Is Olaplex Safe For Natural Hair?

Photographed by Rochelle Brock.
Natural hair is almost a contradiction of itself. It's natural, yes, so reason says that it should be easy to care for since it's what's growing out of your own scalp... yet it takes a whole lot of effort to maintain your curl definition and hydration, especially when your hair is color treated or bleached. There are plenty of shampoos, conditioners, and masks that boast properties to help ensure a fade-free finish, but there's one treatment that eludes even the most seasoned naturalistas: Olaplex.
"Can you use Olaplex on natural hair" has nearly nine million page returns on Google — and for good reason. We know that the three-step system "glues" bonds together that have been damaged from processing and heat damage by "finding single sulfur hydrogen bonds and cross-linking them back together to form disulfide bonds," Vanessa Boland, Olaplex’s Education Manager, says. It's considered a godsend for some of Hollywood's top stylists and colorists because of its ability to make hair stronger during a color treatment, but is it good for natural hair?
Olaplex: Friend Or Foe For Natural Hair?
"It's like a guardian angel [because] natural hair is usually dry," Jaxcee, a colorist at Hair Rules salon, says. "Lightening dry hair can be tricky because like a sponge, it soaks up any kind of moisture. If you use a high volume developer on your natural hair, it runs the risk of being over processed at a faster rate than hair that is less dry." She says that for natural hair, Olaplex is like an "insurance policy against over processing damage."
But Jaxcee says she uses it to prevent and heal more than just color damage. With the help of a bond builder (called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, in case you were curious), it can even restore the hair’s natural curl after too much blowdrying, flat ironing, or curling, as it helps rebuild the bonds in your hair that have been temporarily flattened.
What To Expect
So now that you know it's successfully used on natural hair, what are the steps you can expect? Of the three-step system, No. 1 and No. 2 are done in-salon, as they're both chemical treatments. No. 1 repairs the disulfide bonds that are separated as a result of chemical treatments or heat styling, Olaplex ambassador Chad Kenyon says. No. 2 completes the coloring process, once the dye has been applied. The color is rinsed, your hair is towel-dried and No. 2 is applied to the hair and left on for a minimum of 10 minutes.
No. 3, on the other hand, you take home. It conditions and moisturizes, but is not to replace your regular conditioning treatments. See, even though it's a lot more potent than a regular ol' mask, it serves a different function, Jaxcee notes. "The active ingredients in Olaplex lasts a lot longer than others," she notes. And like those treatments, you should probably get Olaplex on a monthly basis — but if your curls are severely damaged, there's no problem with using it weekly. "Damaged natural hair can use No.3 before their usual conditioner" she says. Meaning, you can still wash and go while repairing your hair.
In fact, conditioner is very important throughout your use of the system... or maybe even before, as a precaution. "A lot of the time, people feel like their hair is damaged when it’s actually just very dry, I always suggest to my clients to try a very hydrating conditioner such as Hair Rules Quench or Kerastase Bain Elixir Ultime Fondant. If the hair is actually damaged due to chemical or heat damage, though, Olaplex is the best."

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