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Are salon ingredients higher quality? Episode 03

In this week’s show we answer a question from Reylene who said her stylist told her that salon products are made with premuim grades of basic ingredients such as sulfates and silicone. Or are there truly different grades of quality?

Show notes

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.

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Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Xin November 22, 2013, 2:09 am

    Wow, I used to be under the same impression in thinking that salons used higher quality products on a completely different level than what everyday people are able to get their hands on. I had to eventually accept is about money. You think you’re paying more because of quality, but no! I read a blog on SearchBeautyBook that talked about hair extensions and how salons could charge 2 to 3 times normal cost for something as simple as human hair… Do your research ladies and pay for what you mean to pay for.

  • Savannah November 25, 2013, 4:37 pm

    I saw that too! & yes, we need to be more informed.

  • Becci July 16, 2014, 11:12 am

    LOVE YOUR SHOW! I am a hairdresser and have always disbelieved the diversion hype and yes if the complains didn’t want the to happen, like the claim, they could stop it…
    I tell my clients to use what they like best and if bar soap on their hair and they have beautiful hair, scalp and their colors and perms take well then for goodness sake use bar soap! I have tried bar soap and it is horrible on my hair but my dad has use it most of his life and loves it. He even has a full head of hair at 79 yrs old! I’d like to add that the retail in my studio salon helps me with paying my rent etc. so I don’t have to raise my service prices as often. Clients forget that my costs go up and that I have to pay bills too!

    • Randy Schueller July 16, 2014, 6:05 pm

      Becci: Thanks for your comments, especially since you’re so open minded about what people should use on their hair. We love fans like you!

  • Karen Johnston August 18, 2016, 6:45 pm

    I wonder if the arguments that you are using here apply to the Living Proof brand as well. Am I being sold a bill of goods when being told that the Living Proof scientists have developed their own formulas that differ significantly from lower cost brands?

    • Randy Schueller August 18, 2016, 10:08 pm

      It depends on which product you’re talking about but I have seen Living Proof use some differentiated technologies in their hair care products.