The Plex Phenomenon

By Denise Costrini, Croda North America | December 1, 2016

Croda details the hair-protecting qualities of bond multipliers and the company’s new bond-building formulation system.

An image that showed celebrity Kim Kardashian before and after a hair coloring treatment in which she went from a deep, dark brown to a platinum blonde quickly captured the attention of many consumers. What was so incredible about the image wasn’t simply the color change—it was the fact that the coloring process had seemingly caused no visible damage to her hair.

How had the social media trendsetter kept her hair looking healthy during a process that can result in so much hair damage for the rest of us? As it turns out, Kardashian used a salon treatment called Olaplex. This plex system became so well-known across the globe that many companies began launching their own versions of plex products, also known as bond multipliers, spawning an entirely new hair care category almost overnight. 

Why Plex Works 

To understand the success of plex products, we must consider the damage to the structure and integrity of the hair that occurs during the bleaching and coloring process. In the first step of the coloring process, the cuticle is lifted, which leaves the cortex exposed and compromised. After treatment, the lifted cuticles never return to a fully flat state, leaving the surface more vulnerable to mechanical damage and color loss.

When the cuticle is lifted during treatment, the high pH peroxide bleach or color mixture penetrates the cortex, which further weakens the hair by breaking disulfide bonds and making the hair brittle and prone to breakage. The hair is damaged by this process; creating a market opening for products that improve hair integrity and build bonds to help it return to its undamaged state. Plex systems claim to aid in this process by building bonds.

Consumers, salons and hair care companies seek to prevent or mitigate the damage from the coloring process. Plex systems are positioned as a color service upgrade in salons at an extra cost to the consumer. They claim to offer dramatic changes, typically in a multiple step system, with claims centering on bond building. Step 1 is incorporated into the coloring or bleaching system at the salon, with claims centering on bond building. Step 2 is applied after the color treatment in a finishing step at the salon with claims focusing more on restoration and hair aesthetics. Step 3 is a take-home product designed to improve hair health between treatments. ­

Croda’s Solution

Croda created Croda Plex, a three-step formulation system designed and proven to provide plex solutions. Formulations and data for Steps 1 and 2 have been launched first in order to meet customer demand, with the third step launch coming soon.

The heat-activated Croda Plex system builds bonds upon blow drying. It increased bond building and improved hair integrity over the superbleached hair control (Figure 1).

Croda Plex also increased bond building and improved hair integrity over the commercial plex benchmark after Step 2 and blow drying (Figure 2).

In-house salon evaluations conducted by licensed cosmetologists showed that Croda Plex feels stronger than the commercial plex after Step 1, with strength being the most important attribute in Step 1. After Step 2, all wet attributes rated favorably and comparably to the commercial plex. Wet feel improved in both systems after Step 2, highlighting the importance of Step 2.

High Performance Ingredients

Ingredients were selected in the Step 1 and Step 2 formulations based on the desired claims and their performance. Crodasone Cystine and Keravis are included in the Step 1 formulation to build bonds and strengthen hair. Crodasone Cystine is a copolymer of the amino acid cysteine and a silane that covalently bonds to hair to impart conditioning benefits. Keravis is a powerful hair strengthening active that acts on all of the three fundamental parameters of hair strength: tensile properties, bending modulus and cuticle abrasion. These ingredients fuel Step 1 performance from an optimized formulation to achieve bond building and improve hair integrity. 

The Step 2 formulation includes Crodazosoft DBQ, Arlasilk PLN, and Crodasone P along with other high performance ingredients. The formulation is designed to improve hair aesthetics, offer color wash fastness, and strengthen and protect the hair. Crodazosoft DBQ delivers superior softening, even on aged hair, while defending against cuticle abrasion and helping to protect artificial color. Arlasilk PLN delivers excellent color lock benefit and imparts a long-lasting, silky feel to hair. Crodasone P offers heat activated cuticle defense, protects against damage caused by blow-drying, combing and styling, and defends against cuticle cracking. 

Considered by many to be a revolutionary treatment, bond multipliers are designed to build hair bonds and improve hair integrity. The prospect of bond building has tremendous appeal because hair bonds are broken during the damaging bleaching and coloring process. US sales of plex systems reflect that sentiment—they’ve increased 525% in 2015, according to Kline & Company. The upward global trend in plex sales and usage is likely to continue as more consumers become aware of the potential behind plex products.

There’s never been a better time to cater to consumer demand by harnessing the bond building power of the Croda Plex formulation system. 

About the Author
Denise Costrini is marketing manager, North America for Croda. For more information on plex, visit crodapersonalcare.com

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