Found in top hair salons and aesthetic Instagram “shelfies,” Olaplex has established itself as an accessible luxury hair care brand that delivers professional-grade results even for its at-home treatments. Take the viral Olpalex No. 3 Hair Repair Perfector, for example. The hashtag #olaplexno3 has 40.6 million views on TikTok, with videos showing the transformations from lackluster locks to luscious strands. With “perfector” in the name and shocking results, we had to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true.
Our nine testers each had different hair types, inclusive of straight, wavy, 3A curly, 3C/4A curly, thick, thin, long, short, dry, oily, color-treated and natural. We each tested the hair treatment as often as we saw fit over four weeks — and yes, it left us impressed.
A moisturizing hair treatment we love for damaged hair
This treatment leaves hair smoother and shinier, thanks to its ability to repair broken bonds in the hair — a difference we noticed after first use.
Our hair’s structure features millions of disulfide bonds between the proteins that comprise our strands, giving them strength and elasticity. When these bonds are broken, that’s when our hair gets split ends and looks dry, frizzy and damaged. Olaplex No. 3 contains Olaplex’s patented bond-building ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, which penetrates the hair and rebuilds those damaged bonds. This results in hair that looks and feels healthier.
“There are numerous ways that hair can be damaged, things that we forget to even consider: extreme environmental changes and weather, thermal styling and even brushing your hair roughly. Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector is safe for all types of hair and works from the inside structure of the hair to strengthen and protect the hair from future harm,” explains professional hairstylist and Olaplex ambassador Bianca Hillier.
The hair treatment is said to moisturize and repair the hair, thanks to the nourishing bond-building ingredient, leaving it shinier and smoother overall. Although it’s become known as a holy grail product among those who dye their hair, Olaplex No. 3 can be used by all hair types. “The reason why Olaplex is good for all hair types is because hair bonds are agnostic regardless of gender, age or ethnicity,” Hillier says.
Olaplex No. 3 should be applied to damp hair before using shampoo or conditioner and left in for at least 10 minutes. Results may be more prominent if you leave it in longer, giving the product time to penetrate the hair. But you don’t want to leave it in your hair so long that it dries, as the treatment works only on damp hair. After you’ve let it sit, you can shampoo and condition your hair as normal.
“Remember it is not a conditioner replacement, so you must always shampoo and condition it out of the hair,” Hillier says. “This is an additive to your regular routine. For damaged hair, I suggest using it twice a week for best results. Since there are no proteins, sulfates or silicones in the formula, it is impossible to overuse it.”
It’s not every day that you find a hair product that gives salon-level results that can be seen and felt. The Olaplex No. 3 was successful in making our hair feel healthier, shinier and softer, across all of our testers’ hair types. We also loved that it had a fresh scent that reminds us of the professional-grade products found in hair salons.
After using the treatment, those with straight hair said that their locks were smooth and required less effort to detangle — even when hair was still wet. “My hair detangled in a matter of minutes, whereas before it would take much longer, because I have such long and thick hair,” says Richa Srivastava, business development coordinator.
I found that my own thick, straight hair, which often feels dry from a year-old balayage, didn’t tangle as much in the days after using the treatment too. Instead, it felt soft and silky, thanks to the moisturizing factor of the Olaplex.
The curly-haired testers felt that their hair had more moisture and hydration, making their curls more defined yet softer and less frizzy. Social coordinator Sarai Thompson has 3C/4A curls that she says were “exhausted and dry” after wearing her natural hair in high and low buns for a month straight. “I was very impressed by how Olaplex restored my hair strands,” she says. “Even before I washed the product out in the shower, I could feel the difference. I plan on using Olaplex on all of my wash days, especially when I’m taking my hair out of a protective style to ensure that my curls are consistently healthy.”
Across different hair textures, those with color-treated hair reported that their hair looked brighter and less dull after using the product. And those with thin strands were surprised that their hair didn’t feel weighed down or greasy. “I usually stay away from thick formulas and conditioner because my fine hair gets weighed down and greasy very easily, which in turn makes me have to wash my hair every day to avoid greasy hair and scalp,” says senior editor Rachel Lubitz. “But remarkably, Olaplex was able to solve this issue for me. After a handful of uses, I realized that I could actually go a day or two without washing my hair and my hair still felt clean.”
These results make it a great at-home treatment for when you notice your hair feeling drier, duller or more difficult to work with. The smoothing and strengthening effect of the Olaplex No. 3 makes hair more manageable to style, and while the product is not a styling product itself, starting with hair that is healthy makes it easier to manipulate for other looks.
The visible results lasted three days for most of the testers, but hair felt healthier overall for at least a week after use. We noticed that there was less hair breakage, less frizziness and extended time in between our wash days after consistent weekly or biweekly use of the product.
During our testing of Olaplex No. 3, we found that it wasn’t the easiest to incorporate into our hair care routines. While most hair masks add time to your shower routine, the fact that you have to get your hair wet first in order for Olaplex No. 3 to work made it a bit of a hassle. We either had to take extra-long showers before rinsing or get out of the shower entirely and put our hair up while doing something else during the treatment time.
“The one barrier to entry for me is that integrating Olaplex No. 3 into my shower routine isn’t necessarily seamless,” says Chelsea Stone, senior editor, who has curly 3A, highlighted hair. “I tried just wetting my hair, putting on the Olaplex and doing stuff around my apartment for 10 minutes before proceeding with the rest of my shower, and wetting my hair, applying the Olaplex and going right into the shower, saving all my hair stuff for last, but neither option felt completely ideal to me. That’s why I tend to see Olaplex more as a special treat as opposed to a part of my usual routine.”
The second con we found was that we had to use much more of the product than our first try to actually see and feel the difference. Once we figured out how much the hair had to be saturated — which is pretty much completely — we found that the amount of product in the 100-milliliter bottle didn’t feel like much.
“The formula was very watery in my opinion,” shares Stephanie Griffin, senior digital content strategist, who has thin, straight, color-treated hair. “Considering I have a lot of hair, I was forced to use a lot of product, and I think if the formula was a bit thicker, I wouldn’t have run out of the treatment so quickly.” For several of us with long, thick or just a lot of hair, half of the bottle was gone by the second treatment.
Testers without color-treated hair also had more moderate results compared to the dramatic difference felt by those with dyed locks. Although the product can be used on any hair type, the results will be more apparent on hair that is more damaged, as it will repair the broken bonds.
Olaplex No. 3 comes out on top compared to other bond-strengthening hair treatments. The K18 Biometric Hairscience Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask touts similar hair smoothing, repairing and strengthening results to Olaplex No. 3, but it comes at a higher price point — $75 for 50 milliliters. K18’s treatment is a thicker consistency and doesn’t require as much product per use, so it may last longer. However, it doesn’t leave hair immediately and visibly transformed like Olaplex No. 3, according to Hayley Saltzman, head of social, who has thin, color-treated hair. She has used Olaplex No. 3 on and off for three years, and recently started using K18. The latter takes more uses to see results, giving Olaplex No. 3 better value overall.
Olaplex No. 3 is a worthy addition to your hair care routine. While you may have to sacrifice an extra 10 to 45 minutes to do the treatment, you’ll see and feel a difference almost immediately. If you don’t have time or money to make it to a salon before a big event, doing this treatment the day before or even the morning of will make it look like you did.