The cosmetic industry is a multi-coloured plastic minefield of promises which ensnare us with hyperbolic marketing, alluring fragrance and preservatives. To try and combat this, the conscientious consumer has evolved to become an ardent reader of product labels. With the increasing number of companies positioning themselves with a green and ethical brand identity, I've placed an even greater emphasis on my inquisitiveness. Cosmetic companies, regardless of their attempts to paint themselves as unique and different, rarely are. After all, they are in the business of selling cosmetics - an industry whose sales driven needs often confuse and mislead consumers. Despite all this, when it comes to working with a new product line, I do try to keep an open mind. I'm always hopeful to find something which I can enthusiastically endorse and share with my clients.
A few months back I started using EverEscents products. This move was largely done to align with the tide of curly hair supportive cosmetics being sulphate and silicone fee. As stated elsewhere on this blog, I'm very neutrally positioned on the topic of ingredients and vehemently state that every woman should be able to freely decide for themselves which is best for their hair, aesthetic preferences and budget. I educate without bias and let them decide: a simple, fair and ethical approach. Anyway, this post is about EverEscents products. I like them. This needs to be stated. They are very good products with their sulphate and sulphate free formulations winning over many curly girls in this country. Again, I've overall been happy using them in my studio and generally promote them to my clients and on this very website. Let's move on.
The EverEscents conditioners (all 7 of them), leave the hair feeling fantastic and this is especially notable for a product which doesn't contain dimethicone. This product feel is largely the reason I decided to take on their products in the first place. What I soon noticed though during my evaluation is that all of their conditioners leave the hair feeling very similar. They all feel equally conditioning with excellent combability. This is a little strange in that with most other brands I've used in 30 odd years, different conditioners (formulated for different hair types) leave the hair feeling different. This is normal and they should. That's when I started to read and compare the EverEscents ingredient lists a bit more carefully. Sure enough, most the of conditioners have similar base formulations, particularly when it comes to the primary ingredients which largely contribute to product feel and hair condition. Overall this isn't too much of an issue as the various shampoos and conditioners in their portfolio do have differences in scent, oils and additives. These effective differences are indeed subtle, but they do somewhat target the different hair types and situations they are designed to. Too, all the shampoos and conditioners are priced fairly similarly from 100ml through the litre offerings so there's no real serious concerns thus far. That said, lots of different shampoos, conditioners and treatments aimed at every conceivable hair type and situation does seem overtly sales driven.
It was when comparing the ingredient lists for the EverEscents Moisture Conditioner and their Deep Treatment that I discovered an anomaly. The ingredients were essentially identical. How could this be with one being sold as a treatment and also costing a bit more? I wanted answers, and decided to go full 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' on them both. Beginning my investigation with a thorough Google session, I came up with an initial assessment that the Deep Treatment is essentially just a denser and oddly, slightly less moisturising version of EverEscents own Moisturising Conditioner. Essentially, a 'treatment' in name only. Now, having the Deep Treatment be a denser texture of course makes sense as a consumer would expect a treatment product to be thicker than it's equivalent conditioner. This would validate the consumers expectation of enhanced perception of quality and contribute to increased sales. Well done team! This is exactly what I have come to expect from cosmetic companies in my 30 years of working with them.
Still, I wasn't convinced my amateur, desktop opinion could stand up to proper scrutiny. Perhaps there is more than meets my simple eye. I am, after all, just a service professional and not a qualified cosmetic chemist with decades of experience. So...I hired one. Actually, that's a lie. I hired two. Monica from the UK and Richard from the US. Together they have over 30 years of experience between them in formulating hair cosmetics. Their brief was simple and each was not aware that I had hired the other. 'A comparative analysis of two products from the same manufacturer' was the title. Without providing any details about the manufacturer or the names of the products themselves, I provided each chemist with a complete, vertical, side-by-side ingredient list for a 'Product A' and a 'Product B'. They were asked to analyse them both to determine if there could or would be any benefit of one over the other in a significant, tangible way. The eagerness with which I awaited their results surprised me. About a week later they both got back to me, and their results were conclusive:
"The two products do not have any major difference in formulation. The only two ingredients that are different are the Cetearyl alcohol amount in Product B [Deep Treatment] and inclusion of Heptyl Undecylenate in Product A [Moisture Conditioner]. Cetearyl alcohol imparts gloss, viscosity and thickness to the product thus making product B [Deep Treatment] look richer, fuller, and heavy compared to Product A [Moisture Conditioner]. The Heptyl Undecylenate in Product A [Moisture Conditioner] will give marginally better conditioning and after feel than Product B [Deep Treatment] but not drastically huge or remarkable."
"Yes", I enquired to Richard my US Chemist, "but what if a client leaves it [Deep Treatment] on for 15 minutes. Would they see significant results then?"
Richard laughed. "They don't work that way. Double the time doesn't provide twice the results. They might notice maybe 10% more, but not substantially so."
"How about with regular use? Would Product B [Deep Treatment] offer compounding benefits?" I asked.
"Possibly, but not more so than with similar use of Product A [Moisture Conditioner]." Richard stated.
"I couldn't agree with your more that unfortunately companies offer so many product variants these days with a cover of brilliant marketing on the bottle, but not a substantial difference in the effect of product. In my opinion, the consumer is left so confused & eventually falls prey to the marketing tactics due to these practices. Being a chemist myself, i feel pity for the consumers at times as they cannot make the right assessment."
Still, I wasn't totally convinced. Perhaps with more time in my hands I would notice greater differences. I took both the Moisture Conditioner and the Deep Treatment to task and performed numerous tests both on my own head and on a few clients. The results were the same. There was only subtle differences between them both and if anything, the Moisture Conditioner actually made the hair feel more soft and conditioned. Even with extensive 'treatments' at home, the results were the same. This all makes perfect sense as the labels themselves, my amateur research and the reports which came back from the chemists concluded the same. The Moisture Conditioner actually has 1 additional ingredient than the 'thicker' Deep Treatment does and this inclusion provides the Moisture Conditioner with a slightly better feel after rinsing.
The main concern here is two fold. First, these two products don't offer a significant enough difference from one another to warrant their distinct need outside of increased sales or to make the EverEscents product line seem 'complete'. The second is that the Deep Treatment is marketed as a step up both in conditioning and thus, higher in price. This doesn't sit well with me. Selling two products which don't offer any significant benefit from one another feels kind of unethical to me. When I contacted the company requesting clarity on formulation differences, they were quite defensive. They assumed that I had an issue with cosmetic companies and were 'tarring' them similarly. They offered to provide a 'history' on the Deep Treatment, which isn't at all what I requested. I asked them the same question I asked to the two chemists I hired. They said they would get back to me.
Let me pause here to make a point. Am I sceptical by nature? Yes. Is this because I've been 'burned' before from a cosmetic company? Nope. Guess who has though? My clients. Literally every one of them. I've listened to thousands of stories from my clients the last 30 years which consistently speak of the frequent bullshit they been told and sold. My direct, 'pull no punches' professional presentation and the contributions to this very blog are a deliberate effort to honestly educate and inform. I see it as my outright duty to use my experience and voice to ensure that clients know someone is on their side and looking out for their best interests.
Cosmetics companies are in it to make money by selling lots of products. This is fact. Whenever I stumble onto a company whose website is littered with all sorts of 'green' information about how ethical and upstanding they are I actually become more dubious - especially when the product marketing then reads just like every other company. To be fair, I'm aware that product companies nowadays are held accountable by their customers and must show that they are 'giving back'. EverEscents definitely appears to play that card very well indeed. They openly state their position of being Certified Organic, Cruelty Free, Vegan, anti Palm Oil and more. They operate on 100% renewable energy, supports kids with cancer and even contribute to a hairdressing non-profit for unemployed & disadvantaged people. While these are absolutely all excellent positions to have and are obviously admirable, they are also directly part of their brand positioning. Equally important to any company's ethical position in the marketplace though is for their product offerings and marketing to equally be so. As Monica my UK chemist stated, there's a lot of manipulation when it comes to selling cosmetics and these tactics often target one's emotions as means of increasing profits. As a conscientious service provider, it is absolutely my duty to keep an eye out for these sort of things so my clients are well aware and don't waste their money.
EverEscents was founded by two individuals whose stated background is in sales and marketing. Their company has very clear brand positioning along with a website and packaging which is literally teeming with the sort of green, social conscious speak and heartwarming stories that are very much on trend. I get it. They are saying they're very ethical and different. Cool. Then maybe they shouldn't sell a treatment product which fails to deliver the elevated results a consumer would be expecting. Too, don't charge more for this product if it really isn't all that different from another in your portfolio. Doing both these things literally makes them seem like every other cosmetic company and sort of undermines the whole 'we're different' angle.
Again, this situation is precisely why I am cautious and don't automatically parrot any company's ethos onto my clients, let alone sell their products directly. As I mentioned at the start, I generally like the EverEscents products and will continue to use them for the time being. Unfortunately, there currently is limited choice here in Australia for locally made curl supportive products so I'm definitely glad they are available. There's also no doubt that both the Moisture Conditioner and Deep Treatment sell well for EverEscents, however I tell my clients they likely don't need them both. Most would be best served with the conditioner itself. As the Deep Treatment sells for roughly $8 more per litre than the Moisture Conditioner and is somewhat less so in that regard, I think this is sound, ethical advice.
The lesson here is pretty simple. Just because a product line is Curly Girl supportive and the company puts forth an image of being ethical, healthy and responsible doesn't mean that as consumers we should blindly assume their products are going to do what the labels and marketing says they will. After all, they are still just a cosmetic company and products can only do so much. True beauty comes from within and we are all equally gorgeous in that way. Our best self is absolutely achievable without cosmetic assistance of any kind whether that be scissor, brush or multi-coloured plastic bottle. So watch where you step!
While online comments are always closed, I encourage any readers to email me their thoughts directly. I will always respond in kind.
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