Reylena asks…Talking with my hairdresser she suggested that I use Oribe products which they sold at the salon. I told her that I was very well pleased switching off between my Aveeno and Garnier products, and asked her what was so special about this Oribe line of hair care that justified the price outside of smell and a pretty bottle. To this she told me that Oribe products are made with premuim grades of basic ingredients such as sulfates and silicone. And that the cones in drugstore products where made with cheaper, inferior, weaker silicone and sulfates. While I understand that their are different types of cones, and i’m sure that they all work a little different. However always I thought that good old Dimethicone would be the same bought in bulk by any company, for any product. Or are there truly different grades of quality?
The Right Brain responds:
This question comes from a discussion in our Forum where Reylena commented that her stylist “looked like I punched her in the face when I told her I use drug store brands.” Thanks for making me smile, Rey.
Higher cost does not mean higher quality…
As you suspected, your stylist is a bit misinformed. As we’ve explained before, stylists are often at the mercy of whatever they’re told by the salon companies which is often inaccurate, to say the least. In this particular case, it is NOT true that salon products buy higher quality grades of cosmetic ingredients than companies that make retail products. Having spent over 40 years in the beauty industry, we’ve worked with all the major suppliers of cosmetic raw materials and we can assure you that there is not a two-tiered pricing structure for retail and salon.
…but there are differences between ingredients
It is true, however, that you can purchase better types of ingredients. For example we wrote how the more expensive Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) is milder than the less expensive Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). And it’s true that you can buy different grades of a given raw material that may function differently. For example, a high molecular weight dimethicone can condition better than a lower weight of the same material. BUT, and this is the important part, all these different ingredients (and different versions of ingredients) are available to anyone in the industry who wants to purchase them.
Some ingredients are exclusive
So are we saying that there are no ingredients that are exclusive to certain companies? No, we’re not saying that at all. There are (at least) two situations where a company may be able to purchase (or at least use) a type of ingredient that is not available to any other company. The first situation occurs when a company has an exclusive purchasing agreement with a supplier.
It’s not uncommon in the industry for a raw material supplier to go to a beauty company and say something like “Hey I will give you exclusive rights to this raw material if you can guarantee me you will buy a kabillion pounds every month for the next 20 years.” However, and again this is the important point, this kind of arrangement only works when the beauty company is able to buy a large enough quantity of the raw material to justify the deal.
In other words, big companies who will buy a lot of a raw material are given the opportunity for these exclusive arrangements. And guess what? Most salon brands are not big enough to justify these kind of deals. If a large manufacturer who owns salon brands (like P&G, Unilever or L’Oreal) enters into an exclusive raw material agreement they’re likely to leverage that raw material across as many brands as possible to make the use of it more profitable. The small salon companies just can’t afford to do this.
Patents can be exclusive
The other situation which can lead to one company having an exclusive use of a raw material involves patented technology. If a company has patented a certain application for an ingredient or combination of ingredients they may have exclusive rights to the use of that ingredient under certain circumstances. But guess who has the deep pockets required to research and develop new patented technologies? That’s right, it’s not the small exclusive salon brands.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
With all due respect to stylists (who really are haircutting artists and not technical gurus) salon companies do not buy better grades of raw materials than companies who make drugstore or other retail brands. So, spending more money on salon products does NOT guarantee you’re getting a better quality product.
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