© Tom Zappala. All rights reserved.
Many of us desire a product, service, or even tablet which can provide us with exactly what we want, precisely when we want it. We regularly go to see various professionals with the hope that they can offer us the necessary cure-all for whatever our situational needs may be. For hairdressers a question which is asked regularly is "what specific product [or brand] would be best for my hair?" The question presented is a fair one. A client is asking for advice or guidance from someone they view as a professional. Unfortunately, the answer I provide usually isn't one they were hoping for.
In the daunting minefield of hair cosmetics, the landscape is littered with an abundance of redundant offerings which like to promise salvation, yet more times than not deliver bottled disappointment. These colourful plastic investments then huddle together like orphaned children in an exiled product purgatory located under the basin sink - too expensive to throw out, yet not near good enough to be accepted into the main performance troupe.
It may seem odd but the correct answer to the question above is: I have no idea.
Really. I have no idea which brand or product will perform the way a client needs it to - the way they themselves will style (or not style) their hair at home with their time allotment, skill and effort. I have no idea if even the scent of a product will compliment everything else in their daily ritual. Performance and satisfaction is completely subjective. There is no definitive means for an individual, professional or not, to say unequivocally that any one product will work for someone else. This is fact. Unfortunately, most hairdressers attempt to up-sell products like a snake oil charlatan, particularly if they are working in a conventional hair salon. They have no idea (or don't care) that this practice is at the top of the list of things women hate about going to a salon.
What a responsible hairdresser should offer is information and education on the types of products that could work or might work for an individual. As frustrating as that may be, there is no way to know with 100% certainty till ones gets the product home and uses in their environment if it will work. When it comes to hair cosmetics, it is absolutely a trial and error scenario, particularly for ladies with curly, wavy or fine hair*. I know this product truth is likely overwhelming and frustrating to hear. If it makes things easier, most clients struggle with hair products because their haircut is severely under performing. A really good cut takes much of the pressure off of a product's need to perform. This is the real root of the problem (pun intended).
As for whether expensive salon products are worth it isn't for me or any other hairdresser to say. It is a case by case situation. What I tell my clients is this. If it they like a certain product, if it works and makes them happy, I do not care where it was purchased or how much it cost. More than ever in fact, I have clients who are making their own products at home or using things purchased from health food shops. I encourage and support all of this enthusiastically.
In the end, I use my experience in this industry to honesty educate my clients so that they are well informed. A well informed client is much better positioned to head into the necessary trial and error practice of finding a product which can offer them the results they are after. Make no mistake, a great haircut is where it all starts though. It provides the visual and emotional motivation most clients have been needing to help them on their way.
*Specifically for those with curly hair, there is a lot information out there regarding things like micro-fiber towels, sulphates and silicone. My stance is this: to each their own. I am firmly against the adherence to any particular ritual as a 'one size fits all' policy. Such an approach reeks of religious fervour. While many of the methods and practices absolutely work and are a triumph for some clients, there are plenty of others who will simply act on that which gives them the best result with the least amount of effort. As stated earlier, a good hairdresser will simply educate clients on various options and let them discover and decide what is best for them. It bears repeating, a great haircut should provide the shape and texture which can support both effortlessness and effort.