Beyond the Brim: Store Bought vs Professional

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

The Difference Between Store Bought and Professional Shampoo

Why is it that I always ask what products you are using at home? Is salon shampoo really worth the price? After all, we're talking about soap here, right? I mean don't I always say any shampoo will clean your hair? The battle between professional and store bought shampoo has always been a thing. In one corner is me, your beloved hairstylist, touting the pros of my fancy $30 bottles of premium shampoo. In the other is your best friend with great hair who pays $1.99 for a gallon of shampoo at Walmart. What is really the difference? Is salon shampoo really worth the price? I often hear but the "Pantene makes my hair feel so good". I'm not going to lie, my heart drops just a bit every time I hear this. And no it isn't just because I want to sell you shampoo. Trust me, it's not your fault you have been abusing your hair for most of your life, no one has ever taken the time to explain the positives and negatives of hair products to you. That’s where I come in.



First, let’s start with why store bought shampoos make you hair feel so soft. Frankly, it’s all in the ingredients and not only the quality of ingredients used, but the quantity as well. Some brands boast using the same products as salon quality shampoos. That is commonly true. What these store bought brands fail to mention is that they are not using the equivalent amounts of those ingredients.

Store bought brands such as Herbal Essence and Pantene may be using a small portion of the high-grade ingredients that salon brands use, but the rest of the products consists of fillers and chemicals. Lots of ingredients that are harsh on your hair sound similar to products that are nourishing for your hair. Take for example the common ingredient sodium laureth sulfite, that creates the “safe” sudsing effect in the shampoo. Many companies have come up with versions of this ingredient that sound very similar but aren’t so great for your hair, such as ammonium laurel sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, or sodium laurel sulfate. These are actually harsh chemicals that strip your hair of natural oils, essentially drying your hair out. This is often confusing to the consumer because all of those ingredients sound the same, especially when you have no idea what any of that means. I could go on for days.


The typical pH of hair ranges from 4.5-5.5 and averages at about 5.0. Salon grade shampoos are tested and have a pH that range from 5 to 7, which is considered neutral. Store bought shampoos range greatly from 4-9 on the pH scale. Just to put it into perspective, baking soda has a pH of 8.4. If you wish to maintain the vibrant color, shine and overall health of your hair it is essential to know how pH levels in shampoo and other hair products and how they can affect it.


So, how could these products be making my hair so soft? very valid and common question. The answer? Fillers. Fillers can be anything at all to “take up room” in the shampoo so that it costs the company less money to create the product. Ingredients such as wax and animal fat among many other wax type products that leave a build-up on the hair shaft that gives the illusion that your hair is softer when it’s really not. What its really doing is creating a waxy build up that is preventing your hair from accepting any positive ingredients from any other salon grade product that you may use. So if your store bought shampoo is full of fillers, just how much of the product do you have to use in order to clean your hair?

Don't think salon grade shampoo and conditioners are in your budget? A typical retail sized salon grade shampoo is usually somewhere around 8 to 10 oz, pretty similar to store bought shampoos. Professional retail size shampoos get anywhere from 65-85 shampoos depending on hair length and density. Even if you’re washing your hair every single day, which most people do not do, you are getting at the very minimum of two and a half months-worth of shampoos out of your professional shampoo.


How many shampoos are you getting out of a similar sized store bought shampoo? Definitely nowhere near 65 shampoos, which brings me to the point of guaranteeing your shampoo. Typically, salons guarantee their products; meaning if you don’t like the product you can bring it back and return it for a product that might work better for you. Have you ever gone into Walmart and asked to return a shampoo because it just isn’t working for you? The shampoos and conditioners we find at the drugstore are appealing for obvious reasons. They’re affordable, convenient, and we love all of their different scents (I mean, who can resist vanilla & shea butter?). But what makes them so affordable may be cause for concern. So the next time you are in the store and you think about picking up that awesome smelling shampoo, take a second to think back to this blog. Yes, I take your hair and it's care very personal. In the long run, most would agree that you end up spending about the same, no matter which side of the coin you choose. The major difference is that salon products last longer and contain higher amounts of quality ingredients that truly are better for your hair. So, at your next appointment let's have an open an honest conversation about what you are using on your hair and if there are changes in your products that can help you achieve your hair goals.

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