InStyle October 24, 2022



The 10 Best Bond Builders for Hair in 2022


Olaplex No. 8 Bond Intense Moisture Hair Mask is remarkable at reviving hair.

Between coloring, styling, and even brushing, we put our hair through a lot every single day — and many of us have the damage to prove it. That’s why bond building hair products can be your best friend. No matter if your hair is thick or thin, pin-straight or curly, hair bond treatments can benefit every type of hair.

Even if you don’t have visibly damaged hair, most of us have some damage (especially if you heat style often), so it’s still a good idea to use a bond builder. Since the concept of bond building has become mainstream, so many brands have been unveiling their take on bond repairing products — making the market oversaturated. That’s why we consulted with leading hair industry experts to find the bond builders actually worth the money. Unsurprisingly, the original bond builder Olaplex No. 8 Bond Intense Moisture Hair Mask landed our top spot for its remarkable results that will completely change your hair. 

No matter what state your hair is in, keep reading to find the 10 best bond builders for hair.

Best Overall: Olaplex No.8 Intense Bond Moisture Mask

What We Love: The results from a single treatment can last for weeks. 

What We Don’t Love: The scent could be better.

A true game-changer in the hair world, this mask is a go-to for pros everywhere. “Olaplex is the original bond protector,” says Tina Deeke, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “It works great to protect hair from coloring or other chemical services. Their shampoo, conditioner and styling products are great accessories to layer after your coloring service for lasting benefits. I’m a big fan of the No. 8 Bond Intense Moisture Hair Mask to use before blow drying hair — [hair] feels great after using [it].”

The concentrated mask is powered by Olaplex Bond Building Technology, which is proven to relink hair bonds damaged by styling, heat, and chemical services. The repairing formula boosts moisture, shine, body, and smoothness on all hair types and textures. It works by penetrating the hair strands and sealing in active ingredients for ongoing effectiveness. The results from a single treatment can be felt for weeks, with overall hair health improving with continued use. The mask is pretty much a miracle in a bottle, but the scent is just okay — regardless, that minor inconvenience is fully worth the end result. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 3.3 oz. | Hair type: All | Formula Type: Mask

Best for Brittle Hair: Living Proof Triple Bond Complex Leave-in Hair Treatment

What We Love: The formula targets and strengthens all three types of bonds in hair.

What We Don’t Love: While you don’t need to use heat to activate it, you’ll get the best results when heat styling.

“Current technologies on the market tend to only address one or two types of bonds found in hair (with varying effectiveness), leading to results that aren’t necessarily on par with healthy, undamaged hair,” says celebrity colorist Jenna Perry, who is an ambassador for Living Proof. “Living Proof’s Triple Bond Complex uses a breakthrough, patent-pending technology designed to create and repair all three types of bonds in the hair [hydrogen, ionic, and covalent], and construct a 3D network within strands, which improves their core strength and delivers both immediate repair and lasting protection against future damage for hair that looks and feels like new.” 

Another major perk is it works on every single hair type and all types of damage, even for virgin hair. “Hair is softer, smoother, and more manageable, color looks more vibrant, and you have less breakage after one use,” Perry says. “It’s honestly my secret weapon for every client, especially those with color transformations or bleach.” 

Apply to clean, damp hair and comb through, then wait approximately 10 minutes and blow dry. Adding the heat activates the permanent covalent bonds, which are the bonds that give your hair lasting results. A full blowout isn’t necessary, since even just a little bit of heat will give you better results. If you’re dedicated to air-drying, you won’t get the full experience, but you’ll still see some benefit. 

Price at time of publish: $45

Size: 1.5 oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: No-rinse cream

Best Value: L'Oréal Paris Bond Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner

What We Love: There aren’t any bells or whistles — simply use it as you would any other shampoo and conditioner. 

What We Don’t Love: The fragrance is strong for a hair product. 

Coloring your hair is one of the most common ways to sustain damage — and one of the most destructive. But the great thing about this power couple is it can replace your typical shampoo and conditioner, meaning nourishing damaged strands won’t require any extra effort. After just six uses, this shampoo and conditioner will help strengthen and repair hair bonds weakened by hair color, bleach, or damage. 

Designed for colored hair, you can rest assured knowing this will go easy on your hue and won’t fade it. The formula penetrates the layers of hair strands to strengthen from the inside out, boosting hair’s resilience to daily stressors to help prevent future damage. It leaves hair silky smooth, proving you don’t have to break the bank to get results with this drugstore duo. While we’re sure you’re used to fragranced hair products, this duo has a pungent scent — it’s not bad in any way, but can be overpowering. 

Price at time of publish: $18

Size: 6.8 fl oz. | Hair Type: All (but best for colored hair) | Formula: Shampoo and conditioner

Best Splurge: K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask

What We Love: It instantly improves hair texture.

What We Don’t Love: It needs to be worn for four minutes to fully activate, so you'll need to keep a timer on hand when using this.

For Deeke, the K18 Mask is one of her secret weapons for bond repair. “It helps reverse damage that might not be visible to you, and provides protection for [future] coloring,” she says. “Hair is repaired, feels great, and looks so shiny.”

Apply the leave-in treatment mask to damp hair after shampooing (it’s best to skip the conditioner) and wait four minutes for it to work its magic and reverse damage. What sets this formula apart is its hero ingredient, the patented K18Peptide, which has the right size and molecular structure to penetrate the inner layers of hair to reconnect broken keratin chains, working to improve the strength and elasticity of hair. It works on all hair types and textures and can mend damage from heat, color, bleach, and chemical treatments. Expect stronger, softer, and smoother hair that has body and life once again. Make sure to save this for days when you have a few extra minutes to spare, because you won’t reap all the benefits if you rinse it out before four minutes. 

Price at time of publish: $75

Size: 1.7 oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Mask

Best Weekly Treatment: Bumble and Bumble Bb. Bond-Building Repair Treatment

What We Love: It’s easy to swap out your conditioner for this once a week. 

What We Don’t Love: Some might find the scent — a blend of blood orange, guava flower, passionflower, jasmine, and wild orchid — too overpowering.

It’s all about that honey, honey! This weekly treatment is powered by a Honey Bond-Building Complex that works to build new bonds, ultimately strengthening and repairing hair. The formula also features wildflower honey and honey ferment, which boosts hair’s elasticity to stop breakage in its tracks. Whether your hair is heat-, chemical- or color-damaged, this gets to work to minimize frizz, detangle, smooth the hair cuticle, and add shine. It works on all textures and types to improve hair health from the cortex to the cuticle. 

After shampooing, apply the treatment in the shower from roots to ends for five minutes. To make the most of it, you can press the product into the hair (especially where it needs help the most) so that it penetrates strands more deeply. Not only does it help erase damage from the past, but it prevents future damage, too. While we love the tropical scent, it’s super strong and can linger throughout the day — it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not our favorite either. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Size: 4.2 oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Rinse-out cream

Best Leave-In Conditioner : Redken Acidic Perfecting Leave-In Conditioner

What We Love: The leave-in formula is a cinch to use.

What We Don’t Love: It can weigh fine hair down. 

No matter the type of damage — we’re talking from coloring or heat styling — this leave-in conditioner will revive your mane by strengthening it and fortifying weakened bonds, leading to less breakage. You can thank its concentrated bonding care complex for that, which makes hair more resilient. Spiked with citric acid, the alpha hydroxy acid works to reinforce weakened bonds. The multitasker also adds shine, fights frizz, and delivers heat protection up to 450 degrees.

Meant to be used as part of a system after their shampoo and conditioner, this leave-in is Redken's most concentrated all-in-one formula. It also works to balance the pH of your hair, putting it back in a healthy range of 4.5 to 5.5. While this isn’t the case for everyone, it has the tendency to weigh fine hair down, so you may want to stick to this if you have thick strands. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 5.1 oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Leave-in conditioner

Best Heat Protectant : Color Wow Dream Cocktail Kale-Infused Strengthening Leave In Treatment

What We Love: It cuts breakage in half after just one use.

What We Don’t Love: It’s heat activated, so not ideal for air drying. 

We all know the health perks that come with sipping a green juice — consider this kale-spiked leave-in the equivalent for your hair. Kale extract is loaded with sulfur, which aids in repairing the sulfuric bonds in hair. The formula features blue sea kale to strengthen and protect from heat and color damage, as well as kelp extract to hydrate, protect hair color, and fortify hair. Amino acids and vitamin B also pitch in to strengthen strands.

The proprietary blend has been clinically tested to ensure that it cuts hair breakage from combing in half after a single use. Simply spritz this onto damp hair — we’re talking all textures and types — before heat styling to activate the anti-breakage treatment. Then it’s ready to work its magic to stop split ends and damage. If you prefer to air dry your hair, you may want to skip this though, because it works best when a little bit of heat is involved. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 6.7 fl. oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Leave-in cream

Best Overnight Treatment : IGK Antisocial Overnight Bond Building Dry Hair Mask

What We Love: You don’t need to wash or rinse this out. 

What We Don’t Love: The scent is polarizing. 

Talk about getting your beauty sleep! Not only does IGK Antisocial Overnight Bond Building Dry Hair Mask work while you catch your zzz’s, but it’s extremely easy to use. Unlike most hair masks, you won’t need to shampoo or rinse this one out (or even re-style your hair) in the morning. All you have to do is spritz it in before bedtime and then brush it out before you hit the hay. 

The clever dry formula features leave-in bond-building technology to strengthen and repair, while vegan silk proteins soften and smooth. It won’t leave any mess or residue behind, but it will fight frizz, split ends, and breakage, all while adding shine. Sweet dreams! 

Price at time of publish: $34

Size: 5 oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Spray

Best for Blondes: Matrix Unbreak My Blonde Reviving Leave-In Treatment

What We Love: It deeply conditions and nourishes even the most over-processed hair.

What We Don’t Love: It’s designed specifically for blonde hair, so other hair colors should try something else.

No one needs to know if you’re not a natural blonde. While your secret is safe with us, bottle blondes should know that they’ve likely done more damage to their hair. The darker your natural color, the more processing it takes for you to go blonde. That’s where Matrix Total Results Unbreak My Blonde Reviving Leave-in Treatment comes in. Think of it as a purple shampoo times infinity. In fact, it’s best to wash with its matching purple shampoo and conditioner before slathering on this leave-in treatment, which will leave hair three times stronger. 

Spiked with citric acid to improve shine and softness, it also helps to strengthen weakened hair bonds. Consider it a cure for over-processed hair, leaving it softer, shinier, and smoother. 

Price at time of publish: $24

Size: 5.1 oz. | Hair Type: All (but best for blondes) | Formula: Leave-in cream

Best Quick Solution: Amika Kure Multi-Task Repair Treatment

What We Love: It heals hair in just one minute.

What We Don’t Love: You’ll have to use a lot of product to thoroughly saturate hair.

Say goodbye to damage in 60 seconds — that’s how long it takes for this fast-acting treatment to repair, strengthen, and hydrate hair. Rinse it out after just one minute and you’ll see (and feel) how the Bond Cure Technology works, softening hair and even preventing future damage. The color-safe formula addresses split ends, and the smart complex zones in on the most abundant hair bonds to boost efficacy. The formula is also spiked with vegan proteins and plant butters, as well as sea buckthorn, which is loaded with fatty-acid omega 7 for stronger strands.

To maximize its abilities, apply it after conditioner and leave it on for at least one minute before rinsing. For heftier damage repair, you can also apply it to damp hair and use it as a leave-in treatment.

Price at time of publish: $29

Size: 6.7 fl oz. | Hair Type: All | Formula: Rinse-out cream

What to Keep in Mind

Chemical Treatment

While every hair type and texture can benefit from hair bond builders, those who have chemically treated hair (i.e. colored or chemically straightened) or regularly use heat products will see significant improvement in hair integrity when using bond builders. This is because using chemicals and heat styling can severely damage hair. If you regularly color your hair, try L'Oréal Paris Bond Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner — it’s specially formulated for those with colored hair, and rebuilds the bonds severed by continual dye treatments. Though the shampoo and conditioner duo works for colored hair of all types, we recommend trying Matrix Total Results Unbreak My Blonde Reviving Leave-in Treatment for those with blonde hair. Using this won’t just repair hair, but also prevent brassiness, extending your time between salon visits. 

Formula Type

Hair bond builders come in a variety of formulas — from leave-in treatments and masks to shampoos and sprays. Selecting the specific formula type all comes down to your preference. Masks, like our best overall pick Olaplex No. 8 Bond Intense Moisture Hair Mask, are pretty straightforward to use: Simply apply it after shampooing then rinse it out after a few minutes. If you’d rather not deal with the hassle of re-rinsing your hair, opt for a leave-in treatment like Redken Acidic Perfecting Leave-In Conditioner. And if you want to wake up to stronger hair that doesn’t need to be restyled, try an overnight product. Our favorite is IGK Antisocial Overnight Bond Building Dry Hair Mask.

Your Questions, Answered

What are hair bonds?

Hair is made of a strong protein called keratin. Keratin is complex, and held together by bonds. There are three types: Disulfide, which is a strong connector; and hydrogen in salt bonds, which aren’t as strong but still play a major role in overall hair health. Essentially, the bonds in your hair are what hold your hair together and give it strength.

What is a bond builder for hair?

“Bond builders help return hair to a healthy state,” says Nunzio Saviano, stylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon. “They work by strengthening weak, damaged, and fragile hair that has begun to break from excessive chemical treatments (i.e., highlights) or extreme heat styling. They target the interior hair bonds that are the building blocks of strong, healthy hair. Chemical treatments and heat erode these bonds, causing them to become fragile and eventually break. By entering the cortex of the hair strand (keratin cells) they repair and support the interior structure, like a scaffolding on a building.”  

How often should you use a bond builder in your hair?

“Depending on the severity of damage, I suggest using a bond builder two to three times a week until you start to see a visible difference in the state of the hair,” Saviano says. “Once hair has begun to improve, you can use it weekly for maintenance.”

Why Trust InStyle

Celia Shatzman is a freelance writer for multiple publications including InStyle and Forbes, and has nearly two decades of beauty writing experience. Shatzman is a hair fanatic and consistently uses bond builders to strengthen her strands. She consulted three hair experts (Nunzio Saviano, stylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon, celebrity colorist Jenna Perry, and Tina Deeke, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago) to get more insight on hair bonds. She also researched customer reviews and feedback.