Are Salon Products Better?

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

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.

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 better than the products sold at your local grocer, but that is only the simple answer to a rather complex question.

1.  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 and lock in moisture.  These quality ingredients contribute to the cost of the product and is why they are not typically found in store bought products.

The remaining ingredients are largely consumer appeal ingredients, or what we call 'fluff'.  These contribute toward 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 ingredient to keep your eye on is the surfactant.  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 to good cleaning.

Of late there have been rumors making their way about the Internet that sodium laureth sulfate causes cancer.  To the best of our knowledge this is pure bunk.  In all likelihood this rumor was circulated by over the counter manufacturers to combat salon products taking an ever greater hold on consumer preference.  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.

2.  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.  Our current personal favorites are, Graham Webb Classic, Graham Webb Intensives, Graham Webb Head Games, American Crew, M.O.P., and Dudley's for African American hair, but there are many more good lines.

3.  I bought the salon products and they didn't work, or they worked for awhile and then didn't work anymore.  What's up with that?

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