LifeSaver Vs Olaplex - Have you misunderstood too?

December 23, 2021

LifeSaver Vs Olaplex - Have you misunderstood too?

Human nature likes to take sides, and then dig heels in. Leave or Remain. Labour or Tory. Trump or anyone but. Taking a stand can be seen as virtuous or obstinate. It depends on the situation and the changing landscape. As one politician accused of flip-flopping said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”

The Facebook fan pages for Dyson Air Wrap discovered our LifeSaver products and stirred up two camps of loyalty. Thousands expressed their love for LifeSaver, going on to set up a breakaway Facebook 3MI fan page. For others, Olaplex had been their go-to product and they weren’t for changing. But I know that marketing can create a lot of spin and confusion so wanted to explain clearly the benefits of both.

Olaplex is a large American product company bought by private equity firm Advent in 2019. I run a small family business with 43 years hands-on-hair experience at the luxury end of hairdressing. I’ve also spent 40 years studying hair products - not for a degree or a job at L’Oreal,  but because I wanted to know deeply about what I should use in my clients’ best interests out of what was available in the world. The more I studied, the less I found attractive which led me on the journey to make my own, and keep abreast of new developments.

LifeSaver or Olaplex - Does it need to be either or?

We were introduced to Olaplex in the salon for our colourists back in 2015. The original professional products were Numbers 0, 1 and 2. and though I’ve never understood the hype, it seemed effective on hair severely damaged by bleaching or perming. We only use the original 3 professional products in the salon but not that much, perhaps because few of our clients have such badly damaged hair. So much colour damage is caused by poor colour strategy and clumsy application.

The ingredients of Number 1 were the key active chemical element Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, water and preservative. This active ingredient was the basis of all their marketing and now referred to as the ‘invention’. There are now hundreds of competitor ‘plexes for the professionals to choose from.

Whilst reconnecting some internal bonds, these products don’t leave a finished effect after colour processes, so salons would use their own finishing products. We actually found that as a pure treatment, Olaplex No.1 worked much better when mixed with LifeSaver Pre-wash Treatment. We do this in our colour department if there is a particular need with very damaged hair through overbleaching etc.

The new owners of Olaplex have serious financial targets to meet and are rolling out more products to be sold for retail direct to consumers. They are using the professional backstory to give the new products credibility to the mass market.

But from what I see, they’re following a playbook successfully used by Moroccan Oil to dupe the less informed. That is, to romanticise an ingredient that’s barely present, while making no mention of the plentiful silicone that’s varnishing the hair to give you the effect. Moroccan Oil’s story focused on an insignificant amount of Argan Oil while filling many formulae full of cheap silicone. These product formulae weren’t dissimilar to £4 versions at the supermarket but the marketing had people paying ten times that. Olaplex have now also recruited the ex-CEO of Moroccan Oil to roll out their programme and prepare the company for a public float. Numbers 1, 2 and 3. are the silicone-free professional originals. The later numbers 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 - shampoo conditioner, oil and new moisturisers have lots of silicones. For some, dimethicone and other silicones are the main active ingredients.

WARNING: The glassy effect of silicone on the day is very seductive but you cannot moisturise with silicone. Lubricate yes, as would engine oil. But moisture is water and silicone being hydrophobic, ultimately dehydrates the hair. Leaving it thinner, more brittle and prone to breakage. The build-up also makes the hair duller and less responsive over time.

Caring for the Planet  

The Plastic Soup Foundation have a watch list for substances thought to cause environmental harm. In their database, dimethicone (aka silicone) is on the top of the chart in the number one position because of its presence in so many personal care products.

Also known as polydimethylsiloxane or dimethylpolysiloxane, dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer. It’s part of their red list of microplastics because it’s been listed as an example of microplastics in the extensive reports of TAUW & ECHA. Dimethicone is poorly biodegradable, is expected to persist in the environment and expected to be toxic to sea life.


Olaplex - I don’t think Olaplex is a direct competitor to LifeSaver as it’s a different product type, so it’s not a choice of one or the other. LifeSaver is a regular treatment staple for all hair types. Olaplex professional (0, 1, 2) is specifically designed to repair some of the damage caused by severe bleaching and perming, so you can bleach and colour-change more.

So my feeling is that whilst the original 3 products may work professionally as claimed for people with very damaged hair, on their own they are not enough for the finished look. In rolling out further products, they have resorted to silicones to fake the effect for the mass market buyer that doesn’t understand or look too hard, and are seduced by the original science, and the silky feel on the hair.

All the latter product additions No. 4 - 8 use silicone to give the smooth effect. It seems that the later the product launch the more silicone they are putting in and the less of their original patented chemical. But as with most big brands, the marketing never mentions the silicone. Hair feels good today but ages faster with silicone, so I wouldn’t recommend them.

LifeSaver – My backstory includes decades of real-life use from tens of thousands of clients. LifeSaver mends and protects bonds in a natural way with the most bio-available complex for deep penetration, protection and repair. Hair feels naturally healthier and thicker. Used as directed you will get less shrinkage, less splitting, less breakage, less colour fade.

We don’t have the multimillion-dollar marketing budget of Olaplex but we do have thousands of 5 Star reviews from all over the world. People discover our products and know how it makes a genuine difference to their hair.

Michael Van Clarke

Further reading:

Why Silicone is Bad for Your Hair

Haircare Dirty Secrets #1

The Drug Pushers of Haircare

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