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Damaged curly hair is the worst! One false move and I’m googling ‘how to repair damaged curly hair’. 

Let me tell you what happened, a few months ago, I went to my regular natural hairstylist for one of my routine services— the Hair Beautox. It’s a beauty treatment that I use approximately 2-3 times per year to prepare and repair my naturally curly hair. I’m a curly 4a-4c hair type diva. My curly girl struggles include moisture retention, occasion frizziness, and low porosity.

I only straighten my mane twice per year. This was one of those times. On this occasion, the hairstylist had an assistant who was grappling with taking directions. Somehow she couldn’t figure out where to put the product and how long it should be on. A disagreement between the two ladies quickly ensued, and my hair was in the middle.

That’s when it happened. Instead of having stronger, less frizzy locks, I had wavy 3a limp noodle tresses. It wouldn’t behave and worse it was shedding like crazy. I needed to know how to repair damaged curly hair and quickly!

How do you fix damaged curly hair?

The short answer is that you really can’t. You can improve on the damage, but it’s still there. Contrary to popular beliefs, natural hair is very delicate. Heat styling damages it. Mechanical stress such as combing and excessive braiding over time destroys it. Also, certain products and chemicals such as sulfates can weaken it, making the hair more difficult to work with.

Over-manipulation can seriously damage your strands

My initial thought to repair my natural locks was rest. Rest? Yes, rest. It always seemed to work in the past—just leaving my hair alone. So even though I love to change my hairstyle to fit my mood or outfit, I needed to stop. In the last several months and years, I’ve had a lot of moods. We’ve cut it, colored it, and highlighted it. You understand me, right?

Rapid natural hairstyle changes can be dangerous. It’s a lot of manipulation for delicate strands. So, I figured a braid down of the damaged curly hair underneath a wig was an excellent solution. I wore a beautiful dark wavy bob for a few weeks from LuvMe, and my hair seemed to appreciate the break but still didn’t recover as expected.

Short curly dark Luv me wig for 4b hair protection wearing McCall's 7955 in 4-way stretch
The cute LuvMe wig I decided to use to cover up my hair for awhile

Hair musings…

My first thought was a luxurious twist out using my favorite twist buttercreme. Another natural diva protective style, destined to bring good results, right? Wrong. After three more weeks of interesting-looking twists and three more weeks of a braid down with a wig installation, I didn’t know what to do.

Damaged hair decisions

I decided to cut it. If it wasn’t going to play nice, I would get rid of every dead and dying strand. Then I remembered getting a special treatment at the salon called Olaplex, before my hair dye. As a die-hard Sephora member, I looked it up on their site and read some reviews. Could I DIY repair this damaged hair? Some tress divas claimed that they did.

I ordered Olaplex Hair Perfector no. 3 directly from Olaplex. Next, the wait but I was surprised–shipping was fast (faster than Sephora). The price was reasonable–approx $58 for 250ml. As of the writing of this review, it had over 12,000 and over 7,000 Amazon reviews. I read some reviews and figured I had absolutely nothing to lose. If it didn’t work, I would cut my beloved 4b locks and start over.

Olaplex, a Quest for Healthy Curly Hair

Olaplex is a hair treatment. It is touted to help repair all hair types. Technically, it’s a bond builder. The main ingredient, besides water, is it’s pseudo-proprietory Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate. Say that 10 times. 

This ingredient restores the ‘broken’ hair shaft on a molecular level. I’m a scientist by training, so I want to know what I’m putting on my hair, but this, I’ve never heard of. 

I went natural because chemical relaxers were literally killing my hair. Some naturals won’t put anything chemical based on their hair. If that’s your feeling, this isn’t for you.

This nifty goldmine of a chemical is your dyed hair’s treat. When we dye our crown of glory, we alter the hair cuticle— a lot—especially those of us who like our blondes, reds, and chestnut colors. The treatment, developed by two legist chemists Craig Hawker and Eric Pressly, searches for broken disulfide bonds in your precious strands like a ninja and fixes them.

What else is in the Hair Perfector?

When I use any beauty product, I first skim the top 5-7 ingredients for red flags. It was no different when I was looking for a product to repair my damaged curly hair.

There are a few other more well-known beauty chemicals are in this gem:

Know the chemicals in your beauty products…it matters.

Cetearyl alcohol is a mixed alcohol and is found in a ton of conditioners, moisturizers, and other hair and beauty products. The Environmental Working Group, EWG, which assigns risk to commonly used beauty products, ranks it as reasonably low risk with a score of 1. 

Propylene Glycol is found mostly in foundations, hair color, shampoo, and sunscreens. Incidentally, it is also in sodas and some other drinks. It’s a synthetic water absorber and prevents things from drying out. So, it’s no it’s no surprise that it is in this product for the repair of damaged curly hair– or any other hair repair product.

It is generally recognized as safe by the CDC and FDA and gets an EWG rating of 2-3 depending on use. There are reports of allergic response and sensitivity. This chemical is so widely used, people with sensitive skin would likely know before using Olaplex on their damaged curly hair.

More product ingredients 

Behentrimonium Methosulfate also found in many conditioners, hair serums, shampoos, and coloring products is an anti-static agent and surfactant. Surfactants (also produced by the lungs before birth) are substances that reduce the surface tension of a dissolved liquid. In the body, this prevents your lungs from collapsing at birth. In the beauty world, it may act as a foaming agent, detergent, or emulsifier. The most widely known surfactants are things like soap. As a result, thousands of beauty products contain this ingredient. According to EWG, this surfactant has a score of 3-4, depending on usage. Some people may be allergic to this component.

Cetyl Alcohol is very similar to its chemical cousin Cetearyl alcohol. It’s a long-chain fatty acid with a similar function, the same EWG score as Cetearyl alcohol.

More on Olaplex 

Technically, Olaplex is a system. No. 1 and No. 2 are started at the salon, and No. 3 is for home use. Therefore, the manufacturer says that you may skip to step 3. The next two steps are a shampoo No. 4 and a conditioner No. 5, which I did not purchase. The products aren’t marketed for naturally curly damaged hair or for the repair of damaged curly hair. They seem to focus on women who have dyed their hair blonde

So, if you are reading this and you are a natural, you already know why. If you are a product junkie, you may just be buying more products that you aren’t going to use. And if you already have a holy grail, why deviate for the sake of using an entire product line. I discuss the only product line that I use in its entirety in another blog post.

My holy grail shampoo is Camile Rose Sweet Ginger Rinse, and my go-to deep conditioner is Ouidad’s Kinky Triple Treat. Don’t scoff or snub my bougie routine. Coconut oil, argan oil, olive oil, generic hot oil treatment, and shea butter just never worked as curly hair repair methods for me and did nothing for my dry hair without adding a commercial deep conditioning treatment.

What Olaplex is not.

Olaplex is not a conditioner for hair damage and breakage. In other words, you use Olaplex before shampooing, optimally on damp hair. It also is not a keratin-based product. Olaplex works on the molecular level of the hair strand (cuticle) on the inside while keratin, another protein, strengthens the outside. Some stylists even suggest or recommend doing both treatments on the same day. You would need to apply Olaplex first (inside repair) and follow with the subsequent protein service (outside repair). If your hair (like low porosity hair) is susceptible to becoming brittle from protein-based products, be careful.

What happened when I used Olaplex No. 3 alone on my curly hair?

When I used Olaplex No.3 alone. I was petrified. I’m using something new on my already damaged hair DIY style. I had a dirty twist out, and it was wash day anyway so….

Since I have very thick strands with medium density, first I parted my curly hair into four sections using a clip to keep the hair controlled during the process. Then I used a spray bottle with plain water and thoroughly dampened each section. I re-clipped each section of the hair as I went along. Next, I applied the Olaplex No. 3 to each section from root to tip.

Honestly, I had shallow expectations for products promising to repair damaged hair. In addition, a number of products promised mystical instant results for your hair that were never delivered. I was waiting for some kind of itching or tingling or something. Nothing.

The smell is barely there, and I would describe it as light and pleasant. It certainly is nothing you will notice as you apply it to your hair. Full disclosure, my husband sniffed my curly hair at least twice because it smelled good.

The Ahh Haa moment

Then, I had this sort of dumb genius idea. What would happen if I slept in it overnight as a hair mask? The instructions say to leave it on for about 10 minutes. The company discourages you from leaving it on overnight, but only, so it doesn’t get in your eyes. Personally, my wet hair wasn’t sopping or dripping. I felt that the risk of me getting it in my eyes was minuscule. And besides, my hair was really damaged. Maybe 10 minutes wouldn’t be enough. Had anyone done this? Google. Done. Yes. Some people reported scalp itching. I decided that Olaplex plus Hulu and nightcap would do the trick. If I started itching, I would wake up and rinse it off. So I placed a plastic shower cap on my head and added a hair scarf.

In the morning, my curly hair was damp but not wet. The product was partially dry. Needless to say, I was uber nervous because some areas of my hair that were apparently heat-damaged looked even straighter than before. Was I going to be bald or worse yet, still have damaged curly hair? Next, I rinsed the bond builder out and followed with my holy grail shampoo, followed by Ouidad Curl Immersion Triple Treat Deep Conditioner. Lastly, I styled my hair with the styling gel I always use to keep everything else in the routine the same.

Results of Olaplex No 3 on 4a-4b-4c damaged curly hair

There are no words. The results are absolutely jaw-dropping. The first thing I noticed was that the crown of my head. This part of my head is where my hair follicle is the most fragile to combing stress. I’ve explained this many times to natural stylists who think I’m crazy, but I know my hair. My curl pattern in this spot is definitely 4c, and while it is only about 2 inches in diameter when styling, it’s most certainly what you see from behind when I styled my damaged curls, blown out or otherwise. This section of my hair was straight from heat or hair Beautox or braiding or whatever. After the Olaplex, it was curly! Also, parts of the hair that previously refused to respond to encouragement to curl were curly again, before adding creme or gel products.

Finally, I styled it using the curly girl method with minimal frizz, even where the heat-damaged hair was.

How to incorporate it in your hair care routine

My honest assessment is that I would definitely use Olaplex again to repair my damaged curly hair. This product does exactly what it says. Is it a miracle in a bottle? Well, I think it depends on how damaged your locks are and what your expectations are. Because healthy hair results from the strategic use of a variety of products and in combination with other techniques. This is now part of my holy grail, in addition to my other tried and true products. Since the company claims you can not overuse it, I would definitely use Olaplex on my wash days. It would be interesting to do a hair growth experiment incorporating this bond builder.

In conclusion, as with any beauty mishap, prevention is the key. I’m not a fan of the flat iron or blow dryer for daily styling of my natural curl, but when mistakes happen we have to know how to If I know I am going to have hair dye applied to my curly hair especially blonde or some color that requires significant lifting, I would definitely use Olaplex with the service to prevent having damaged hair.