Growing up, my mum had only two priorities when it came to hair products: It must be on sale (if it's BOGOF, even better), and it must smell good. I would take this mentality with me into adulthood, because who doesn't love a good deal or the scent of coconuts in their hair? But in the same way I had to let go of sugary Froot Loops as an adult and graduate to heart-healthy Cheerios, my mentality around hair-care needed an upgrade.
About two months ago, I broke up with hot tools and cut off more than 10 inches of my hair to revive my natural curls, which fell victim to heat damage. While I thought the trickiest part would be getting used to my new shoulder-length bob, it was actually adapting to an entirely new hair-care routine that was difficult. For the first time in my life, I'd actually have to care about the products I put on my hair instead of using whatever shampoo I got for free at work. And as much as I thought perfect, bouncy curls were all about the styling products you put on after you shampoo, I learned that that pre-care is crucial.
It was New York-based curl expert Mona Baltazar who recommended I start using Olaplex as an at-home treatment. I had heard of the bond-building brand before, because it's all celebrity colourists and bottle blondes can talk about. The line, which was once a three-step system only available in salons, is praised for its ability to repair the broken bonds that occur as a result of colouring. But why would I need it for my curly hair that hasn't been dyed in over five years?
Baltazar says that heat-damaged curls should be treated similarly to chemically coloured hair. "Anytime you put a chemical in your hair, straighten it, or manipulate the natural [curl] pattern of your hair, you have damaged it somewhat," says Baltazar. And she's right — years of heat damage left my curls dry and crispy. I had chunks in the back of my head that lacked moisture, sections that were completely straight, and lots of frizz.
So, I added the Olaplex shampoo and conditioner, along with the Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 to my routine. The shampoo and conditioner felt richer than my go-to high street options, and I noticed that my hair was shedding a lot less during the detangling process. But the treatment is where I really saw dramatic results. After just one use, every single strand of my hair was bouncy and shiny, as if I had injected a hydrating IV into my scalp. As my mum put it when I sent her my before-and-after photos, "WTF, your hair is so full of life!"
To use the pre-shampoo treatment, I dampened my hair and raked about two quarter-sized dollops from root to ends. Then, I clipped my hair up while I caught up on a few extra minutes of Game of Thrones (I'm three seasons in and my boyfriend has me on a strict schedule to catch up by the April premiere). After 15 minutes, I washed and conditioned with the Olaplex No. 4 and No. 5 formulas.
I knew that the moisture in my curls was on another level from the moment I stepped out of the shower. I usually have to add my styling products, like my leave-in conditioner and curling cream, to my curls before I even dry my body to avoid unnecessary frizz. But my hair was taking forever to air-dry — which is a good thing — and I was able to put clothes on before flyaways started to appear.
After seeing the results of using this treatment twice a week as a part of my curl-care routine, my mom bought bottle for herself — and it wasn't even on sale.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.