I would like to dedicate this blog to modern bond-building technology and the biomimetic science behind it. Over a decade ago, when I was in cosmetology school, had we gotten particularly frivolous with our abuse of lightener and hot tools, options for resolve were limited. In wake of disaster, we could opt for a Samsonesque haircut, conditioning treatment, prayer, or simply living with what had been done. While I am at times nostalgic for times so rampant with “no risk, no reward” attitudes, those days are over.
Enter: bond builders. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since well before the coronavirus, you’ve heard this term. It’s highly probable you have also heard of the OG, Olaplex and the latest, hottest product on the market K18. You are not alone in likely not knowing what the hell they actually are, or what’s the difference between them.
The inside of each hair is composed of countless bonds linked together, creating its structure and keeping it together. When placed under the duress of heat, chemical services, or the environment, these bonds break and the hair becomes damaged. Hair does not possess living cells and therefore, is unable to repair itself. While conditioners can improve the hair’s moisture-protein balance, elasticity and luster, they cannot put the broken bonds back together. This is what bond builders, like Olaplex and K18 do, essentially glue the inner bonds of the hair back together. They rebuild the bridges that we have burned.
Olaplex was the first patented bond builder to grace the modern market. It can be formulated into hair color by professionals to prevent damage or used as a standalone treatment to repair. Its OG status comes with the time to develop, and perfect, products to help you maintain the results you achieve in the salon via shampoo, conditioner, masques and styling products. The difference between Olaplex and the new K18 is found in biomimetic science, as well as application.
The aforementioned bonds are, according to K18’s co-founder, Seven Sahib, “millions of interwoven keratin chains made of amino acids connected by peptide bonds.” K18 took years to analyze and test each succession of these amino acids and peptides in order to find the sequence in which they come together the most efficiently. Sahib explained that “amino acids on their own are like alphabets, the number and order is critical, much like the organization of letters in a word. Patented K18 turned out to be the one unique peptide sequence that solved the puzzle, having just the right composition of cysteine, the structure, the adjacency and the length to fit right in and bind itself with the keratin chains.” In short, it mimics the covalent bonding which happens naturally and therefore, “feels at home” inside of your hair.
K18’s ability to fit into the hair’s structure with biomimetic precision, makes it significantly harder to rinse out. Not that you need to. While a standalone Olaplex treatment requires a shampoo removal and around twenty minutes to process, K18 is left in after shampooing and boasts less than half of the former’s processing time. In the world we live in today, beauty takes time and time is money. So from where I’m sitting, science is really, really pretty.
Laura Powers (2021). Author retains ownership, reuse or reprint by permission only.