These 4 Shampoo and Conditioner Duos Changed the Game For My Damaged Hair

Photo Illustration: Rebecca Hoskins
Photo Illustration: Rebecca Hoskins
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As a teenager my hair was fairly healthy: I'm talking full, smooth, and pretty shiny, too, with minimal frizz, breakage and split ends. But over the years that sadly changed due to all the wear and tear I've put it through. While regular bleaching and dyeing can wreak major havoc on your hair, so can other hair "sins," like brushing it when wet, wearing tight styles, using steaming hot water, and frequent heat styling. I'm guilty of committing many of them.

Alas, here I am, 30 years old and struggling with chronic breakage, split ends, stiff strands, and frizz that won't quit. The good news? I'm not the only one dealing with hair damage. And for this reason, more and more brands are developing cutting-edge formulas that are specifically designed to help restore damaged hair. Lucky for me, I had the chance to test-drive not one, or two, but four damage-repairing shampoo and conditioner duos, all from Sephora. I gave each set a full week to see what they could do for my worn-out hair, and was thoroughly impressed with the results. So if like me, you have damaged or color-treated hair that's been put through the wringer — whether it be from bleach and chemical treatments, mechanical styling, or environmental aggressors — you should keep reading.

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance™ Shampoo and No. 5 Bond Maintenance™ Conditioner
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Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance™ Shampoo and No. 5 Bond Maintenance™ Conditioner

This intensely hydrating Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance™ Shampoo ($30) features the brand's proprietary bond-building technology to help repair broken bonds and restore hair's strength and integrity, along with coconut oil-derived surfactants to gently cleanse strands without stripping away natural oils that keep hair healthy. On top of that, it contains a blend of humectants (including glycerin) to help keep hair hydrated, which is critical if you're bleaching your hair often; the strong chemicals in bleach break down the protective outer layer of your hair and decrease moisture levels. After just one wash, I noticed a difference: my brittle strands felt softer and stronger, looked smoother, and I barely had any annoying tangles to rake through.

Also infused with Olaplex's bond-building technology — as well as a blend of panthenol and glycerin to help hydrate and combat breakage from bleach and chemical treatments — the Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance™ Conditioner ($30) checked all the boxes for me. It's moisturizing, effortlessly detangles, and leaves my hair feeling soft and manageable but not weighed down. And a little also goes a long way — I only needed a tiny amount to coat my head, and it didn't make my roots look greasy at all, which is a huge plus.

Amika The Kure Bond Repair Shampoo and Conditioner
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Amika The Kure Bond Repair Shampoo and Conditioner

I've always loved Amika's hair masks, so I went into week two with high hopes and wasn't disappointed. This nutrient-packed Amika The Kure Bond Repair Shampoo ($28) is powered by the brand's bond-cure technology, along with a hero blend of nourishing plant butters, strand-strengthening vegan proteins, and sea buckthorn berry, which contains high levels of fatty-acid omega-7 to support overall hair health. After one use, my perennially dry strands felt significantly softer, and once my hair was fully dry, I noticed that my usual frizz and flyaways were nearly nonexistent.

The Amika The Kure Bond Repair Conditioner ($28) contains the same technology to help restore and strengthen ravaged hair. The protein-packed formula was specifically designed to target the bonds that are most prone to breakage, which helps prevent strands from snapping, so hair gets stronger and healthier with every use. Its these keratin-like benefits that are key. Keratin (i.e. the key protein that makes up your hair) breaks down as we age, and everyday stressors — like aggressive, bleach-heavy dye jobs and frequent heat styling — can make matters worse. Plus I relished how creamy and luxe this conditioner felt, and the spa-like scent was just the cherry on top.

K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Damage Shield pH Protective Shampoo and Conditioner
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K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Damage Shield pH Protective Shampoo and Conditioner

The unique pH-optimized K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Damage Shield pH Protective Shampoo ($36) gently cleanses fragile strands using plant-based surfactants to help maintain hair health and strength and minimize damage that occurs during washing. It's made with the brand's patented K18PEPTIDE™ to replenish lost proteins, along with hydrators like glycerin and panthenol to further nourish dry strands. It felt air-light, lathered beautifully, and was soothing on my sensitive scalp.

In addition to the K18PEPTIDE™, the K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Damage Shield Protective Conditioner ($36) contains a nourishing ceramide blend and a revolutionary biotech-engineered polysaccharide that protects hair from pollution and environmental aggressors. Truthfully, I didn't expect to love this formula as much as I did — especially since it's a gel consistency, which I tend to associate with being drying — but it ended up being a game changer. While I'd recommend all of these conditioners to anyone struggling with hair damage, this is the one I can see myself repurchasing again and again.

Kérastase Première Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner
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Kérastase Première Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner

This brand-new Kérastase Première Repairing Shampoo ($42) contains an innovative blend of citric acid and glycine to remove damaging calcium buildup from the hair, which in turn helps to reconnect broken links between key keratin chains and reduce breakage so hair becomes stronger. Admittedly, I wasn't sure if it would be hydrating enough, but I was pleasantly surprised by how moisturized and soft my hair felt post-wash. I also experienced less fallout in the shower, which is a big deal for me, because I tend to shed a lot. As if that wasn't enough, the scent is divine.

Not-so-fun fact: damaged hair actually absorbs three times more calcium (which can be found in hard water) and excess exposure to it causes repetitive hair breakage. The Kérastase Première Repairing Conditioner ($48) — as well as the shampoo — includes the same hero blend of citric acid and glycine to help break this hair-damaging cycle. Additionally, it contains glycerin and dimethicone for extra moisturization. My hair soaked up the deeply hydrating formula and, once it dried, felt dramatically less dry and straw-like. Plus it managed to add back some shine to my lackluster strands, so it's a winner in my book.