It's even better than the more expensive Olaplex version.

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Credit: Courtesy of: Elizavecca

Welcome to Game Changers, a weekly series in which we reveal the holy- grail beauty products we're loving now—the ones that saved our hair, cleared our skin, and, in some way, changed our lives.

In my eight years of being a bottled blonde, I've learned that maintaining your hair health requires a lot more TLC than I originally imagined. To be more specific, while it's easy to rely on a color shampoo and conditioner, I've realized that deep conditioning masks, leave-in-treatments, and hair oils have also definitely prevented my hair from becoming a lifeless brillo pad over the years.

But while my favorite products have never let me down, my colorist always nudges me to check out Olaplex each time I'm in for a double process. I can't say I blame her, as each time she uses Olaplex products during any coloring service, my hair (even if it isn't trimmed) feels absolutely invincible afterwards. However, as effective as these items (especially the Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector) may be, there's no doubt that the brand's at-home line is on the expensive side. Prices start at $14 and up, and that $14 is just for a mini-sized product. 

In my pursuit to find an inexpensive dupe to Olaplex's highly-popular hair treatment, I stumbled across the $7.50 Elizavecca CER-Collagen Coating Hair Protein Treatment. Some say it's better than the actual Olaplex version—after all, it has over 7,000 user reviews, plus a 4 1/2-star rating to boot. This product honestly seemed like a dream come true, as it was jam-packed with strengthening ingredients including soy protein extract, something my hair could probably use more of.  

Elizavecca CER-Collagen Coating Hair Protein Treatment
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The treatment's other ingredients include allantoin, which, according to the Environmental Working Group, is a naturally occurring nitrogenous compound used as a skin conditioning agent in cosmetics. Additionally, there's Ceramide 3, which is defined by the EWG as a hair conditioning agent. The Elizavecca product also contains pig collagen compounds (from pig gelatin), which makes it not suitable for vegans. (FYI, there are limited studies about the positive impacts pig collagen has on hair health, so it's worth considering that before you add one of these treatments to your shopping cart). 

I decided to use this hair protein treatment in lieu of my weekly hair mask (yes, I only shampoo once a week), in hopes it would bring my limp, dry, and damaged locks back to life. Thankfully, I didn't have to keep my fingers crossed too tight, as I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. With some help from a wide-tooth comb and a hair cap, I was able to distribute enough product from root-to-tip. I will mention that the product consistency is on the thin side, and the tube is pretty small, but it still was enough to coat my mid-length locks as a whole. It also smelled pretty good, which is always a plus. 

While some people like to leave hair masks on for a good 20 minutes, I always leave them on for an hour, considering all the damage I have done to my hair. When it came time to finally rinse my hair out, I was nervous; some leave-in masks and treatments I've tried in the past have left my head full of frizz, despite the many hair-boosting vitamins and antioxidants promised on the product label. But to my surprise, my hair was not only silky and smooth to touch when damp, but easy to detangle as it continued to dry, something I often struggle with after using similar products. Once my hair was completely dry, my thick hair wasn't oily, or weighed down by the product. Instead, it was the most glossy buttery blonde I could ask for. 

Credit: Courtney Leiva, HelloGiggles

So although this inexpensive treatment may not be a bonder that restores damaged hair like Olaplex, it's absolutely a godsend for bottled blondes like me who are trying to keep damage and breakage to a minimum. Besides, you really can't go wrong with that $7.50 price tag. And if you love it? You can always stock your vanity with two Elizavecca protein treatments for the price of one Olaplex product.