Professional versus drug store hair care products

Professional versus drug store hair care products

This article explains the difference between salon hair care products and those you find on the drug store shelves.

Photo Credit: Naomi Hasegawa
By Amy Mullen

Many people wonder if salon products are better for their hair than the brands commonly sold in drug stores. The best answer is that it depends on the health of your hair. If you look on the shelves of any drug store you will see products boasting many different claims. They have special ingredients, herbs, and conditioners. It can be quite confusing. Is it as simple as saying you get what you pay for?

Many drug store brands claim that they are just as good as the salon brands. The simple truth is that salon products and drug store brands can have the same ingredients. However, the amounts of those ingredients per bottle are what you really need to know. Most salon quality hair care products have much more of the proteins and vitamins that your hair needs to stay healthy. The drug store brands may have these ingredients, but they have them in much lower quantities. If you read the ingredients list on the bottle you will see that they are all listed but the amounts they contain are not included. The main ingredient in most shampoos is water. The ingredients are listed from highest quantity to lowest quantity however you still can’t tell just exactly how much is in that bottle.

All shampoos contain a lathering agent. The safest agent to use in a shampoo is called sodium laureth sulfite. This is the gentlest type for both hair and scalp. The only problem with this type is that it does not produce a lot of lather. Through television ads we are convinced that the more lather a shampoo may make, but better it is cleaning the hair. This isn’t true. Lather has nothing to do with cleaning power. The drug store brands will usually use one of the following, ammonium laurel sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, or sodium laurel sulfate. Though these three types will produce a richer lather, they are harder on your scalp and hair. You will find that most salon brands use the gentlest kind despite that fact that it produces very little lather.

Salon conditioners will contain more of the important moisturizers and proteins that your hair needs. This means that they have a better chance of sinking deep into the hair shaft when applied. The drug store brands only need a small amount of these ingredients to claim that they are in the conditioner. Just because they say those helpful moisturizers are in the product does not mean there is enough in there to do anything to help the health of your hair.

Mousses, gels, and other styling products can offer the same benefits that shampoos and conditioners offer. You may find brands that boast extra ingredients like honey, aloe, or natural herbs. For the most part, these are just for show. While some of these may have benefits for your hair the truth is there simply are not enough of those ingredients in the product to have any effect. Some newer brands are adding leave-in conditioners with gels and mousses. The same rules apply. They may seem to have added benefit, but most likely they do not.

It’s not to say all drug store brands are bad or lacking in quality, it just means that you have to be aware of your hair type. If you have straight and healthy hair and a drug store brand seems to work fine for you, then there is no need to spend the extra money on salon brands. Those with curly, permed, colored, and otherwise overly processed hair may find it beneficial to pay extra for the results. Remember that any product claiming it can heal your hair is not worth any price. Hair is dead and cannot be fixed with anything but a good set of styling scissors. If you are considering salon products but you are not sure about paying the extra money, try samples and see for yourself if you notice any improvement.

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