While I was in Europe last month I was surprised to discover that a lot of the professional product lines in Europe are actually salon exclusive (compared to the relatively few brands that are actually salon exclusive here). It is something that is beginning to shift now, Europe becoming more like us. But it is a big issue in the beauty industry there, where as long as I can remember our drugstores and supermarkets have been filled with more kinds of products than you could imagine. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the markets could be so different. But it got me thinking, and since then I haven’t stopped thinking…
I have often heard that in Europe the hairdressers are looked at in a different way. They are seen with more dignity and admiration, whereas in the States many view hairdressers as lower class individuals. So maybe it makes sense that people in Europe who care about their hair will usually buy products from their stylist, rather than off the internet or at a store. Retail is important to salons for many reasons. It helps us help the client keep their hair looking great, it helps fund the business expenses involved in running a salon and often salons get educational advantages when they are able to sell more products for a manufacturer. Salon retail is great for the client because you can get recommendations from someone who actually knows their hair and can help them use the product, because how you use a product is at least as important as what you use.
So why do clients venture out of the salon to buy product? I can think of a few possible reasons, most of which are baseless. A lot of clients believe that salon retail is more expensive and that they can find the products somewhere else cheaper. This is pretty much never true, but I think a lot of clients don’t even look at the price tag at the salon because they don’t want to be bullied into buying it. The same hair spray will probably be more expensive at the drug store or grocery store. Not to mention a lot of salons will exchange a product if it doesn’t work out. A lot of clients talk about having drawers and cupboards full of cheap products that they hate, yet are still nervous to buy something recommended by a professional.
I believe a lot of clients think we are trying to sell stuff just to make more money. Honestly, most hair stylists don’t make that much commission on product. There are definitely stylists that push products more, but they are misguided, because it isn’t about the money. But it is frustrating shampooing your client and feeling how dry their hair has become from using cheap shampoos and hairsprays… you do everything you can while they are in your chair but you want them to have great hair inbetween visits too. I love guiding and teaching my clients, but when I am asked how much of (insert grocery store product) to use or how to apply it, I really can’t offer much help. I receive a LOT of training on the products I use and I use them all the time for clients of all textures and styles, for weddings, for photoshoots… I work hard to know what I know about products, it isn’t just a natural gift. I can offer guidelines but I am not an expert on everything out there.
Lastly, I think a lot of people don’t trust their hair stylist. And this is related to the above point but also separate… I think a lot of clients get their hair cut by people that they don’t fully trust and therefore would rather read reviews on the internet (written by people that they really don’t know anything about!) than listen to someone who actually has their hands in their hair. It’s like all of the people self-diagnosing themselves on WebMD, or becoming “experts” on topics by reading Wikipedia articles. I’m not saying these things are bad, I read a lot of online reviews for beauty products, but I know how to cut through the BS and I also know that reading a lot of beauty blogs and reviews just makes you feel like you need things that you don’t.
The problem is, sometimes people don’t really understand what’s going on with their hair. They think they have an oily scalp, when really it is just buildup from product, or people think they need more protein-rich products when really they are using so much it is making their hair more brittle. Just like people self-diagnosing and medicating themselves in so many different directions that once they do see a doctor, the doctor has no idea what is the underlying illness and what is just a result of the patient taking a million things at once. Obviously, even a trained hairstylist can make mistakes, but usually they can rectify the mistakes, especially if you are working off just their advice and not the advice of everyone you’ve ever seen on the internet. I know our culture is generally suspicious and impatient, but if you can’t trust that your hairstylist can and will try to help your hair, you should probably find a different stylist. Just like if you trust WebMD more than your doctor, you should probably find a new doctor (and stay off WebMD!)! We live in a time when their is so much information, we need to be extremely attentive to where it comes from. But why we trust screen more than people, I don’t understand. We forget that on the other side of the screen is someone just as infallible as the people we see in “real life.”
So, you ask, why would a beauty blogger speak out against beauty blogs? I love information, but lets keep it in its place and surround ourselves with professionals that we trust. Trust your hairdresser. Otherwise you could be wasting money and wasting time, not to mention downplaying the importance of real, person to person interaction.