What Are Bond Builders For Hair? Here's How They Work

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Hair is often at the top of our beauty priority list. Enhancing hair with things like hot tools, chemical treatments, and color dyes is normal, but they can all take a toll on hair health. Enter bond-building technology. Bond builder may be a term you've heard thrown around on hair-care product bottles and at your stylist, but what does it really mean?

"Hair is made up of a bunch of chemical bonds, so bond builders are made to mimic the natural bonds and help smooth and repair hair," celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan says. You may have heard of Olaplex, the brand that has become synonymous with bond building since launching in 2014. "Olaplex contains a revolutionary bond-building technology with over 100 patents that protects and repairs hair," Lavinia Popescu, chief scientist for Olaplex, tells POPSUGAR.

Here, Hazan and Popescu shed light on what bond-building technology is and, most importantly, what bond builders can do for your hair.

What Is a Bond Builder?

Simply put, bond builders work by improving the integrity of hair from the inside out. "Olaplex's patented technology lessens or eliminates damage caused by molecules that eat protein from the hair by working faster than the damage can occur," Popescu explains. Meaning, bond builders work to repair damaged hair.

How Does a Bond Builder Work?

Hair is made of a protein called keratin, which forms polypeptide bonds in strands. These structures are held together by disulfide and hydrogen bonds, which are responsible for hair's strength, elasticity, and shape. Unfortunately, these bonds can be weakened or damaged with heat styling, color treatments, perms, and relaxers, making hair limp, dull, and parched. A bond-building formula comes to the rescue by penetrating the hair shaft to reinforce and rebuild these compromised polypeptide structures.

How Can You Use Bond Builders?

Bond-building products can be incorporated into both professional salon treatments and an at-home hair-care routine. "I personally only use them in the salon if someone comes in with very damaged hair," Hazan explains. At the salon, bond builders might be a stand-alone treatment or part of a lightening service.

As for using bond builders on your own, Olaplex has bond builders in the formulas of all its products, including a shampoo ($30), conditioner ($30), and primer treatment ($30). The popular Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector ($30) is a weekly treatment that reduces breakage and also protects follicles thanks to the brand's star patented ingredient, bis-aminopropyl diglycol. One is sold every 3.5 seconds, Popescu says. The brand K18 has made a splash in the category with its leave-in hair mask ($75) that works in four minutes and most recently launched the K18 Peptide Prep pH Maintenance Shampoo ($36). It contains the brand's patented K18Peptide to reconnect broken polypeptide chains in hair and revitalize its softness, smoothness, and strength while keeping the hair and scalp balanced. The Curlsmith Bond Curl Rehab Salve ($29) is meant to be used before shampoo to fortify hair with nurturing superfoods and proteins.

Who Should Use Bond Builders?

"Hair bonds are agnostic, so Olaplex is beneficial for all hair types and textures," Popescu explains. The benefits of bond builders include increased shine, strength, and manageability and less frizz. "If you recently had a chemical service, damage from heat or thermal styling, or any kind of breakage, you will notice significant results instantly," she adds. While they can have immediate effects, you'll likely see more improvement if you use bond-building formulas on an ongoing basis, according to Popescu. But even if you don't color, straighten, or blow out your hair, it still goes through everyday wear and tear, and some experts believe you can reap the benefits of a bond builder no matter what.

Is There a Downside to Using Bond Builders?

Many brands that have bond builders say their formulas can't be overused. But as with any reparative treatment, you don't want to overdo it — sometimes more isn't more. "Too much protein can have the opposite effect and make hair break," Hazan says. "I don't recommend using bond builders for prevention or maintenance, but only if your hair is damaged to help repair." Shampoo, condition, and treat hair consistently and consciously, and read the labels on all your products so they're used as intended. And consult with your colorist and stylist to help you set up your best regimen.