First, a word on how the product is different from other bond-building products on the market. K18 isn’t your typical thick, heavily-scented hair mask that you keep posted up in the shower and let sit on top of your hair for seven minutes while you shave your legs. It still promises many of the same things those rinse-off masks do (shinier, bouncier, and stronger hair), but is actually a leave-in treatment that’s meant to be applied on shampooed, unconditioned hair — and it’s formulated totally differently, too.

Unlike traditional hair masks that coat the outside of your hair and make it appear seemingly smoother, shinier, and more hydrated, this one targets damage stemming from the innermost layers of hair. As hairstylist and K18 ambassador Amber Maynard Bolt explains, when you bleach or color your hair, undergo a chemical treatment, or apply heat, this can cause the keratin chains in the hair to break — which affects your hair’s strength and elasticity. According to cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, who’s unaffiliated with the brand, suggests that K18’s patented biomimicry technology (which is meant to mimic your natural, healthy hair structure) may “reconnect the broken bonds so that it renews your hair’s strength, softness, and smoothness.”

“K18 mimics the natural structure of keratin and [produces] the perfect size and molecular structure to reconnect those chains that are broken as a result of damage,” says Bolt. Essentially, it “[brings] the chains back to the state that they were before they got chemically damaged,” K18 cofounder and CEO Suveen Sahib previously told Allure. And, because the mask’s formula mimics keratin, the hair recognizes it as such, and thus, the benefits won’t be rinsed away when you subsequently shampoo your hair. Following so far? Good, let’s get into the testing portion.

Personally, I don’t deal with color or chemically-damaged hair — my damage stems from nearly two decades of heat styling and tight ponytails as well as environmental factors like UV and pollution. Though I was excited to test out the product, like many people who initially tried K18, I had my reservations. The idea of not using conditioner for several weeks freaked me out, and many of the before and after photos I had seen on this product weren’t from people with my hair type (my hair is thick, curly, frizzy, and dry, for the record). But alas, I gave it a go anyway.

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