Hair rescue – Olaplex vs The Inkey list & L’Oreal

If like me your hair is starting to suffer from lockdown hair with a lack of haircuts, there are a number of products that can tide us over until the next trim from 12 April. Olaplex was the original brand for repairing broken bonds in hair and making a difference to hair health. Other companies are now beginning to launch new products that work in similar ways but are cheaper. I have now tried them all on my hair and this is my comparison.

The products all had their work cut out as I have long, highlighted naturally curly hair that has not had a cut in 6 months.


This is the original producer of this type of products. As well as the basic bond repair product, there is now a range of complementary items including shampoo, conditioner and a smoother for styling. Olaplex describes itself as a “patented system to noticeably repair extreme damage—turn dry, brittle hair into soft, shiny, and more resilient hair.”

No.3 Hair Perfector

I tried their original hero product, No 3 Hair Perfector last year for the first time during lockdown for the same reasons. The company claim that the product will “work on a molecular level” and that “, OLAPLEX formulas seek out broken bonds in the hair (which are caused by chemical, thermal and mechanical damage) and repair them, restoring compromised hair to former glory.”

No 3 is designed to be used as a pre-wash treatment. This always seemed odd to me as surely you would just wash it out?! The issue with this product is that you have to wet your hair, then leave it on for a minimum of 10 minutes before rinsing and then shampoo and conditioner. Obviously, that is pretty time consuming to do on a regular basis. They also recommend that you leave it on overnight but I’m not sure I’d want to sleep with wet hair either!

However, I can confirm it does work. My hair felt completely different afterwards, softer, smoother and less tangled. What it didn’t do is make it look very different. Although the bottle is fairly small, you don’t need to use much even on long hair.

I still use it as a treatment but the recommended frequency of this treatment is very high considering the cost and the hassle involved. The company recommend that you use once a week or two to three times a week for damaged hair. Once a week is manageable for me.

No. 3 costs £26 and is available from Cult Beauty here

No.6 Bond Smoother

N°6 is claimed by Olaplex that it strengthens, moisturizes, and speeds up blow-dry times. It also eliminates frizz and flyaways for up to 72 hours.

This is a product that is more like a styling creme than a treatment. If you are short of time or want to save money this would be one of the best options for Olaplex as you can replace your styling product with this but still get the benefits of the Olaplex repairing treatment.

I really liked this product and would continue to buy it. I actually mixed it with my regular volumising treatment and it did make a difference. My hair was less frizzy, smoother and felt softer too. It didn’t feel like it had a lasting effect on my hair like No 3 had but it definitely made blow-drying easier. It worked just as well for blow-drying my hair straight or leaving it to air-dry wavy.

No 6 costs £26 and is available from Cult Beauty here

The Inkey List PCA Bond Repair Hair Treatment 

This is much cheaper than the Olaplex range and very simple to use – but is it as good? The claims are that it will “rebuild, protect and strengthen damaged hair bonds for healthier looking and smoother hair. It reduces frizz, prevents split ends and improves overall gloss. Granrepair Powerbond® is a clinically proven ingredient compound that strengthens damaged hair from within the hair shaft. It works by helping to repair hydrogen and ionic (salt) bonds, which are damaged by excessive bleaching, dyeing or heat. It also protects existing disulphide bonds from damage.”

You use it after washing before you style your hair. I found it very simple to use as you simply spray it all over your hair. The pump was easy to use and it dispensed a fine mist. It was similar to the effect of the Olaplex products but not as smoothing as the Olaplex No 6. However, my hair definitely felt better and looked smoother and shinier. The effect did not seem to last as long as using the No 3 from Olaplex but was about the same as No 6 which is also a leave-in treatment.

At £12.99, this seems something of a bargain. You don’t use a lot since it’s a fine mist, so I would expect a bottle to last a while. This would be best for someone that wants to use their own styling products as it is such a lightweight product. Using the No. 6 with other products that are not a cream may be less successful.

You can buy The Inkey List Bond Repair from Cult Beauty here.

L’Oreal Elvive Dream Lengths Wonder Water 8 Second Hair Treatment 

Wonder Water is the cheapest out of all the treatments. I’ll be honest and say I’m a bit of a snob and wouldn’t normally use L’Oreal hair care. The promise of making my hair better in just 8 seconds was intriguing though, so I decided to give it a try.

The product claims to give you shinier, sleeker, better-hydrated hair as well as making it more manageable and less tangled. You apply it after shampoo to wet hair, and then leave it for 8 seconds. It was hard to judge what 20ml was which is the recommended dose for medium hair but I just applied it straight from the bottle throughout my hair and I had used about the recommended amount. You then massage it into your hair and scalp. The product begins to warm up almost instantly on your head! After rinsing out, you can follow with a conditioner. For the purposes of this review, I did not use a conditioner to give it more of a challenge.

Again I could instantly feel a difference in my hair’s texture. It was as good as the other products that I have reviewed. I did still have a few tangles but they were easy to get out of my hair. I tried blow-drying without any products at all (unheard of for me) and was amazed by the smooth and sleek finish to my hair when I straightened it. However, when leaving my curls to air dry, the result was much less impressive. If you have curly hair and normally use styling or frizz reduction products, you would still need to with this product.

Although the product is aimed at long hair, it would work equally well on any hair that is damaged or frizzy.

I would be tempted to switch to this instead of the No 3 in the long term due to its speed and results. I would still keep using the No 6 styling product or another for curly hair when I didn’t want to straighten my hair, as it’s simply not enough to control waves and frizz on its own for this hair type.

You can buy L’Oreal Magic Water for £9.99 from Boots here.

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