10 Hair Care Product Myths That Drain Your Wallet

Hair careBeing an informed shopper can go a long way towards saving money. With that in mind, I’d like to dispel some little-known facts about hair care products that I learned from reading Don’t Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products Without Me by self-proclaimed “Cosmetics Cop” Paula Begoun. Begoun is well-known for her extensive, ongoing research and testing of hair and beauty products. She publishes her findings every couple of years in her series of books, Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me and Don’t Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products Without Me, where her primary goal is to provide honest, unbiased information so that consumers can find out what really works and avoid everything else. Here are ten things I learned from her that will help you save money on your next shopping trip and for years to come.

1. There is no difference in the quality of the hair dye that you buy in a box at the drugstore for $10 and the hair dye used in salons. This means that if you’re making a subtle change (like going from medium brown to dark brown) or you’re rather skilled with hair dye, there’s no reason not to do it yourself at home, especially if you’re dyeing your hair every few weeks. Doing it yourself can save you $50 a month or more. If you’re making a drastic change, however, the extra knowledge and experience of a professional can help you get better results and be worth the extra cash. Personally, I’ve had just as many hair dying successes as I have disasters, but the successes were with minor changes and the disasters with major changes. Professionals can mess up your hair too, of course, but they’ll probably fix it for free if they do.

2. Now that you’ve found that perfect new shade, be aware that shampoos and conditioners can’t preserve your hair color — so don’t waste your money on products that make this claim. Dandruff shampoos can strip hair color, however, so if you’re having dandruff problems, hold off on that dye job until you’ve cured the problem.

3. Many hairstylists’ product knowledge comes from straight from the product manufacturers, making stylists a less reliable source of advice than most people assume. This doesn’t mean that they can’t do a better job with cutting, styling, dyeing, and highlighting than you can. It means that when you’re looking for a product recommendation, you should take a stylist’s advice with a grain of salt before spending extra money on expensive salon products.

4. Your hair can’t tell how much your shampoo costs — expensive hair care products are no more effective than inexpensive ones. In fact, many expensive products are actually produced by the same companies that make the inexpensive ones and contain virtually the same ingredients. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results of a 99 cent shampoo if you’re willing to give it a shot. I have to admit that even though I know this, I’m a sucker for the scents of expensive shampoos — so I compromise and buy the $4 stuff.

5. There aren’t really as many kinds of shampoo and conditioner as their labels suggest. Remember when there used to only be three kinds of shampoo? One for fine/oily hair, one for normal hair, and one for dry, damaged, or color treated hair? Nowadays, it seems like most brands have anywhere from six to sixteen different varieties promising to do everything from getting your hair really clean to enhancing curls. The truth is that these products, despite their differing claims, tend to have nearly identical formulas that will provide nearly identical results. Strategic labeling does get people to buy more products, though, by promising to solve different hair dilemmas (the same person often has multiple hair issues, after all) and by taking up more shelf space (thus doing a better job of in-store advertising for a particular line).

Hair product ingredients must be accurately labeled according to FDA standards, but there are no regulations on the accuracy of product claims. Hair product companies can say that a product does whatever they want. This includes claims such as “hypoallergenic” or “all natural.” Don’t spend more money on a hair product that makes amazing claims, because with no one regulating these claims, it’s quite possible that they aren’t true at all.

6. There is no such thing as an oily hair type. It is the scalp that is oily. When oil makes its way down the hair shaft (which it does particularly well on straight hair), the hair appears oily. Unfortunately, no product can decrease your scalp’s oil production. There really isn’t a lot that can be done to remedy this problem aside from washing hair frequently and keeping conditioner away from the scalp (or avoiding conditioner altogether if you can). Don’t waste your money on expensive products that claim they can fix your oily hair — hormones control oil production, not shampoos.

7. Damaged hair cannot be repaired because hair is dead, so don’t spend money on expensive products that claim to repair your hair. Begoun likens trying to repair damaged hair to trying to mend a dry, cracked leaf. It won’t happen! Conditioners can give hair the appearance and feel of being repaired, but this will only last for as long as the product is in the hair (until the next shampoo). If you’re using the same deep conditioner every day, you may feel like your hair has been repaired. But if you buy expensive, one-time deep conditioning treatments, the results will only last until your next shampoo — and that’s money down the drain, literally.

8. Used regularly, volumizing shampoos will eventually weigh down your hair and make it even more limp than it was to start with. The same ingredients in these products that coat each hair strand to make it appear thicker also build up on the hair over time, so if you use a volumizing shampoo, make sure to alternate it with a regular shampoo. If you’re trying to save money, you may just want to skip the volumizing shampoo altogether. Personally, I don’t think volumizing shampoos help at all.

9. All-natural or organic shampoos may be better for the environment, but they are not necessarily better for your hair. Natural products often contain irritating ingredients like citrus or peppermint. (If these ingredients don’t give you any trouble, then by all means, use them, but they can be irritating for some people). If your primary goal is to find a product that is gentler on your hair or scalp, don’t waste your money on these products.

10. While hair loss is more prevalent in men than in women, hair regrowth products are, unfortunately, significantly more effective on women. If you’re following the directions and you’re not getting results, you can stop spending $50 a box because these products won’t work on everyone, regardless of gender, and may be especially less likely to work if you’re male.

The baffling variety of haircare products available these days can make trying to pick the right bottle a dizzying experience. Hopefully these facts will help guide you in your hair care shopping, prevent you from needlessly wasting money, and eliminate frustration. For more hair care product advice for every hair type and hair problem, be sure to check out Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go Shopping for Hair-Care Products Without Me.

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23 Responses to 10 Hair Care Product Myths That Drain Your Wallet

  1. g'ma says:

    Appreciated info re haircare products — my favorite brand is Suave. But I requested Dove samples!

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  3. Hon says:

    Paula Begoun does an ace job of informing consumers. Her writing is honest and direct and I appreciate your service. I will forward this to my best friend who spends big time on products she can ill afford to satisfy the advertisers whose TV commericals is likes.

    i wish P & G would stop with the plastic looking hair on their commercials.

  4. Industry insider says:

    As someone who works at a personal care company, I’ve to say that much of the article is true. Retail products from major brands and companies are reliable and as good as salon (or “professional” by industry) brands. In most cases, these brands are own by the same companies.

  5. Cindy says:

    Good article. What I’m aggravated with most is when they do away with or “new and improve” my old faithful products. And I’m sick to death of the fruity-tooty smelly products. I also think so much of what we’re seeing that’s “in” right now regarding hairstyles and cuts looks just plain tacky (split ends, stringy hair, ugly color jobs). Anyway, I get more compliments on my hair than I ever did now that I cut my own and use my old White Rain shampoo, old fashioned plastic rollers and no blow dryer. I do a baking soda rinse once in awhile. More product does not make for healthier hair anyway and a good cut can do wonders. I try samples often and most of the time wuold not use it again.

  6. Susanna says:

    I didn’t see this tip in the list, so I thought I’d mention it in a comment: wash your hair less often. For most people, washing every day is too much and makes hair dry and unmanageable. The longer and curlier your hair, the less often you need to wash it.
    Since I’ve started washing my hair only every 3 days it’s looked better and I’ve found myself using a lot less shampoo and conditioner. What’s more, I haven’t needed to use tons of product to style my hair because I’m not stripping its natural oils.

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  8. Jess says:

    I agree with most of the tips except for the one about all natural/ organic hair products. Not only do most of them not test on animals or use animal products but they usually also have the ingredients listed on the bottle. If you know what you can’t tolerate and may have an reaction to it’s much easier to avoid products with that ingredient(s). Chemical based shampoos typically don’t list their ingredients on the bottle. Which are pretty harsh. I had a problem with dermatitis and breaking out on my forehead and along my hair line. I found that I was allergic to SLS. Just a few days after I switched to an all natural shampoo and conditioner (I love Jason Natural Apricot. It makes my hair really soft and shiny) my skin was fine. The breakouts were totally gone and they haven’t been back since.

  9. John says:

    Exceptional hair information is provided in this site, with various hair products. I tried some of the hair products, which gave me satisfactory results.

  10. arous says:

    Hold it!!!!!!
    Let”s not confuse people
    Your info is to general. I have been in hair business for 30 years.
    So, everyone…..if you like the most educated opinion, Let me know


  11. Charity says:

    As someone that does formulary and is in the compounding business of designing hair care products, I agree with you for the most part. The basic surfactants used in shampoo will be the same from brand to brand. Some surfactants are more harsh than others. Ammonia Lauryl Sulfate is the most harsh, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a little less harsh, Soduim Laureth Sulfate being even more gentle, etc.

    However, various shampoo & conditioner products contain various ingredients that make a difference. Some use cheap silicones that build up on your hair over time, and others do not. The key is to get to know your surfactants and what are good conditioning agents. Coconut oil is known for not only conditioning, but for strengthening the protein in your hair. Citrus oils will lower the PH and help your hair to rinse cleaner, but you can get the same effect with vinegar for instance. As long as you stay away from silicones you will be doing better than with them. When you first stop using them, your hair may seem more damaged once the cones wash off and show the true damage to your hair. Over time using a good silicone free product will go further in helping your hair. Silicones only provide slip and the illusion of your hair being in great shape. The worst non water soluble cone is dimithecone or any of it’s counter parts. Just because there is an “alcohol” such as Cetyl alcohol does not mean actual “alcohol” in a conditioner. It is a waxy fatty acid used for thickening the product and emulsifying agent.

    I could go on and on, but in general your advice is too general despite it being “mostly” true.

  12. Melanie says:

    Just another tip for oily hair, while shampoos may not help you you can use baby powder at he roots to eat your grease and get away with it for longer, and also foiling the hair with bleach can dry it out at the roots making it less oily for you.

  13. david james says:

    OK let me set you straight. Your looks are everything. Why would you dabble in do it your self mode when you can see a professional hair stylist who knows color, highlights, hair cutting and product knowledge. Remember what happened the last time you tried to give yourself a face peel? check out the bumble and bumble web site. Awesome products made by hairstylist for hairstylist. Not to mention some of the best hair dressers in the world. Now you know the real skinny in this matter. Now you can go to sleep tonight and wake up with beautiful hair.

  14. Jessica says:

    You color your hair… You dye a shirt.

  15. aimee says:

    I like white rain conditioners. They make my hair really soft and don’t build up. Bought Suave and V05 and hated them. Use Neutrogena shampoo and it has the fewest ingredients. I don’t think essential oils are that essential. They just get washed out. *note: to the guy who said “your looks are everything” you kinda sounded like a jerk there. Be careful what messages you tell women. Looks are awesome to nurture but don’t go telling people they’re EVERYTHING.

  16. Karen says:

    A few years ago Consumer Reports published research they completed on shampoos. Their results stated that all shampoos were basically the same. The first ingredient is water; the second is the ingredient which cleans your hair. Everything else is pretty much useless w/out the cleaning ingredient. That is what strips the color from your hair. If you check out the shampoos for color treated hair the first two ingredients are the same as any other shampoo. I buy whatever is on sale – they all work the same.

  17. Coco_Love says:

    1.) There actually is a difference in color that you buy at the grocery store and the color you would get at a salon. Hair color actually has math that goes with it, not being skilled with that you will end up wasting 10 dollars buying a box color and another LOT more to fix what you got than you would have paid to get it done right the first time, or to save money your always safe going just black.

    2.) Shampooos and conditioners CAN preserve your color. Some of the color shampoos actually have color coating molecules that help deposit the tone you have or even balance out tones you don’t want. Like when your red hair starts turning copper you can actually use a SHAMPOO to tone out the copper tones and get it to a nice color. Same with blondes, that eventually start getting yellow-ish tones. There are also shampoos that just deposit bits of color making it last longer with every shampoo.

    3.) Yes there are lame stylists out their, but only because they haven’t done their own research with product knowledge, and the only knowledge they put out is what their place of work tells them to sell. Even with that – they will sell you a product that is way more better for your hair than you would find for 99 cents. You get what you pay for.

    4.) Your hair CAN tell a difference. You hair is a organ. The difference between a 99 cent shampoo and a professional shampoo is the percentage of water vs cleansing molecules. To be considered a professional shampoo you have to have less than 25% water . . . this means that 99 cent shampoo has 70% + water in it so in order to even get a good cleanse you’ll need a whole palm full of shampoo (like their commercials show), whereas a professional product because of how much cleansing products are in it, you need a small dime size dab to cleanse your whole hair. So the price actually comes out about the same. For how many bottles of 99 cent shampoo you had to waste you would still some professional shampoo left.

    5.) Their actually are many different kinds of shampoos and conditioners and this is based on their pH level. Volumizing shampoos have a different pH level than moisturizing shampoos. And the different levels do different things to your hair some of them swell the hair cuticle making it look more fuller, some of them give proteins to the cuticle, they all do different types of things.

    6.) First off when you shampoo your suppose to shampoo your scalp and work your way down – and their are shampoos that have sebum control. Which lightly helps regulate how much oil your scalp produces. A healthy diet, and vitamins will also help this.

    7.) Damaged hair CAN be repaired with proteins. Hair treatment and repair potions cannot be used everyday, usually once a week or every 2 weeks. Hair is not ever “dead” or to be compared to a dry leaf. Hair is a organ, and when it’s not doing to well, it CAN heal it just needs medicines.

    8.) Volumizing shampoos do NOT coat the hair, they actually swell the cuticle. The only thing that would “coat” your hair is too much product, or chlorine – and in this case a clarifying shampoo would help.

    9.) Their are great lines of natural products out their, that will NOT irritate you. Paul Mitchell has some good products out that are safe enough to eat.

    10.) If you are experiencing hair loss you should probably consult with a trichologist. Nioxin is actually proven to help. If the scalp is shiny their is little anything can do, but nioxin would help prevent the rest of the scalp from becoming shiny, and if it is not shiny their it can help cleanse the pores that are clogged and won’t allow hair to grow back and help the hair come back.

    You get what you pay for. Shopping for a new shampoo and conditioner every week or so actually ends up costing about the same or even more than buying a really good hair product that will last you a really long time. Professional products DO make a drastic difference in hair. Hair when in great shape helps boost confidence in women and in men take good care of your hair it does good things for us!

  18. GM Long says:

    Your hair is not an organ. It is dead — that is, it has no cellular activity. It is inert. It does not metabolize anything. It has no nerve endings, and does not use the nutrients your body produces for its living parts. It is an accumulation of dead cells. That is a SCIENTIFIC FACT. If you want to proof that it is dead, try this: cut it. Does it hurt when you do that?

    Biochemically, it is pretty much the same as your fingernails.

  19. Chazmatazz says:

    hahaha…so glad that someone responded to that. An organ?! For real?!! Wow…giving hairdressers a bad name….

  20. I Am My Hair! says:

    Wowwww…proof that hair stylists are brainwashed in beauty school.

    “Your hair is an organ.”
    No, sweetie. No it’s not. Now go to college and get a real education, kthx. XD

  21. Downhill says:

    Wow. What a load. Not trusting the scientific integrity of anyone who thinks hair is an organ, nor who doesn’t know when to use “their” versus “there”.

  22. Tanya says:

    Thanks for your input, Charity! You seem quite knowledgeable on the subject. 🙂 Any suggestions for further sources of reliable info or product recommendations for fine, oily hair?

    Thanks so much,

  23. Rose says:

    Wow.Most of the people who commented on this are ignorant and clueless. You are just too cheap to invest in your hair that is why you are believing everything in this article because it’s what you want to believe so you can keep being cheap. I would offer a reliable counter argument to almost everything on the article but I rather just let the people with the rude hairdresser remarks clueless. Keep buying cheap watery, diluted products with a microscopic pinch of protein hair needs 🙂

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