Is Olaplex the Real Thing?


Is Olaplex The Real Thing?

When I first heard about Olaplex, I assumed it was just another example of exaggerated marketing claims that overpromise and under deliver, but I’ve received so many positive comments and questions from salons all over the country that I decided to investigate.

I’m not done with my research, so I confess that I’m still not sure exactly how it works, but I can tell you that it is different and it is supported by real science. The ingredient in Olaplex should bond with free sulfhydryls in the hair, but that doesn’t mean that it does or that you need it.

Craig J. Hawker and Eric D. Pressly are the chemists who developed Olaplex. Click on the links below for more information.

Craig J. Hawker

Eric D. Pressly

Olaplex has applied for a patent. Click on the link below for more information.

The chemists at Olaplex named the ingredient bis-(maleimidoethoxy) ethane, but the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) renamed it bis aminipropyl diglycol dimaleate, so that’s the name that appears on the product label. I appreciate the transparency and honesty of Olaplex, for voluntarily listing the ingredient, when it’s not required. The owner, Dean Christal, has been very candid and informative. Although I haven’t completed my research, here’s what I have so far.

Although bismaleimidoethoxyethane crosslinkers have been used in other industries for some time, and they do form stable thioether crosslinks that are not cleaved by reducing agents, they have never been used in hair products before. We’re in unchartered territory and there is no history or frame of reference when applied to hair.

The reaction is very specific to pH 6.5 to 7.5 and 1,000 times slower at a pH above 8.0. Since oxidative haircoloring is performed at a pH well above pH 8.0, I question how bonds would form when the product is added to haircolor.

For understandable legal reasons, the patent is deliberately ambiguous, so I can’t be sure of the exact structure of the ingredient, but the atomic weight seems to be about 246 amu. That’s big. Most haircolor ingredients are below 100 amu. I question how this can penetrate into the cortex.

The reaction is limited to reduced thios. Bonds that are broken during haircoloring are oxidized, not reduced. I question how bonds would form during oxidation or with the cysteic acid that is produced during lightening hair.

Since Olaplex produces thio ether crosslinks that are not broken by reducing agents, I wonder if you can you perm over hair treated with Olapex

Since Olaplex should not be able to bond with methionines, I wonder if it would work on hair treated with hydroxide relaxers.

Finally, if we took more care when we colored hair and didn’t damage it so much, we wouldn’t need a bond multiplyer to fix our mistakes.

The jury is out until I resolve the issues above. I will continue my research and keep you posted.


Leave a Reply