“I tried the new K18 shampoos and here are my honest thoughts”

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Hailey Bieber swears by the K18 viral hair mask and now the brand has launched two new shampoos. Here are Team Stylist’s honest thoughts on the K18 hair range.

With a long list of scientific credentials and heralded by celebrities and hairdressers alike (Hailey Bieber, Rihanna and Selena Gomez are all reported to be fans), K18 is a haircare brand that has recently taken the beauty industry by storm. The K18 hair mask went viral on TikTok earlier this year (more on that below) and now the brand has launched two new shampoos to the line-up. 

Promising stronger, healthier hair, the two shampoos – Peptide Prep™ Detox Shampoo and Peptide Prep™ pH Maintenance Shampoo – are designed with damage prevention at their core, while also helping to increase the efficiency of the cult K18 Leave-In Molecular Hair Mask.

So, how do the K18 shampoos and cult hair mask fare under the Stylist beauty team’s beady eyes? Read on for Stylist’s beauty editor Morgan Fargo’s full K18 hair mask review, plus beauty contributor Chloe Burcham’s thoughts on the two brand new shampoos, as well as a full explanation of how the science behind the range works and how often to use them.

K18 hair mask review

The volume of hair masks I’ve tried in my lifetime likely numbers in the hundreds. Initially, each one promised to transform/revive/rehydrate/soften (delete as applicable) my heat and colour-damaged hair. While many came close, a sudden change in weather, hormones or the way I chose to style my hair rendered them too heavy, too late or simply not effective enough. So, when I saw the K18 hair mask launch in the UK at Cult Beauty earlier this year, I knew I had to try it.

An innovative formula that doesn’t require rinsing, the K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask is suitable for all hair types (1a to 4c) – the only thing that changes between hair length and texture is the amount of product that is used.  

What is the K18 hair treatment?

At its base level, the K18 mask is a whole lot of science in one little bottle. Unlike bond-building treatments that repair broken disulphide bonds along the width of the hair, the K18 treatment repairs the hair’s core structure along the length and width of the hair.

The K18 Peptide (a patented molecule) is a unique bioactive peptide that repairs broken polypeptide (keratin) chains caused by bleach, colour, chemical services and heat. 

Championed with reversing the signs of damage and improving the strength, softness, smoothness and elasticity of the hair, the mask is applied to freshly washed and towel-dried hair and left for four minutes to “activate”. After the four minutes are up, you’re set to style and treat your hair as you would normally post-washing – no rinse necessary. 

Does the K18 hair mask help with hair growth?

Concerned more with treating hair damage than downward trajectory, the K18 hair mask is not a “growth” treatment per se. However, hair that has unaddressed damage won’t grow well. Repairing your hair using the mask could mean your hair is able to grow faster and more regularly. 

Rely on it for repairing the hair you do have, not for the hair that’s yet to come. A scalp scrub, scalp oil and scalp massager are all good add-ons to encourage healthy hair growth, too.

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How often can you use the K18 hair mask?

At the beginning of your K18 journey, it’s suggested that you use consecutively for four to six washes. Then, after you’ve completed that cycle, dial down to once every three to four washes. 

Remember, the routine goes: shampoo, towel dry, K18 hair mask, a four minute wait and then any of your usual styling rituals. You shouldn’t be applying a conditioner over the top or rinsing out the K18 hair mask. Trust the process. 

Is the K18 hair mask worth it?

And now for the bit you’ve been waiting for. What was the K18 hair mask actually like to use?

First of all, it was novel to shampoo, towel dry and go. While I normally wring out excess water from my hair before applying a hair mask (it helps product more effectively penetrate the hair shaft), I usually have to waste 10–15 minutes in the bath while a wash-out hair mask does its work. The K18 hair mask was speedy and slick; I was in and out in half the time. 

Using the handy dosage guide, I applied two pumps of product through my “long and fine” hair. It didn’t feel like nearly enough product (I’m not a “pea-size” type of person) but I knew I had to leave it to do its thing. 

Shop K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask at Cult Beauty, £25 (50ml)

Following up with heat protector, a comb through and a speedy blow-dry, my hair was soft and shiny – not lank or limp as I had feared. The mask saved me time, effort and did the same job as many of my wash-out masks. 

However, at £25 for 15ml and £55 for 50ml, it’s not a cheap option. When you consider the Olaplex No.8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask is £26 for 100ml, the difference in relative price per use is definitely something to consider. While they perform different functions (the K18 treatment isn’t washed out whereas the Olaplex mask is), everyone’s budget is individual.

Personally, I think the K18 hair mask is a genius product. It’s efficient and effective, and my colour and heat-damaged low-porosity hair drank it up. In future, I’ll focus the product more towards the mid-to-ends of my hair and much less near the root. It wasn’t that I had used too much product, more that I had been too judicious in applying it evenly to my head regardless of where the majority of the damage is. 

The K18 Peptide Prep Shampoo review

Both of the K18 shampoos landed on my desk a few weeks ago and I was eager to give them a good road-test. For context: I have bleached, heat-ravaged hair that I wash all too often (mainly because I like to swim a few nights a week at the gym and refuse to wear a hair mask), so it’s safe to say that my hair probably isn’t in tip-top condition. 

  • The Peptide Prep pH-Maintenance Shampoo is designed to be gentle enough to use every day, while still strong enough to break down and repel dirt and oil. Ideal for my daily gym visits. It’s loaded with plant-based surfactants, meaning you’re still able to get that ‘clean’ feeling, without stripping your hair of its essential natural oils. Plus, it’s micro-dosed with small amounts of the K18Peptide to help keep your hair in check. 

    Shop K18 Peptide Prep pH-Maintenance Shampoo at Cult Beauty, £39

    buy now

  • Next up is the Peptide Prep Detox Shampoo – a more robust version that’s designed for less frequent, heavy duty washing. I’ve only used this one a handful of times but really did feel a difference. It’s blended with salicylic acid and activated charcoal to fully cleanse your hair and scalp, plus unclog hair follicles and banish oil and dirt. I found that my blonde looked brighter after using this version as it seemed to strip away any dulling residue left on my hair. 

    Shop K18 Peptide Prep Detox Shampoo at Cult Beauty, £39

    buy now

My honest thoughts? At £39, they’re not cheap and, realistically, I don’t know if I’d spend that much – especially on a shampoo I use daily. They both smell great (a clean, citrusy scent) and I noticed a visible difference after just one wash using the Detox shampoo.

If you’re able to afford it (or if there’s a sale on!) they’re both great cleansing shampoos that really do leave your hair feeling soft, smooth and strong. 

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