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What are hair bonds?
“The term ‘bond’ is quite vague, as the hair contains various types of bonds – and not all of them are the same. Some are affected by water, others by heat and others by chemicals. Hair bonders literally relink the di-sulphide bonds in the hair, creating a molecular change that truly reverses the look and feel of various types of damage.” – Tom Smith, Olaplex expert
What is a hair ‘bonder’?
“Traditional bond builders repair broken bonds in the hair, which are part of the hair’s protein structure. Bond building has become a general term now, and we’re seeing it used across a variety of hair reparative treatments. These products are specifically designed to repair and reconnect polypeptide chains at the molecular level.” – Jordan Alexander, senior director, global education for K18
“Some of the more science-led formulas can be added to hair colouring chemicals to prevent damage in the first place – as well as being used as a pre-shampoo treatment to repair existing damage and maintain the salon results.” – Tom
What makes them different to other treatments?
“Most conditioners and masks generally contain oils, silicones and film formers which are used to hide the underlying damage, whereas bonders work repair hair from the inside out.” – Jordan
“The best bond treatments repair the hair on a molecular level, which makes a fundamental and measurable change to the strength and health of the hair. Conditioners and masks (and some of the less effective or innovative bond builders) also contain conditioning agents, which fill in cracks in the hair’s surface – making the hair look and feel healthier, until those deposits wash away. Bonders are different in that they work long term”– Tom
Why do we need them?
“Hair is damaged every day in various ways – whether from salon chemical and colour treatments or through heat styling – or even just daily exposure to washing, UV and environmental aggressors. Using a bonding treatment targets this damage, and offers lasting and progressive improvements – be it better strength, resilience or shine.” – Jordan
“Different hair types will benefit from using a bonder in different ways. For example, it will dramatically increase the strength of fine and fragile hair – significantly reducing breakage and improving the look and feel. For textured hair, it improves the hair pattern and moisture levels, making styling products that much more effective. In essence, not everyone needs to use one – but it will benefit any hair that is subject to chemicals, heat or general wear and tear, and can even bolster hair that is naturally weaker.” – Tom
How are they formulated & which products work best?
“Each hair bonding product will contain its own unique ingredients, but at K18, our molecular repair formulas are powered by our own peptide that reconnects broken polypeptide chains to restore hair’s strength, smoothness and bounce. Reparative benefits can be found in various products – and not just in pre-shampoo treatments.” – Jordan
“It’s always best to use a pre-shampoo dedicated bond building treatment. This will have been designed to offer the most repair possible in one go. Some brands also add bond-building ingredients to their products, which can be a great way of keeping the bond repair topped up. However, if you are suffering from extreme hair damage, it’s always best to use the dedicated treatments to get the best results.”– Tom
When & how should bonders be used?
“True bond repair cannot be washed away – hence they’re often recommended before shampooing. This still leaves room in your haircare routine to use traditional masks and conditioners that deliver conditioning agents that are still important for silky, manageable hair. Just be sure to apply your bonder to relatively clean hair – it's okay if it’s not freshly washed, but heavy product build-up or lots of grease can block the treatment from getting to the strands. Some people get great results from leaving bond builders on for a while, like during exercise or overnight, but if in doubt, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.” – Tom
How frequently do you need to use them?
“This depends entirely on your personal needs. The more aggressors your hair is subjected to (chemicals, heat, hairstyles, brushing, braids etc) the more often a bond builder can help mitigate and repair the damage. Once a week is a good place to start for most people, but I recommend taking a mindful approach and increasing it to every wash if you have very fragile or damage-prone hair.” – Tom
Is there anything or any ingredients worth avoiding?
“Some bonders – while improving the look and feel of the hair from the outside – don’t actually repair from within. This is because many bond builders contain polymers, film formers and styrene ingredients. These can leave an artificial coating on the hair – so do beware. Also, those with naturally very strong hair will notice results aren’t that obvious – but they may still find value in using a bonder to support the rest of their haircare routine.” – Tom
What can bond builders not do?
“People can feel let down by bond builders when they are looking for better hydration, but that is not the main purpose of this technology. While bond builders prioritise hair strength and minimise breakage, they do not typically tackle silkiness, softness or the flexibility of the hair. This means most people will also need to use moisture-based or conditioning ingredients to give silkiness to the hair.” – Tom