Why are salon hair products more expensive than supermarket hair products?

We’ve all had this dilemma – you’ve just visited the salon for your scheduled hair appointment and your stylist tried to sell you some of their salon hair products.

The one thing you probably noticed is that salon products are typically more expensive than supermarket and high street products.

So, why are hair salon products more expensive than the ones you buy in the supermarket or in the chemist?

  • Is it because the salons want to make a bigger profit?
  • Are the salons ripping you off by selling the same products for a higher price?
  • Or is it because there is a distinct difference between the hair products from a salon and those from the supermarket?

The difference in price can be put down to three factors:

  1. Ingredients
  2. Packaging
  3. Research

So let’s take a look at these 3 factors in more detail.

1.What makes the ingredients in salon hair products more expensive than supermarket hair products? 

The difference in price simply comes down to the quality of the contents in the bottle.

In a cheap bottle of shampoo you will find a cheaper cleansing agent in greater volume. You will also find man-made perfumes that will clean the hair and make it smell nice, and at the same time keep the price low.

As you start to go up in price, the quality of the ingredients increases, too. The cleansing agent will be gentler on the hair. The active ingredients are more natural, and these botanicals and organics push the price up. Some salon products have added ingredients such as caviar, an expensive product, which certainly means that you will pay a premium for them.

In hair conditioners one of the main ingredients is silicone – the man-made ingredient which stops hair attracting moisture (think ‘anti-frizz’). The cheaper silicones will cling to the hair, giving you the instant feeling of smooth, detangled hair. However, on closer inspection, this is like wrapping your hair in cling film.

Why is this a bad thing?

Well, because when you add heat, it bakes the silicone into the hair making it difficult to colour and style, The silicone builds up, suffocating the hair – the more silicone there is on the hair, the harder it is to remove. A higher quality of silicone is safer, gentler and water soluble.

This is much better for the health of your hair as the silicone is removed completely each time you shampoo, leaving your hair in a more natural, less plastic state.

In general, the more natural ingredients there are in a hair product, the more the price increases.

Makes sense, right?

2. Why does the packaging make my hair products more expensive?

As with the ingredients, the quality of packaging will be reflected in the overall price of a product.

The cheaper the packaging, the lower the cost.

However, if you are like most people and care about the environment and recycling, you will want to make sure that the product packaging is recyclable and biodegradable.

This is a more expensive process and will put the cost price of a product up.

Another factor that will impact the price of your hair products is where the packaging is made.

3. How are the more expensive salon products different from a cheaper supermarket hair products?

This is when the science comes in, which we can split into two categories:

a. Cosmetic hair products
b. Prescriptive hair products

In a similar way to skincare products, the difference between these two categories is in where the product will sit and where the active ingredient gets to work.

a. Cosmetic hair products

Cosmetic hair products tend to cover up a hair problem by making it look great. They will quite simply clean, detangle and hold, depending on the intended function of the product.

And just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it won’t do what it says, but it will do it in a different way.

A cosmetic product sits on top of the hair, coating it to prevent colour fade or stop moisture getting in. It’s a quick fix and can instantly make your hair look and feel great.

However, it might not be the best option for you, especially if you want to fix or prevent any long-term hair problems.

This is where prescriptive hair products come in.

b. Prescriptive hair products

Prescriptive hair products get to work from inside the hair – fixing and mending, improving the structure of the hair – rather than hiding the problem. They do also coat the hair when needed, but with a lighter, water-soluble coating that won’t grip or bind to the hair like the cheaper formulas do.

As you can imagine, figuring out what works and what doesn’t takes time, money and research.

The most amazing innovation to impact hairdressing since GHD irons is Olaplex, a revolutionary product that has inspired other companies to follow suit. The time and investment taken to create this product is recouped by profits from sales of the product, which then go towards further research and development.

Olaplex was a three-year project and was created by chemists who were trying to develop a UV-activated silicone that would stay in the hair for up to 25 washes. It worked beautifully 80 per cent of the time, but for the other 20 per cent various wavelengths in the UVA range made it sticky. You may wonder what that all means, so here’s the full olaplex story.

Now, I have no idea how much it costs to make Olaplex, but it retails at £32 for a 100ml bottle. The company have made an amazing breakthrough which has now been reproduced by many major hair companies, who are making their own versions. This product took a lot of man hours and investment, which is why it’s an expensive product.

So, which is best? Salon or supermarket hair products?

There you have it; the three main factors that impact the price of your hair products.

Hopefully you can now understand that there’s more to hair products than pretty packaging and nice smells.

In general, the more you want from your products, or the more natural you’d like them to be, then the more you can expect to pay.

Over the past few years you may have noticed that the gap between salon and supermarket products is closing – supermarket and high street products are getting better.

However, the questions still remains: which one is best for you?

My advice – as a salon owner (and someone with hair!) – is to trust your stylist, take the time to work out exactly what your hair needs, and get the best products that suit those needs.

Over to you…  

I would love to know more about what products you use.

  • Are you struggling to decide what products are best for you?
  • What products are you using just now, and what do you love the most about them?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Pam xx

Live Life Love Hair.

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