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Are salon products in regular stores the same as those in salons?

I stumbled upon this question over at the excellent beauty blog Doryn’s Dish. Essentially, the reader wanted to know if the salon products that you buy at the local Kroger (general store) are the same as the ones you can buy at a salon. The answer referenced this story by a news team out of Fort Meyers, Florida. The story was so biased and misinformed I thought a balanced, insider response was needed. We’ll reproduce it here for our readers.

Interesting story. We are cosmetic chemists that work in the industry and know that this story is a bit skewed. If the news reporters wanted to get the “real” story, they shouldn’t be asking the head of Paul Mitchell because he is completely biased.

The truth is these salon brands depend on ‘diverted’ product to boost their sales. They want to have it both ways. They want to tell you that Paul Mitchell is a salon-only brand which makes it seem more exclusive, but they also want the high volume sales that they can only get through mass market outlets like your local Kroger. Additionally, they don’t want to anger their salon distributors because people are able to get the same stuff but for cheaper.

They make up this story of products being inferior. In nearly all cases, they are not.

The way diversion works is this. Paul Mitchell hires a company to manufacture their products. Then Paul Mitchell sales people get and fill orders from distributors. Distributors are legitimate businesses that sell directly to independent salons. The distributors can order as much as they want, then sell it to the salons who can then sell it to you.

Some of these distributors work directly with stores like Kroger, Albertsons, etc. So when these stores put in an order (a really big order compared to a salon) the distributors just order more product from Paul Mitchell to fill the Kroger order.

Paul Mitchell doesn’t even question the big orders because they like the extra sales. They turn a blind eye to what`s going on just so they can express public “outrage” that their product is being sold at the local drugstore. This is bunch of bunk.

The stuff you get at the local Kroger is every bit as good as the stuff you get at the salon. Don’t be fooled. If the folks at Paul Mitchell really wanted to stop these sales, they would simply question their distributors and find out who is selling to Kroger, or Target or Albertson.

The problem of counterfeiting is a real one, but it’s not something that you’ll find at large stores like Kroger. That company is not going to sell something contaminated because they would be sued in a heartbeat. The places that are a little more sketchy are the small shops (some salons) with the dust on top of the bottles. Those are the places you have to worry about.

Check out I Want That Hair.com for hair beauty products.

The Beauty Brains Bottom line…

You can trust that if you’re buying a salon brand from a regular store, there is no difference between it and the stuff you can get at a salon.

And if anyone from one of those salon brands sees it differently, they are welcome to respond to the Beauty Brains.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jackie Butcher July 16, 2014, 7:46 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a hair stylist and I don’t by into the “fell off the truck” theory or “those products are inferior to what salons have”. I mean seriously. They’d have to have two different formulas on the go all the time…..not cost effective. I hear so many stylist trying to justify to themselves so they can sell the product to their clients. I’ve been jaded by salon hair care products for years. Read the label, they are no different.

    • Randy Schueller July 16, 2014, 7:48 am

      Good points, Jackie! Thanks for the comment. (We always love to hear from stylists in our audience.)

  • Trisha Thompson June 28, 2015, 7:56 am

    I still believe in the power of stylists being able to properly perscribe correct professional hair and skin products to the public versus Grocery stores because of the bases of hair type hair texture and daily routines. Also, if bought by your stylist, (ahhemm), you will almost 99%of the time get a discount of 20% or more on your products in a salon. We can only guarantee products if sold in a salon. Where they are sold elsewhere I can’t say what they do or don’t do to them… but rip people off… I can say they do.

    • Alexandria Cummings November 17, 2018, 10:05 am

      You can have the stylist prescribe the product then go to Jewel or Walmart n buy it there. But supporting local businesses are a great idea versus giving these million dollar companies more money.

  • Jessie Harrison April 20, 2016, 6:16 pm

    I love to hear that there are stores that carry the same products as some salons. It’s sometimes a little too expensive to go to the actual salon, but not if you can get the supplies yourself. I need to find these stores that hold the products I’m looking for.

  • W September 28, 2016, 9:17 am

    is this the same for salon grade nail polishes as well (zoya, OPI) they claim to be very against diversion but I see them showing up at “unauthorized retailers” such as target and Walgreens

    • Randy Schueller September 28, 2016, 11:06 am

      Yes, this applies to nail polishes as well.

  • Carol A Champeau March 10, 2017, 8:36 pm

    thank you for the info. I was told by a salon that store bought was not the same