Cutting through the Lather
A shampoo is just a shampoo. Or is it? All shampoos work the same way; they all clean your hair. Or do they? What is the difference between professional salon products and generic brands sold at your grocery store? Is there one? Some will say no, but yes, there is a difference.
The simple answer is that salon products are, for the most part, much better than the products sold at your local grocer, but that is only the simple answer to a rather complex question. The ingredients make salon products better than over-the-counter products.
The ingredients of shampoo will be listed on the bottle in order of the amount in the product. For example, the first ingredient is frequently water and the last ingredient is often a dye. Another common ingredient is ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate.
These are surfactants, or cleaning agents, which are much gentler in a salon shampoo than in those found at retail stores. Surfactants are incorporated to increase the lather capability of the product. Consumers relate clean hair to the amount of lather and bubbles the product produces. In truth, lather has no beneficial effect and contributes little toward good cleaning. Many salon products use sodium laureth sulfate as a surfactant, as it is a much gentler alternative to ammonium lauryl sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate. Consumers who value healthier alternatives to ammonium-based products don’t mind paying extra for salon products containing the safer sodium laureth sulfate.
In addition, moisturizers and conditioners found in a salon shampoo have higher concentrations of protein. This enables the conditioner to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft and lock in moisture. These quality ingredients contribute to the higher cost of the salon products and are not typically found in store line products. Because of these concentration levels, less product is required for each shampoo application. Over the long term, this makes salon products a more affordable option.
Part of the lure of salon products is that they are known for being specially formulated with large concentrations of high-quality ingredients. Hair care items purchased at grocery and retail stores have a reputation for using cheaper ingredients so that they can maintain affordability to a mass market. The creators of professional products develop their lines with a sense of luxury and quality to improve the hair care experience and final outcome.
Finally, a huge advantage of buying salon products is that it provides the consumer with the opportunity to consult with a hair care professional directly about what products work best for him or her.
The bottom line: Products purchased at a salon have better quality formulations, with the best mixtures of surfactants, moisturizers and conditioners. However, the best options for an individual should depend on the consultation with a professional hairstylist, cost of the product and environmental and health considerations.
So, let’s just cut right through the lather. Verdict: a shampoo is NOT just another shampoo!
By Tim Timmons, contributing writer and owner of Salon Gloss and Spa, Woodstock, Ga.