"You can certainly buy something that looks like the same products we have in the salon at the grocery store, but they’re likely not the real deal.
A typical interaction between me and a client goes like this:
'So before I blow dry your hair, I'm going to put in (product xyz) to (smooth it/rough it up/give it more volume.) What you do is use this much, put it (from midshaft to ends/just at roots/whatever) and blowdry with a (roundbrush/flat brush/fingers.)'
I blow it out and not to toot my own horn but root-a-toot-toot, they’re happy. So they might ask ‘What was that product again?’ and I’ll tell them. ‘Can I take a look at that bottle?’ they ask, and I oblige. And if they give it a pretty thorough once-over and I get the vibe they’re interested but then they’re super quick to say ‘No thanks, that’s ok,’ when I ask if they’d like me to give it to the receptionist for them to take home, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on.
So I say ‘I’m not gonna get mad or anything, but are you thinking you’ll just pick it up another time at the grocery store?’ If they say yes, so begins my gently-delivered spiel: you can certainly buy something that looks like the same products we have in the salon at the grocery store, but they’re likely not the real deal.
The problem with big chains, including places that seem like they’d be legit like Target or CVS, selling bootleg salon beauty products that they’re not authorized to carry is known in the beauty industry as diversion. To be clear, this is not an indictment of actual chain store hair care lines, such as Garnier and Organix, and if those work for you that’s great! Whatever does the trick. I’m talking about lines such as Matrix, Paul Mitchell, and Coppola Keratin Complex that are only sold by their companies to salons and then weirdly end up in the same place as paper towels.
What happens is that the world’s least threatening black market underlords (actually, they call it the ‘gray market’) will buy salon products from a legitimate distributor, then set them aside in a warehouse for years until the barcode expires so they can’t be tracked. During this time, not only does the barcode expire but so does the product inside, warping from heat or just the cruel sands of time into something that is an ineffective shadow of its former self.
When I was learning about diversion in cosmetology school my class went downstairs to the drugstore beneath us to look at what they were selling and underline the point, and there was a product on the shelf that had been discontinued years ago…”
Story by Kristen Rogers