Saturday, March 1, 2008

Beauty Industry Puffery!

How many of us take everything a cosmetologist or sales rep behind the cosmetic counter says as absolute fact? Do you buy into the promises of a claim a certain product will do for your hair or skin?

We all have at one time! Many of us still do!

I love the professional packaging and the texture and consistency of salon products. The smells are wonderful, especially within the aromatherapy blends of shampoos and conditioners. The multitude of choices are daunting, but that is what your stylist is for, to assist you with what will work best for your hair. The personal guidance and touch from a trusted professional goes far when we are trying to sort through all the information being thrown at us.

I have had many different stylists over the years and they all wanted to sell me their preferred formulas for my locks. The products are always described as the best way to keep your hair and scalp healthy. I bought into the sales buzz during the time from high school until the end of my 30’s since my hair texture was indeed improved with these salon products and the fragrances were intoxicating. My hair was always pretty and shiny and rarely split out the ends. Each time I would return for a shampoo and haircut, my stylist at that time would have more products to sell me, usually enticing me with the lovely fragrances they possessed. She would also use them on me during my visit to have a more pleasant, relaxing experience. She would remind me of how great a shape my hair was always in and how this was the proof of using the best salon products over drugstore brands as being the only way to go.

I believe salon products were made better back in the 70’s and 80’s, and they were making a dent in commercial sales through promotions within salons worldwide. Aveda was an industry leader in introducing aromatherapy, essential oil blends to salon products, including gentler and aromatic perm solutions. As consumers gained savvy insight through the help of environmental organizations and others to the chemicals and other potentially harmful ingredients that were shown to be in the drugstore products, we leaned more heavily on the professional lines using more organic approaches. The consumer made their grievances known to the cosmetics and hair care industry over the years through our solid purchases of professional, more natural lines since the salon grade products at that time really were better for hair and scalp. And with the introduction of the internet, more and more information became available to us in order to be well informed.

Suddenly, there was a shift in some commercial lines changing their ingredients for higher standards in quality as demanded by the consumer including making knock-offs that were identical in formulations to the pros, but with a generic name. They now wanted to compete for your consumer dollar against the salon products. This then launched various watchdog groups such as the infamous cosmetics cop, Paula Begoun, who began a diverse campaign of researching many of these products to prove or disprove their claims.

It was at this time by the mid 90’s I decided to do my own research and as I educated myself, I learned it is not the product per se but what ingredients are within the products. Detergent based shampoos, petrochemicals and certain types of alcohols should be avoided at all costs, were very drying to the hair, not great for the scalp and potentially harmful. It was these ingredients that permeated the cheaper store brands. So as time marched by, I decided to try out some drugstore brands that were beginning to replace the harmful ingredients for a safer choice. I researched labels that were close in relation to certain salon grade products that I had great results with and gave them a try. And low and behold, my hair was still beautifully soft and shiny after using the drugstore or generic brands at half the price. My styles held well and my hair color or perms lasted just as long. The next time I returned to the salon, my stylist told me again how great a condition my hair was in, not realizing I had switched to the cheaper brands. Her statement spoke volumes about the puffery that is still being pushed at us today in order to get us to buy into the idea that more expensive still means better!
Although salon products aren't perfection in a bottle as far as being completely safe and chemical free, you have other options available to you. If you want to reduce the use of potentially harmful ingredients, then I suggest using J.R. Liggetts Shampoo Bar. Works quite nicely without stripping color or drying out your hair or scalp and they have been around since 1985. I personally use the Herbal Formula.

Also, have you noticed that more and more salon products are landing on our grocery store shelves to the detriment of the salons’ sales? The salons debate this and state these are counterfeit or the cheaper version of the original using substandard ingredients. Unfortunately for the retail salon, this is not the case! For one thing you would see major recalls nationwide if these products were not being distributed by the maker and would be quickly yanked off the shelves. They are exactly the same products right down to the feel, performance and fragrance, with perhaps a tiny change to the ingredient list, but not so you would notice or cause problems for your hair. They might do this to provide a salon need for variation to the consumer. It is all about these companies competing for your dollar now, so they commercialized what was once exclusive to salons only. It is sad really since the personal touch you would get from your stylist is now gone, replaced by commercialized consumerism.

In the case of skin crèmes; this is an area where I pay even more attention to what is in the little jars of miracles for the skin. Ingredients play an important role in determining cost of the product, but when you step into a high end department store, the prices are out of sight for many consumers. Many prices ranging from $60.00 to $350.00 for a 2 oz size jar. And the fancy sounding ingredients don’t necessarily out perform good old fashioned soap or crèmes made simply with emollient based oils or naturally organic butters. Some of the extraordinary claims made by many of these high end lines are total puffery and you are basically paying for the privilege of having a famous name sit on top of your counter. For instance, did you know that L’Orèal Cosmetics owns Lancôme and the quality of these cosmetics are nearly identical, yet one is sold in drug stores and the other is sold in high end department stores? I have used both of these lines and my skin behaved no different with either one.

There are many factors that contribute to our skin condition, much of which is sun, aging and genetics. A skin cream is not going to alter this, but will help restore moisture to the surface layer (epidermis) and leave our skin and fine lines softened, smoothed and soothed. I personally want a crème with organic, natural ingredients for soothing my tired skin, and I avoid those with all the fancy, impossible to spell chemical sounding names with their glitz and false promises. This is also my dedication in researching and developing my new line of skin care products which is currently underway.

I personally have tested many of these products and I have discovered after years of expense and trial and error, good old fashioned Olive Oil soap or Goat Milk with Shea Butter soaps have done wonders for my skin. This is then followed by an application of organic butters and oils to smooth, soothe and soften my face, including Extra Virgin Olive Oil right from my kitchen shelf for intensive moisture at night in the winter time. My skin is like velvet the next morning without using facial creams with all the bells and whistles. The simplest of ingredients can do so much for skin without any harmful or irritating effects.

Using exfoliation techniques with Microfiber towels for reduction of dead skin cells are much less irritating than AHA (Glycolic Acid) in high concentrations or BHA (Salicylic Acid) crèmes which may damage your skin over time. Especially since use of AHA and BHA crèmes actually make your skin and face more susceptible to sun damage. Sometimes the risks outweigh the benefits of these age defying crèmes when it comes to ladies with highly sensitive skin and may actually accelerate aging. One thing is known for sure, tingling of the skin occurs and the explanation on the box is, “this is normal and will subside”. I think I would describe it more as a burning, stinging sensation and one that I could no longer endure for the sake of softening a few fine lines on my face. Besides, once you stop using these crèmes the lines return and creases deepen since the dead skin cells begin to build on the face once again. This is another reason I enjoy using Microfiber towels. I give myself a facial every time I cleanse my face and my skin glows afterwards with a freshly polished look.

I have found the results of using a Microfiber towel to be identical without irritation, and in many ways better than any of the fancy sounding crèmes you see on the market, drugstore and department stores alike. At the very least I know what is going on my skin without having to do endless research of an ingredient list on chemical exposure since these skin creams are comprised of other chemicals for maximum absorption of the AHA or BHA portion. I also have no problem paying the higher or similar prices for natural botanicals rather than for chemicals. Simpler, safer, and better for the skin!

Botanicals by nature are for me. Are they for you?

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