I Did It: Going from Red To Blond with Olaplex

Olaplex was sent for review. Hair services and products paid for by moi.

I've been a redhead for the last 21 years. It's part of my identity. All of my bosses have called me Red more than my own name. Now that I'm not a redhead, many people I deal with on a daily basis aren't recognizing me. Ninety-nine percent of people whom I tell that I was naturally a blond don't believe me. But it's true. I only became a red head after I accidentally dyed my own hair red, trying to make it a honey blond after the sun had taken it platinum. But that is for another story on another day.

(My hair about 3 weeks before going blond. I know. It's really, really pretty.)

The reason I wanted to go from dark red to blond is because of my gray hair. I went gray really early. I started to turn before I got married; my naturally blond roots were speckled with gray sparkle. However, ten years later, the sparkle has taken over my entire head. And I'm certain the sparkle could be beautiful on it's own,.  However, when the roots start to show one week post-color, it looks more skunky than sparkly. This fact makes me insane. Sure, I could get some take-home color from my colorist, or stop by the salon every two weeks for a quick touch up. But it's so much work. And I'm just not that into dedicating a solid two hours to coloring my hair every other week. I'm busy. I have things to clear out of the basement/non-profits to create IDs for/friends to visit/dogs to walk/work/dusting/etc.


With a plan in mind to gently fade into my natural color to lessen the transition from red to gray, my amazing stylist at Laboratorie started added massive amounts of hand-painted highlights called balayage. I got lighter at a snails pace, month after month. Then Bethany started asking me if I had heard about Olaplex, a new chemical service additive that all of the celebrity stylists were raving about on social media. I hadn't heard of it and couldn't find anyone in my circles who had heard of it, let alone actually tried it.

Which made me want to learn more immediately.

Olaplex is a two-part salon (-only!) service that helps maintain the health of your hair when you color. If you've ever had highlights or bleached your hair, you know that you have to go slow or risk breaking and ruining your beautiful locks. Olaplex claims to stop the damage by adding a chemical to the color service and then conditioning with a special treatment before shampooing.

According to the company, "Go Blonder. Push the envelope further without compromising the integrity of hair. From the photo shoot to the salon chair, colorists are set free from the fear of damaged hair. From Base Color to Balayage, Olaplex multiplies bonds making hair stronger, healthier, while color lasts longer with more vibrancy."

When I arrived for my appointment, Bethany examined my hair and gave me two options:

1. Try to highlight around the other heavy highlights. This option seemed impossible to me. I would have zero patience to do that myself.

2. Bleach my entire head and hope nothing breaks at the scalp.

Since Bethany hadn't used Olaplex before and was only going on what she had seen posted on social media, she suggested I take the safe route. However, the Veronica Mars Product Sleuth I am was leaning towards the latter. After being reminded that my hair could break off really, really short, I took a deep breath and stayed the course. We were going to bleach my entire head.

Fifty minutes of processing later, my hair felt HOT and was starting to foam, which I'm told means it's usually finishing up the processing (I don't think this is normally how it goes). In the directions for Olaplex, it clearly states that you need to use a higher volume of lightener, allow the hair to process for longer and be patient. After 50 minutes, we decided it was time to rinse and see what was there.

Nervous with anticipation and the high hopes my hair didn't break off, we rinsed out the bleach. Next, we added a toner to add a little ash to combat some of the left over red. Bethany was not thrilled with how my hair felt post bleach, commenting that it "felt a little slimy and was angry." However, almost no hair was coming out when we rinsed the bleach. And almost no hair came out when we rinsed the toner. The final step was to apply the No.2 Olaplex conditioning formula to my hair and wait for five minutes. We rinsed again. My hair now felt like regular hair that had just been processed (or so I'm told) and very little hair came out in the sink.

There was zero obvious breakage. When I blew my hair dry, very little hair came out in the brush, too.

Over the next few days, my hair color began to settle down and the usual dryness that goes along with bleach began to make my hair very thirsty for all things moisture. My go-to is always Oi--nothing seems to help my hair more than the Beautifying Potion from Davines. I slathered on Coconut Oil, It's a 10 Keratin Spray, a Joico Treatment, a Davines Re-Plumping Treatment and some Wen Re-Moist. (Wow, writing out all of those options kind of makes me seem a little crazy. Oh well. It was working!) There is also a process your stylist can do in another appointment that involves more Olaplex without any hair color to help repair the hair. Ask your stylist (it's helped me more than anything else!).

I returned to see my stylist the following week for a cut. She was a little disappointed that my hair wasn't in better shape, dryness-wise. However, I can say that my entire head is behaving better than my highlights did in the weeks after the original highlighting. It's super shiny and very manageable when dry.

(This is me, yesterday. Something about that bronzer makes skin look amazing! I have to remember to wear it daily!)

It's quite a big change and I'm not sure I'm used to seeing it myself. It's been a really long time since I've been this blond! People's responses (but mainly, their lack of responses) have been very mixed. The first question everyone asks is, "do you like it?" Which is code for, "My god woman, you did that on purpose?"

For those of you that don't know, when you bleach out your entire head, you basically get what you get. Sure, you can tone it, but toning can't make you look like Gwen Stefani if you've got Connie Britton's hair color. In other words, going blond is an expensive, time-consuming project and the end results can't be guaranteed. Going from red to blond is one of the hardest transitions to conquer. I'm getting more accustomed to the color and as soon as we tweak it in a few weeks at my next appointment, I'm confident I'll love it 100%. In fact, I kind of love it already! (Even though one night I got up to go to the bathroom and literally screamed at my reflection, as I had apparently forgotten about it while sleeping.)

Before you go for highlights or a major transformation, ask your stylist about Olaplex. It truly minimizes damage as well as allowing your stylist to go farther than previously possible in one appointment. If you've tried it, tell me all about it in the comments!

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  1. Oh, Olaplex sounds like a godsend. You had me at very little hair coming out in the wash. Getting my hair done this week, and while my blonde only serves as a base for bolder bright colors, the hair still takes a beating. I think I need to investigate, pronto! Thank you!


  2. Wow! I remember the post where you were musing about going from your dyed red to natural silver, so I was wondering how that was going. Of course the red suited you, but it's too much work to maintain if your "sparkly" silver roots are showing the next week! You look great blonde too, and I will continue to watch out for updates on this....

    I am back to salon color since start of 2013 so I can get less red (from my at home coloring with Sally supplies) and more "golden brown" (and cover my ashy greying out sad brown or whatever my natural color might be these days), but I can see silver when I pull the sides out to put them into my topstyler clips for curling. So I'll have to address that with my new stylist next time. I'm just not ready yet to go natural, so it's another reason I am looking forward to more info on your hair color changes toward natural...

    1. After the weekend at the pool, it's even lighter now. My highlights are platinum! In studio photos it looks more strawberry than I think it does IRL. Either way, I'm loving it!

  3. "(Even though one night I got up to go to the bathroom and literally screamed at my reflection, as I had apparently forgotten about it while sleeping.)" That actually made me laugh out loud! The blonde looks fantastic; I think you're one of those people who can pull off all hair colors.

    1. Thank you! I think I've been every color at this point, minus the non-traditional colors like pink or violet... I have been blue-ish black...

  4. A few more hilights through your now blonde base and it will be perfect. Your personality seems blonde...and I mean that in a good way! Vivacious and interesting, but not overly quirky. The olaplex can be used without color? Tell me more?

    1. I think we are going to add a few low lights and base color tomorrow. We'll see. As for the way to use Olaplex without color- you can try this (although you'll need to get it from your stylist, so ask about it as a treatment option at your appointment). You can mix 15% Olaplex No.1 with water. Apply on dry hair. After five minutes, add Olaplex No.2 for another 5 minutes. Then rinse and style. It's just another way to repair your hair for very damaged hair...

  5. I did a lot of research on Olaplex and was skeptical about it too.. but I figured i'll only know the true results after using it myself. One of my clients/best friend normally keeps her hair bleach blonde. However, for the last year I gave her a dark red ombre and she was ready to be blonde again. I used Olaplex with 40 vol bleach on her head all over for the first process which lifted her to a light orange (lots of red permanent color to lift through). There was ZERO breakage! Yes, the hair felt dry but that's just what bleach does.. the fact that there was ZERO breakage or hair loss with using 40 VOL had me sold. She did not want to stay that brassy and I'm known for pushing the limits, SO, we did a second process. This time with 30 Vol and again ZERO Breakage. The hair did not feel and dryer than it did the first time. She is now a light golden blonde for now and after a while we will do a highlight to give her blonde some dimension and tone with an ash. A double process of all over bleach with such high volumes would not have been possible in one sitting without Olaplex.. not without the girls hair falling out. We did not use any masks or deep conditioners for after care and he hair is strong and healthy!

  6. Would u post a pic after your recent appmnt.. Would like to see how the process is coming out... I had blue/black and took it off w/pravana color reverse... Bleached it/highlighted it... Then bleached & highlighted it again a month later.. However is still has a lot of brassiness, it looks kind of cooperish with highlights... And from VERY healthy to VERY damaged/coarsed hair.. Had to cut 5-6 inches off and still not happy with the color :(

  7. Your hair looks fabulous Kelly! Im in the uk and hunting down an opalex supplier or salon. You have confirmed all ive heard and seen about this amazing priduct

  8. I have very bleached out coarse hair from going from auburn to blonde in just a few sittings..the end result is...great lift....damaged ends...had to cut my hair into a meg ryanish bob...will an Olapkex treatment reverse damaged ends?
    Thanks !:)

  9. Replies
    1. It's an add-on service at salons who use the product. It's up to the stylist/salon how they charge for it. Olaplex has recommendations on what to charge, but I've seen stylists charge more and nothing. If it means your hair won't break off or be ruined, it's priceless! My hair is now almost platinum... (We highlighted one time just a little and did one more thorough highlighting session.)

  10. where did you buy it?

    1. It's a salon product. It's not for sale to the public.

  11. I tried an Olaplex treatment in salon, with highlights over already processed hair, and then I took home the treatment too. My gut feel tells me it's a plastic coating, and that it doesn't actually cross link bonds in the hair because after a week, the effects of the Olaplex seemed to have washed out. Not that I don't like the Olaplex, I do. I like the "plastic" feeling because it makes my hair look shiny. But I just reckon it doesn't actually repair the hair like it says. Having said all that, I am just a normal girl, not a stylist and this is just my opinion.

  12. I dont mean to be negative but in interest of this is about "what we think" Im being honest - I dont see a difference enough to call this any close to miracle. Very dry - VERY dry and lifeless. Styling can do more for the photos - so dont see that as swaying me.

    Also, what is it about people not reading directions My largest fear is so many stylists (and commenters) talk about the process as if they know what they are talking about - if you read the instructions you are not to apply #2 for 5 min but as long as you can. Atleast now (2016) most stylists suggest nothing less than 20 and more if you can last longer. so many professional stylists skip steps, cut corners and basically do it "their" way which scares me the most. The steps for Olaplex (although not neo science complicated) do equate to someone has to take a good chunk of time to read through and then even more to apply. I dont trust stylists doing this. Too many on these blogs I have read that can't even get the facts right talking about it. Where is the #3 in this blog too? Olaplex is not 2 phases but 3? I have called a few salons that dont provide #3? So Im not getting the entire experience.

    Olaplex reps on these blogs too concern me. Everything is either the bleach, stylists or water minerals fault? Really - Olaplex isnt to blame?

    Maybe but does make you think. I tried just the #3 and it was ewh? I also had to use a LIBERAL amount on my hair. I dont have super damaged hair either but had to use 80% of that small bottle just to work into my shoulder lengh hair. Someone wrote that I could use the bottle 7 weeks? Not even close. I also didnt think it made much difference but to be fair Ive had 2 try's thus far. Im not sold - I still think good common sense prevails..wait a long time between bleaches, good trims, lots of good conditioners, eat right, exercise and only use chemicals sparingly and only go to people you TRUST and know wht they are doing and talking about.

    1. You are absolutely correct. Education is key! I think I can explain a bit about #3, should that help you understand how it's used. #3 is essentially a conditioner or leave-in treatment that is NOT part of the actual professional service. This is a take home product, meant to be used on wet hair, post coloring, at your home. You should not need much of #3, you do not need to apply it as liberally as a normal conditioner and I wouldn't wash it out. Also, #3 is a separate product that stylists have to purchase in addition to the Olaplex #1 and #2. Many salons do not carry it and the front desk is not aware it's a product that exists. If you have not undergone stage one of the process, #2 and #3 aren't going to do a huge amount for your hair, although it will provide a nice conditioning effect.

      I use a bit of #3 on my hair as a leave-in treatment after I wash (2X per week) and my bottle lasts 2 months. I'm only using a quarter sized amount on my hair, and it's applied when hair is wet, from the mid-shaft down.

      As for the minerals in the water affecting the hair, you are absolutely correct. The water at my house is not the greatest for hair and from time to time, that does cause coloring products to do odd things on my scalp (like heat up). Olaplex saved my hair from breaking off when going that light. However, the process did make my hair dry for a month or so, until the cuticle got over what just happened. I definitely would not allow someone to bleach my hair without Olaplex (or one of th hundreds of knockoffs coming to market this season.)

  13. OK, I was having a full scalp bleach done every 6 weeks to keep up my blonde hair. Two years ago I decided to go for foils instead. The salon used Olaplex and insisted that it prevents breakage - blah, blah, blah. After that appointment, my hair started to break off. I have never had chemical haircuts before and I lost about an inch of hair after that appointment. The next two times (different salon) they used Olaplex again. I asked them to be very careful not to overlap any blonde hair. The response was "Olaplex will help prevent breakage" I told them about my previous experience and in the days and weeks after this, more breakage. It was so bad, that I used semi and demi permanents to dye my hair red. My only concern now is to get my hair back to good condition, but I am thoroughly pissed at how careless hairdressers seem to be when using Olaplex. It DOES NOT prevent damage. I think they have a massive campaign going in order to sell heaps of this stuff but my hair was destroyed!!!!!

  14. I am a stylist and I can't stand what everyone thinks of this product. It's not a miracle product, people and stylists are being convinced it is. You should not use it to push the limits of the hair and I feel that's what a lot of people do when using olaplex. Also to the lady who wrote the article, one reason your hair may continue to feel dry is from using to much protein. You said you were using coconut oil (protein) and it's a 10 keratin spray (also protein). The hair needs protein but when you use too much it's very drying. Also whenever you do use protein it's recommended to use twice the moisture. Hope that helps =)


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