We’ve all felt the pressure after a cut, color, or blow-out. Your hairdresser presents the final glistening hair-commercial-worthy result, and then subtly (or not so subtly) suggests all of the products that worked to create that look.
But after mentally adding up the price tags, and then comparing them to how much you could spend on similar stuff at a drugstore, you might think: is the extra price worth it?
As someone who has tried a plethora of beauty products on all ends of the price spectrum, here are some general guidelines:
The truth is that so many drugstore hair products — shampoo, hair serum, hair spray — can work perfectly fine, especially when considering the staggering price difference. Redken All Soft shampoo makes my hair beautifully manageable, but the results I get from Herbal Essences isn’t that different enough to warrant the splurge on a regular basis.
But there are very real reasons to choose salon products, such as when you have a certain hair problem (like scalp damage or over-processed hair), when you need professional advice, or when you want to support a local business. And there are just certain products that, for one reason or another, are worth the extra money — and that reason is typically better-quality ingredients.
- Consult with your hairdresser on which products would be most effective with your hair type.
- Check online for cheaper versions of salon products (unless, of course, you’d prefer to support the local business).
- Follow the directions before writing off an expensive purchase. Some products work best with heat, dampness, or with a small amount of product.
- Read the ingredients. Check out this handy guide for which ingredients to look for.
- Splurge on quality ingredients — not just a label. Drugstore shampoos tend to use harsh ingredients like sulphates and parabens (which can strip hair of natural oils), and they tend to be incredibly watered down. Instead, look for shampoos that don’t list “water” as the first ingredient, and that include ingredients like natural oils, antioxidants and botanicals.
- Think about the long-term purchase. Salon shampoos are typically higher concentrated (less water!), so you need less shampoo to lather.
- If you’re debating on which pricey products to buy, go with the one that protects and/or improves your hair over the products that add build-up or superficial benefits.
- Buy products out of pressure. Only buy what you’re sure you need.
- Buy pricey salon products based on online reviews or personal recommendations. Products work differently in different types of hair, so never expect miracle results. Again, this is where a hair consultation is important.
- Be duped by shampoo claims like “color extending” and “volumizing.” While many of these products do work to an extent, according to CBS News, regular shampoo usually does the job just fine.
- Buy everything that your hairdresser suggests. Odds are that some of those products are more necessary than others. Ask.
- Feel guilty if you can’t afford salon products.
Here are some of the salon products that I’m personally familiar with, and whether I think they’re worth the splurge:
Ouidad Botanical Boost 1 of 14
A blend of proteins and botanical extracts that naturally tames frizz and adds soft manageability
My thoughts: Ouidad is one of the most brilliant brands for curly hair, and although my hair isn't curly per se, this is my absolute favorite conditioning spray that I've used on my thick, naturally wavy hair (and I've used a lot of conditioning sprays). I absolutely dropped the cash on another bottle.
Verdict: If you have curly hair, absolutely find a salon with Ouidad-trained hairdressers. If you're looking for a lightweight frizz tamer that adds moisture and shine, I'd 100% say that this is worth the money.
Buy from Amazon, $15.51
Redken Quick Dry 18 Instant Finishing Spray 2 of 14
A fast-drying hairspray that holds without weighing down
My thoughts: I'm not a big fan of hairspray. The ones that work tend to leave a sticky film, and the ones that don't…don't. Yet this Redken hairspray not only has a nice firm hold, but it somehow makes my hair feel softer. It's not a miracle worker (my extra thick hair tends to defy all laws of hairspray), but it's the best thing I've found.
Verdict: If you have trouble finding a good hairspray (like me!), it's definitely worth a shot. Try it out in a salon before buying, if possible.
Buy from Amazon, $11.40
Kerastase Oleo Relax Serum 3 of 14
A finishing serum that nourishes, hydrates, softens, and de-frizzes hair with its "nutri-huile" complex
My thoughts: Liquid gold. Liquid gold, people. By far the best smoothing serum I've used, but it's not life-changing enough for me to drop the big bucks. (Not when my hair is in a mom bun 70% of the time.)
Verdict: Considering you can get a steep discount on sites like Amazon, and the fact that this bottle lasts a long time, I'd say the price could be worth it. I wouldn't spend $50 on it, though.
Buy from Amazon, $29.75
Moroccanoil Oil Hair Treatment 4 of 14
An Argan-oil-based hair finisher that's designed to bring hair back to life
My thoughts: I know several women who only splurge on this one hair product for its incredible results. In fact, my mom bought this hair treatment for the yummy smell — the shiny hair is just an added bonus.
Verdict: If you have over-processed, damaged hair that's on the thick side, this could be well worth the money. But for the high price tag, I'd expect it to have a higher concentrate of Argan Oil, which is something to keep in mind.
Buy from Amazon, $37.89
Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner 5 of 14
Tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender that leave your scalp tingling
My thoughts: My hair generally falls into the "normal" category, so I never splurge too much on shampoo. Yet this is a shampoo/conditioner combo that I often think about, only because it leaves such a refreshing, tingly feel.
Verdict: If you love that tingly scalp feeling, splurge on the shampoo and choose a less expensive (and perhaps better smelling) conditioner.
Buy from Amazon, $19.49
Aveda Color Conserve Shampoo 6 of 14
A plant-based shampoo with an organic scent
My thoughts: While my hairdresser friend warns against spending money on a color extending shampoo — she doesn't think they're worth it — this is, without a doubt, the best natural shampoo I've ever used.
Verdict: If you want to switch to a healthier, more natural shampoo, this one is worth the splurge. (And it's difficult to find one that actually works.)
Buy from Amazon, $26.45
Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Relaxing Balm 7 of 14
A pre-styling hair protector that smoothes hair and speeds up drying time
My thoughts: This is the one hair product that I've bought over and over again for years. It truly does cut down on drying time (which is important for a gal with extra thick hair), and it leaves a smoother finish.
Verdict: It's worth the money for me. Absolutely.
Buy from Amazon, $19.06
Frederic Fekkai Coiff Perfecteur Anti-Frizz Silkening Crème 8 of 14
A leave-in hair protector that promises to reduce frizz for a polished look
My thoughts: I spray this on my hair for the straight-from-the-salon smell more than the anti-frizz benefits. I found it to be a little heavier than other hydrating sprays (like the Ouidad Botanical Boost), and I wasn't blown away by the results.
Verdict: I'm torn on this one. It's not my favorite anti-frizz spray, but the smell certainly is yummy. If you can find a good enough deal on it, then I'd say yes. But I probably wouldn't buy this again at full price.
Buy from Amazon, $20.40
Its a 10 Miracle Hair Mask and Scalp Treatments 9 of 14
A leave-in conditioning treatment for hair
My thoughts: This was a recommendation from several hair dressers I know for its effective moisturizing formula. I've heard great things about the "It's a 10 leave-in conditioning spray" as well.
Verdict: Based on my personal recommendations and the online reviews, I'd say this just might be worth the splurge considering a good hair mask is hard to find.
Buy from Amazon, $21.28
Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder 10 of 14
Bumble & Bumble — a company I adore — came out with a line of dry shampoo sprays that are tinted for your hair color
My thoughts: I'm not sure I've ever been more disappointed with a hair product. It felt more like spray-painting my hair than using a dry shampoo.
Verdict: Skip it.
Buy from Sephora, $35
Frederic Fekkai Summer Hair Beach Waves 11 of 14
Marine Peptides, Sea Kelp Extract and Sea Water promise the coveted "beach waves" look
My thoughts: I went on a "beach waves" quest a few years ago, and this one wasn't my favorite. As much as I love Fekkai products, this one left my hair a little stiff.
Verdict: It might work for you (especially if you have fine hair), but it certainly didn't for me — at least not for that price. I wouldn't spend $30 on it.
Buy from Amazon, $27.25
Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray 12 of 14
Another product promising "beach waves" with its saltwater-based spray
My thoughts: Out of every beach wave product I've tried, this is — by far — my favorite. Saltwater is extremely effective in giving hair that beachy wind-blown texture, but it can build up after awhile.
Verdict: If you're willing to splurge on the perfect beach waves, this is the product.
Buy from Amazon, $22
Redken Argan-6 All Soft Oil 13 of 14
Another hair oil with omega-6-enriched argan oil that softens, nourishes, moisturizes, smoothes, and protects
My thoughts: A similar hair-smoothing oil to Moroccan oil.
Verdict: Not worth the in-salon price, but, if you're a fan of argan oil, the cheaper online price is a good deal.
Buy from Amazon, $17
Redken Chromatics 14 of 14
A revolutionary new hair color system that actually strengthens hair with protein extracts — promising to leave hair two times more fortified than uncolored hair
My thoughts: If you hate the smell of hair dye (like me!), this formula uses oil instead of ammonia so there's no funky smell or scalp irritation.
Verdict: If you have a local salon that uses Redken, definitely give this hair color a try — especially instead of over-the-counter boxed color. The only complaint from local hairdressers: It doesn't cover grey as well as Redken promises.
Buy from Amazon, $15
Which salon hair products do you think are worth the price?