With hair technology improving at the rapid rate that it is, there have been cheaper Olaplex alternatives popping up left, right, and center. But how do you know which Olaplex dupes are worthwhile, and which ones are simply capitalising on the “plex” name? I’ve got you covered.
As a natural brunette who’s been getting blonde highlights for more than 15 years, I’m no stranger to hair products that promise to return my hair to its virgin state. Sadly, most have failed to deliver. But when Olaplex first arrived on the scene circa 2014 and my hairdresser told me I *had* to try it, for once I wasn’t disappointed. For the first time ever, my damaged hair resembled healthy, frizz-free locks and my colour didn’t turn brassy the second I stepped out of the salon. Hallelujah! Only, as anyone who has ever used Olaplex will tell you: That little bottle of magic comes with a hefty price tag, and it doesn’t last long if you have thick hair like mine.
Read on for the internet’s favourite Olaplex alternatives.
How does Olaplex work?
Before we can determine whether something is a good dupe for Olaplex, it helps to understand how the Olaplex technology works to repair your hair.
Without getting too scientific, your hair is made out of keratin and the keratin structures in your hair are held together by hydrogen bonds and disulfide bonds. These bonds determine your hair strength, curliness, and elasticity, and when they become damaged they can lead to frizzy hair that breaks easily. The key ingredient in Olaplex (that is, the one that works its magic to repair your hair) is bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate—which can only be found in Olaplex No. 3 and other products of theirs. This ingredient repairs the bonds in your hair, just like magic.
However, the problem with Olaplex dupes is that this ingredient is patented, meaning other products can’t use the exact same ingredient, and they’ve successfully sued other hair care brands for attempting to copy their technology. So while there are plenty of products similar to Olaplex, none of them work in exactly the same way.
Having said that, there are still many alternatives to Olaplex that work in a similar manner to repair the bonds in your hair—or at least make it appear healthier for a while.
Best dupes for Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector
Olaplex No 3 is the very first Olaplex product I ever stepped out of a salon with, and now it’s readily available outside of salons as well. No 3 is a hair treatment designed to be used 2-3 times per week, applied after shampooing your hair. Although I loved it, I’ll admit that I’m more of a low-maintenance hair care kinda gal, so anything that needs to be left in my hair for more than 5 minutes is too long for me!
Here are the best alternatives for Olaplex No 3:
The Inkey List PCA Bond Repair Hair Treatment
This Olaplex dupe doesn’t contain the patented ingredient, however, its technology works to repair the hydrogen bonds and ionic bonds that hold the keratin structures in your hair together. This means that it fights frizz, and repairs and protects your hair from colour treatment and heat styling.
This Youtuber shared a great review of The Inkey List PCA Bond Repair Hair Treatment vs. Olaplex No 3:
Schwarzkopf Keratin Restore Bonding Mask
Designed specifically for blondes (or anyone who has had bleach wreak havoc with their tresses), this mask strengthens and recreates bonds in your hair similar to Olaplex No 3. Plus, it hydrates dry and frizzy hair, smoothing it and making it look a lot healthier than before.
Best dupes for Olaplex No 4 Bond Maintenance™ Shampoo
Olaplex No 4 is the signature shampoo in the range, which uses the same Olaplex patented technology to repair the bonds in your hair. Unlike the No 3 treatment, No 4 and No 5 can be used every time you wash your hair. Naturally, this would get quiiiite expensive after a while—especially if you have long or thick hair. So, I set out to hunt down some cheaper alternatives to Olaplex shampoo and this is what I found.
Amika The Kure Bond Repair Shampoo for Damaged Hair
Similar to Olaplex, Amika shampoo has its own innovative bond cure technology designed to make your hair stronger. In fact, their study showed 55% less breakage and 87% more repair after just one use (with the matching conditioner). Amika isn’t a much cheaper alternative to Olaplex, but you do get a little more shampoo for your dollar in each bottle, but the rave reviews may have convinced me to make the switch. One Redditor even claimed Amika was better than Olaplex, “Recently I was introduced to Amika – holy moly I am never going back to Olaplex!!”
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo
Although both Redken and Olaplex work on repairing hair bonds, both serve slightly different purposes. According to a haircare expert, the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate “helps smooth and seal the cuticle and return the hair to its ideal ph between 4.5 and 5 after chemical services, and in turn speeds up the process of the salt bonds being reformed. This reformation happens on its own within 48 hours or so, but Redken speeds that process up”.
On the flip side, “Olaplex’s active, Bis amino propyl diglycol dimeleate relinks and multiplies the broken disulfide bond, thus preventing the formation of protein-eating cysteic acid in the hair shaft that can otherwise lead to long term weakening of the hair shaft and breakage”.
Best dupes for Olaplex No 5 Bond Maintenance™ Conditioner
Amika The Kure Bond Repair Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Paired with the Amika The Kure Bond Repair Shampoo, this conditioner uses bond cure technology, plant butters, and vegan proteins to strengthen and repair your hair. It’s not the patented Olaplex technology (and nothing will ever be—it is patented, after all), but it has hundreds of rave reviews despite being still somewhat under the radar.
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Conditioner for Damaged Hair Repair
This conditioner is designed to be used with the rest of the Redken Acidic Bonding range to bring your hair back down to its optimal pH range—somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5—reversing the effects of heat styling and colouring. The citric acid technology works to repair the bonds in your hair and can be used in combination with any of the Olaplex products if you wish.
Best dupes for Olaplex No 6 Bond Smoother
Olaplex No 6 is the leave-in styling cream that’s part of the haircare range. If you hadn’t yet noticed (I’m sure you did!) the products are in order of use, with Olaplex No 1 and No 2 being salon-only products. Fortunately, a little goes a long way with this multitasking product and you’ll find that it lasts for months, working to protect your hair against heat while smoothing it down—adios, frizz!
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, however, here are the best Olaplex No 6 dupes.
Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Leave-In Treatment
Olaplex and Redken (well, technically Olaplex and L’Oreal, who owns Redken) have a juicy history. L’Oreal were in negotiations to take over Olaplex and as part of the process, they were given access to the proprietary technology Olaplex uses in its products. Long story short, the deal never went ahead, L’Oreal (and Redken) attempted to rip off the Olaplex technology in their own products, and Olaplex sued them and won.
So, what is the difference between Redken Acid Bonding Concentrate vs. Olaplex? Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate uses a different type of technology to fix the bonds in your hair—citric acid. You might remember it from high school science class. This mighty acid strengthens the bonds in your hair, reducing breakage and frizziness, making it an excellent alternative to Olaplex.
This leave-in treatment is heat protecting (up to 230 degrees Celsius), styling, smoothing and adds shine to your hair.
OGX Restoring + Bonding Plex Leave-In Treatment
A favourite Olaplex dupe according to Reddit, the OGX Restoring + Bonding Plex Leave-In Treatment is not only budget-friendly but also produces similar results to Olaplex, using cystine as the active ingredient. The one drawback is that it contains silicones, which make your hair appear nice but aren’t ideal for your hair in the longer term. This is typical of cheaper products, however, and I would have been more suprised if this treatment didn’t have silicones.
Best dupes for Olaplex No 7 Bonding Oil
If you’ve ever been prone to oily or greasy hair, you might immediately write off bonding oil as a product you’d never use, but hear me out: Olaplex No 7 is super lightweight and won’t weigh your hair down. This product can be used on either wet or dry hair, and provides heat protection while smoothing down any frizz.
Are there any alternatives to Olaplex No 7? The short answer is yes, there are.
Ouai Hair Oil
While this lightweight hair oil doesn’t contain the Olaplex patented bonding ingredient (aw!) it does offer many of the same benefits as Olaplex bonding oil. Just like Olaplex, this Ouai hair oil fights frizz, adds shine and protects your hair against damage caused by heat styling and UV rays. It also has a sophisticated fragrance that’ll have you feeling all French-chic with just a few spritzes.
Although this product is the same price as Olaplex No 7, you get a whole 50% more in each bottle making this much better value for money.