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Salon vs. Drugstore: Where Should You Buy Your Haircare Products?

Salon vs. Drugstore: Where Should You Buy Your Haircare Products?

The retail area is super pretty at Pin Curls Salon.

A couple weeks ago, I came across this great article about product diversion. If you aren’t familiar with the process of diversion and what it means to you as a consumer, I highly recommend the article, but I’ll give a brief explanation.

Many haircare lines are intended for sale in salons only. Salons receive products directly from the manufacturer, and they are guaranteed to be authentic and fresh. However, shady salon owners and distributors sell the product to a third party, often overseas. The product is compiled and eventually sold to mass retailers like CVS or Target. Because the products have gone through a third party, sat in a warehouse for an undisclosed amount of time, and gone halfway around the world and back, these products are often quite old.

Believe it or not, products do have a shelf life. This is becoming even more true due to consumer demand for more natural ingredients and fewer additives, like preservatives. At a salon, you buy fresher products and gain the benefit of a professional’s recommendations for your hair. If these reasons aren’t enough, you should know that products at mass retailers are usually MORE expensive because they’ve passed through an extra hand.

As a hairstylist, I was so happy to see such a great article about this topic. It reminded me of one I wrote a while ago on my blog, Parlor. Then I read the comments.

I was a little surprised to see how many people were willing to disregard the information entirely as greed on the part of the hairstylist writing the article. I was offended for several reasons and felt the need to defend the author and hairstylists in general.

Yes, hairstylists most often receive a small commission on product sales. I emphasize small. It’s certainly not enough to lose the trust of a client. And when it comes to product diversion, it’s beside the point. I want my clients and all consumers to be aware of the facts. And diversion is how salon products end up in mass retail outlets. Period.

The other reason I was offended is because the attitude of many of the comments seemed mean spirited. Perhaps I was being sensitive, but the underlying sentiment felt an awful lot like, “Screw hairstylists. They just want to sell you products.” This baffles me. The fact that your stylist receives commission should be a reason to buy from them, right? Assuming you like him or her, of course. You are helping them and a small business while purchasing something that you already need to buy. And it’s less expensive and a professional’s recommendation is included. I don’t understand how this isn’t added value for less.

When you visit a dermatologist and they tell you should use a certain product on your skin, you value their opinion, right? Isn’t that part of why you are there? I consider it part of my job to recommend products and tools that maintain the health of my clients’ hair and create the styles they are after. I’m not interested in being pushy, only in sharing my expertise.

The truth is that diversion hurts salons, and many are already struggling in this economy. I would much rather my clients buy their products from competing salons than from Walgreens. I wouldn’t receive a penny, but at least they would get a fresh product at a lower cost and help a small business in the process.

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