There has been much debate as to whether products we purchase at the drug store compare to products in salons. As a consumer, it’s important that we educate ourselves on why we purchase products, especially when it comes to what we put on our bodies. As a licensed professional, I can say that purchasing products from the drug store can not only be harmful to your hair, but can also undo the hundreds of dollars (and hours) spent to make your hair look beautiful at the salon in an instant. However, that means nothing without knowing exactly why that is.
The straight up garbage drug store companies are trying to sell to you and some science:
Thanks to the accessibility of information these days, we hear words like sulfates and parabens and know they shouldn’t be in our products. But what do these words mean and why don’t we want to put them on our bodies?
First, some science.
Sulfates are what help your shampoo foam and give you that squeaky-clean feeling. That sounds good, right? So, what gives? High concentrations of sulfates cause cell damage and strip the natural oils away from hair, forcing it to dry out and become damaged. But that’s not all, your skin is also affected by sulfates. Some people are more likely to experience contact dermatitis (a severe skin irritation and painful rash) when exposed to sulfates. Additionally, sulfates have been linked to male hair loss as a result of contact dermatitis. Parabens are commonly used preservatives in cosmetics. They prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Sounds like another good thing, right? Wrong. Some parabens mimic the activity of estrogen and in extreme cases are linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues in females. Parabens can also cause contact dermatitis and even rosacea. These are the same chemicals that have been put in our shampoo and conditioner since the 1950’s. It’s outdated. So why are they still being used? In short, it’s inexpensive. Drug store brands thrive knowing that consumers would rather not investigate what is going on their bodies and just spend less. How annoying is that? Not only that, but drug stores dilute their products with waxes, silicones, and other unpronounceable garbage to make you think you’re outwitting your stylist and getting a good deal. But the truth is, after all the additives, you really can’t call what you’re using shampoo. Commonly, I get clients that claim their hair feels better when they use Pantene or Suave. It may feel better, but unfortunately this comes from the fillers (waxes and silicones) doing what they’re good at. They coat your hair, leaving it feeling silky and smooth. What they’re really doing, is suffocating your hair follicle. This is also why clients often feel like the expensive products from the salon don’t work. They have to literally dig through all that wax and buildup to resurrect and salvage your hair, and that takes time once damage has been done.
Okay, so I can’t buy drug store products, but what about those professional products I see at the grocery store?
This is a bigger, more controversial issue than you may think. Most salon-quality brands have what’s called an “anti-diversion” policy. This basically means that genuine products can only be guaranteed when purchased from salons. So why do you see them at your local Safeway or Walmart? Well, at the warehouses that package and send out products, some of those products are set aside and stored until the barcode on the product becomes expired. They are then issued a new barcode and sold to retailers despite the effectiveness of the product. This is why you might find these salon quality products heavily discounted. Retailers also sell diverted products. Simply put, diverted products are diluted, expired, or altogether knockoffs. Feel cheated yet? You definitely should.
Why your stylist pressures you to buy the expensive stuff
Ultimately, we want your investment to last. You spend hours at the salon, trusting your stylist to wave their magic wand and make you feel like a Victoria’s Secret model and the truth is we want you to feel like that all the time. The products we recommend to you are exactly the same ones we’re using on you. It’s not a trick or a trap.
Let’s go back to what we were talking about before: sulfates, parabens, and fillers. While they aren’t nonexistent in salon quality products, the inexpensive fillers are swapped with good, nursing ingredients that are highly concentrated, instead of watered down. As a result, you don’t need to use a whole handful of shampoo and conditioner in the shower. Most styling products require less than a dime size to be effective. This means exactly what you think it means. You are actually saving money using these products. Yes, the initial investment may seem steep and we get it. If at the end of your appointments you still don’t believe that it was the product that worked its magic, or if your stylist is actually a witch, many stylists would happily give you samples to take home just so you can be sure.
The bottom line
No, drug store products are not comparable to the products you purchase at your salon. In fact, they may as well be called something different entirely. They ruin your hair, steal your money, and lie to you all in one fell swoop. Trust your stylist. Unlike drug stores, we don’t want to steal your hard-earned money.