How to be a More Savvy Hair-Care Consumer

by Paula Begoun

Learning to abide by the shopping precepts below will help you save money, avoid endless disappointment, and become a savvy hair-care consumer.

  1. You must be willing to change some of your beliefs about hair care. A hair-care company does not necessarily have your best interests at heart. If you are willing to keep buying a product that is overpriced or doesn't work, they will keep selling it, because there is no reason for them to change. It doesn't matter that hair can't be repaired or reconstructed by a conditioner or that a moisturizing pack or treatment can't restore hair. As long as people buy these products, why should the hair-care companies stop selling them?
    • Almost every hair-care line has good and bad products. Actually, most hair-care lines have fairly good products. It's the labels that give misleading information about which products are best for specific hair-care needs. Many lines have their share of useless, overly perfumed, unreliable, and overpriced products that can't live up to the claims on the label. However, they also have products that work, even if these products are often overpriced. Also, just because a product works doesn't mean it's worth $20; there absolutely are $3 or $5 equivalents available elsewhere.
    • Give up line loyalty. It is great when you find a line with which you are comfortable. For example, you might like Sebastian styling products and conditioners or Joico's treatment pack and shampoos. But that doesn't mean that every other product in those lines is also guaranteed to please you or be good for you, or that you need more of what the line offers. No matter how enthusiastic salespeople are about their terrific line, they are not unbiased bystanders; they have a vested interest in what you decide to buy.
    • Do not buy impulsively or quickly. That statement speaks for itself, but it isn't always easy! There you are at the salon, the stylist has just finished making you look stunning, and the premium products he or she used are staring you in the face. With just this small additional purchase of $35, $50, or $60, you think, you can get your hair to look the same between visits. Stop and breathe. Consider what you already have at home. Try to remember how I rated the products you're looking at. It would also be beneficial to remember the last time you bought the products recommended by a hairstylist and ask yourself whether those really made a difference, before you jump in and buy again.
    • Hair-care advertisements may be alluring and interesting, but they are ads, not documentaries. Just because the ads are sensual doesn't mean the products featured in the ads are, and it doesn't mean they'll make you more sensual. Accept seductive ads for what they are. They are just seductive ads, not reliable sources of facts.
    • Don't pretend you are above being affected by cosmetics advertising. All advertising, especially cosmetics advertising, is a very, very powerful stimulus in our lives. Hair-care advertising, like any advertising, is designed to make us buy a specific product or be attracted to a specific company. Whether we like it or not, advertising strongly affects how we make decisions. If advertising didn't influence us, companies wouldn't spend billions of dollars advertising their products to us. It is unwise to ignore the fact that advertising sells products, and sells them very well, because the hair-care companies wouldn't keep throwing money at something that produced no financial return. The next time you think you are not being affected by cosmetics and hair-care advertising, think again.
    • Hair-care products are not a bargain just because they are less expensive than products offered by other areas of the cosmetics industry. Because hair-care products are so much less expensive than products in the rest of the cosmetics industry (particularly skin-care products), and because you need fewer products to maintain your hair than your skin (at least for some women), it is easy to consider the price of a $15 hairspray or $20 shampoo a mere pittance in comparison to the $75 moisturizer or $100 anti-wrinkle creams the skin-care industry sells. Still, it all adds up. A savvy hairstylist or salesperson can sell you a line of hair-care products for $40 before you know it. When you consider how often you make these purchases and realize that there are excellent products available in less expensive price ranges, it should give you pause.
    • When it comes to hair-care products, there are no miracle ingredients, trade secrets, exotic ingredients, patented secrets, or salon-tested formulas that will permanently repair your hair. If there were a magic potion for hair, it wouldn't stay under wraps. Every line would get their hands on it. Chemists are entirely capable of analyzing a product's ingredients and duplicating whatever they want. Sophisticated technologies make reproducing a product's components, even when they are patented, as easy as assembling a jigsaw puzzle when all of the pieces are included. And speaking of patented secrets, this is an oxymoron. U.S. patent law is very clear. In order for an ingredient or group of ingredients to be patented, the exact components and precise formulation details must be disclosed in full. It doesn't take much for a hair-care company to figure out an alternative to a patented formula; and if that's not feasible, they can buy the licensed right to use the formula. Realistically, if a product could repair hair, you should only have to use it a few times and then your hair would be repaired. That isn't what happens. You have to reapply these products every time you shampoo because their effect is only temporary, nothing more.
    • Truly superior shampoos, conditioners, styling products, and special treatments can be found in inexpensive lines. Formulations vary and some products are better than others, but on the whole, I find just as many great products at the drugstore as I do at the hair salon. And just as many bad ones. Marketing creates mystique, not reality.
    • Shopping for hair-care products in a salon may feel more elegant than shopping at the drugstore, but that is a perception about the environment, not about the quality of the products. The elegance lies in the pampered feeling you get from the earnest, helpful information and advice the salon stylist provides. If that environment is important to you and expense is not an issue, there are great products available at the salon. However, there is no research, evidence, or proof that salon products are formulated any better than drugstore products. In fact, after interviewing dozens of cosmetics chemists and cosmetic ingredient manufacturers, it is clear to me that nothing could be further from the truth.

Reprinted with permission from the new 3rd Edition of Don't Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products Without Me (Beginning Press, $21.95) by Paula Begoun. Paula has been researching and reporting on the beauty industry for over 20 years. She has sold over a million copies of her best-selling beauty guides and she continues to spread the word that "Inner Beauty is Priceless but Outer Beauty Doesn't have to be!" Call (800) 831-4088 or visit for more money-saving articles on hair care, skin care and cosmetics, to sign up for Paula's FREE Beauty Bulletin, request a catalog or to save $5 off the cover price of this title.

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