.99 Olaplex Dupe & My Hair Is Transformed

Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Kilikita.
Whether you dabbled in DIY colour or are in desperate need of a trim, there's no denying that constant lockdown restrictions have taken their toll on our hair. Parched strands, split ends and overprocessed lengths are just a handful of problems we're googling for solutions and with salons closed for the foreseeable future, healthy hair is the responsibility of at-home treatments.
From Coco & Eve's Super Nourishing Coconut & Fig Hair Masque, £32.99, to The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide Serum For Hair Density, £15.75, there is a handful of game-changing hair products trending at the minute, but one in particular is making waves among beauty lovers.
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You've probably already heard of The Inkey List, specifically its affordable skincare range, which is jam-packed with dermatologist-adored ingredients like salicylic acid, retinol and vitamin C. The brand recently branched out into haircare and its latest product is receiving countless five-star reviews. In fact, shoppers are likening it to cult hair product, Olaplex.
When it comes to repairing bleached, dyed or heat-damaged hair, Olaplex is a treatment which all hairstylists recommend time and time again. Previously only available in salons, the brand has since become a mainstay of many at-home haircare routines, from the No.3 Hair Perfector (an ultra nourishing conditioner) to the No.6 Bond Smoother (a leave-in hair restorer). The amazing results are all thanks to special ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. Yes, it's pretty impossible to pronounce – but it works.
The star ingredient in The Inkey List's Bond Repair is a little different: 10% Bis-PCA Dimethicone. "Why this hasn't been used more is surprising," Mark Curry, cofounder of The Inkey List, told me. "It has been used in Brazilian salons, specifically for Brazilian hair types," which are typically thick in density. Mark is right when he adds that a lot of bond-building products only seem to work on fine, straight and caucasian hair but PCA Bond Repair supposedly works on all hair types, specifically thick, curly hair – and it's all down to the compound itself.
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Without sounding too much like a chemistry lesson, the product works on all of the hair's bonds, specifically disulphide bonds (which are damaged by bleach and colour) and ionic bonds, which can easily be damaged and cause split ends. In other words, it fuses the hair strand back together, repairing damage. "You get an instant impact," said Inkey's cofounder Colette Laxton. "This means way less straggly, frizzy bits of hair. But it also repairs over time and strengthens hair, too." In fact, the team touts the product as one of the most concentrated hair repair treatments out there right now.
Currently, I'm growing out some chunky blonde highlights. I recently coloured over them with brown hair dye, so my hair feels drier than usual. Cold weather means I'm no longer letting my hair air-dry so using a hairdryer is taking its toll ever so slightly, and I'm also in need of a chop. My hair isn't in dire condition but I'll welcome anything that minimises fluffy ends, keeps frizz on lockdown and makes my hair feel less limp.
I often use Olaplex No.3 so is the PCA Bond Repair worth the hype? At first spritz, the texture is very much like Olaplex No.0. It feels just like water. Per the instructions, I sprayed the product through towel-dried hair (I use the Aquis Hair Towel Lisse Luxe, £30, or a cotton T-shirt to soak up moisture as gently as possible) and used a wide-tooth comb to make sure I distributed it evenly from root to tip. I applied the product heavily to areas which need a bit more TLC, focusing mostly on my ends.
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Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Kilikita.
Before PCA Bond Repair
Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Kilikita.
After PCA Bond Repair
The pump was difficult to use, which Mark and Colette acknowledge, but it gets sustainability points for being totally recyclable. (They told me that there is only one supplier worldwide which makes pumps like these.) I set about rough-drying my hair like normal (on a medium heat so as not to exacerbate split ends) and the first thing I noticed was how thick and strong my hair felt. It was as though I'd had a fresh, blunt cut or a professional blow-dry. While my hair didn't feel any softer, it was shiny, and the next morning when I went to straighten it, my ghds glided through easily. Comparing the pictures, which were taken just after rough-drying and before any styling or straightening, my hair looks a bit longer, too!
Mark and Colette said that continued usage is the key, as the product acts like scaffolding for brittle hair strands, so it works not only instantly but cumulatively, too. This makes not being able to book in for a trim for the foreseeable future a little more bearable. Colette uses PCA Bond Repair every time she washes her hair so I continued to use it throughout the week (I wash my hair up to three or four times a week). Again, my hair wasn't super soft but it felt resilient and more full. The Cult Beauty reviews speak for themselves, too. "A few sprays of this and my hair feels soft but strong, and the shine is unreal! Will definitely repurchase," wrote one user, while another championed the product for turning coarse frizz into smooth hair. It's also packed with heat protection to prevent frazzled ends during styling.
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Would I use it again? When my hair feels limp, this will be my go-to. But I do love the feeling of ultra soft lengths and for that I rely on Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Original Hair Oil, £43. It's more than three times the price of PCA Bond Repair but it's my must-have.
That said, they are completely different products so there's nothing stopping you from mixing the two for great results, or using PCA Bond Repair on wet hair and smoothing dry hair with a finishing oil. What I would say is that when it comes to hair products, less is more. It's easier to add than to take away so if you're using multiple products post-wash, bear in mind the length and thickness of your hair so as not to weigh it down. For me, six to 10 spritzes of PCA Bond Repair is enough and I like a pea-sized amount of hair oil for extra smoothness.
Overall, it's looking likely that PCA Bond Repair will give Olaplex a run for its money, both price- and results-wise. It's currently exclusive to Cult Beauty so be sure to grab a bottle before it inevitably sells out.
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