Are Salon Hair Products Really Better?
by: Damien R. von Dahlem / Hairstyles Magazine
You left the salon with a bag of goodies that your stylist swore you could not live without, and now you wonder if what they sold you is nothing more than well packaged snake oil.
The simple answer is that salon products are for the most part much better than the products sold at your local grocer, but that is only the simple answer to a rather complex question.
What makes salon products better than over the counter products?
Ingredients. When you examine the ingredient list on a bottle of shampoo, what you see listed first is what there is most of in the bottle and so on until the end of the list which is what there is least of in the bottle.
The first ingredient will frequently be water and the last ingredient is often a dye. Toward the top of the list you will notice an ingredient such as ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium laurel sulfate, or sodium laureth sulfate.
These are surfactants. Their purpose is to make water wetter, or to put it differently, to help the cleaning agents lather. A surfactant can also be a cleaning agent
in and of itself. Salon products should contain gentler surfactants than your store bought shampoo.
You will then see some conditioning agents listed. Your salon shampoo should contain higher quality protein based conditioners or moisturizing conditioners, thus enabling the conditioner to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft or scalp and lock in moisture. These quality ingredients contribute to the cost of the product and is why they are not typically found in store
The remaining ingredients are largely consumer appeal ingredients, or what we call 'fluff'. These contribute towards color, aroma, and consumer buzz words such as honey and aloe.
Although it is true that honey can have beneficial affects on your hair, it is very unlikely that it can do anything in the quantity available in the bottle. Honey is added as an ingredient to appeal to your idea of what is good, whether it is based on scientific fact or not. Aloe is nothing more
than water unless it is 'stabilized' aloe.
Lastly, a few ingredients are stabilizers and preservatives, but the most important ingredients to keep your eyes on are the surfactants. We prefer the sodium laureth sulfate. It is the gentlest of the surfactants but will lather very little which is why most shampoos won't use it. Consumers believe their hair isn't getting clean unless there are tons of bubbles. In truth lather has no beneficial affect and contributes little toward good cleaning.
Of late there have been rumors making their way around the Internet that 'sodium laureth sulfate' causes cancer. To the best of our knowledge this is pure bunk. To the contrary, it is our opinion that the 'sodium laureth sulfate' is infinitely safer than the 'ammonium laurel sulfate' which is usually found in the cheaper brands.
Which is the best product line?
Salon products vary in their quality and many product lines were build around only a few exceptional products, with the remainder being only average. To address this problem it should behoove a salon to carry a good variety of product lines to address the needs of all clients.
The rest is a matter of consumer preference to aroma, color, and packaging.
Sadly, very few stylists know anything about ingredients, (or for that matter the manufacturer reps), and what they do know is what the manufacturers have told them, which is to say the least questionable data.
In our salon we list two common ingredients on the back board every week and stylists are expected to learn what their benefits and detriments are. Stylists are then quizzed on these ingredients on a regular basis. You might want to recommend to your salon that they do the same. Hair is 90% chemistry, and 10% creativity. (This comment is certain to result in letters of choice words for me).
If your products didn't work at all, chances are your stylist prescribed the wrong product for your hair. It is not a reflection on the line itself, but of the stylist or the salon.
If the product worked at first but then stopped working after a few months, chances are that the climate changed. Products that are right for you during one season are not always the best during another. There is also the possibility that the stylist prescribed the wrong product for you or that you are undergoing hormonal changes.
What about salons that carry ten or more lines?
Many of these are what we call "phantom" salons. Typically they have a large store front brimming with salon products and a few salon stations tucked away in the back. They are more dedicated to selling retail than meeting their clients needs. There is simply no way you can carry that many products and really understand the benefits to any of them.
The only reason these salons even bother to cut hair is because they are not otherwise allowed to sell salon-only products. They are really retailers, hence the term "phantom" salon. I would not buy my products there as you also run the risk of purchasing low quality fakes (counterfeit products).
What about salons that carry only one line?
I also frown on what we call concept salons. A salon should never be a slave to a manufacturer. When a salon does this they are more concerned about what is good for the manufacturer than what is good for the client.
My salon has put me on a line of pure organic products, is that good? Yes, its great, but unless they actually blended the products right there from fresh ingredients, its also bull hooey. You simply cannot create a store line without preservatives. The ingredients would spoil before the product made it onto the shelf.
Almost nobody has dandruff, and those who do need prescription medication. Dandruff is not flakes. Flakes are caused by dry scalp, not dandruff. The dandruff shampoo industry has made billions convincing Americans that they have dandruff. Dandruff is like a yellow or gray oily powder and clumps together in little balls, not flakes. If you use a good shampoo and conditioner, your scalp will soon stop flaking. I know. I used to be a diehard dandruff shampoo user.
Hopefully this gave you some insight into the salon product world and all of the traps out there to get your buck.
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