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Your Salon Products Might Be Fake: How to Spot Grey Market Products

Avatar • Feb 22, 2015

by Christina and Elle

When salon brands state their products aren’t guaranteed to be authentic unless purchased from an authorized retailer, I thought that they were simply placing emphasis on their exclusivity and turning us off to getting those products at a discount. To be honest, I didn’t care. I don’t buy products from random eBay sellers, so it never occurred to me to be worried if my products were authentic or not.

However, Redken describes diversion as the following: “Diversion is when products are sold in “unauthorized” places. For example, all genuine Redken products are sold exclusively in salons. But you might come across a few bottles in your local supermarket, drugstore, online or at a discounter. Salon professional products you find outside of a salon are considered to be “diverted.””

Diversion in Hair Products

diversion

Most major online retailers, chain pharmacies, big box and grocery stores are not authorized to carry salon products, period. I know, it seems like they would be legit (especially stores like Target), but they’re not. In fact, many of these companies practice the act of diversion to get around the whole “unauthorized” thing. They purchase salon products (think Paul Mitchell, Redken, Big Sexy Hair, Matrix, Kenra, Mizani) from a legitimate distributor, then store the products in a warehouse for years until the products expire and the bar codes cannot be tracked.

Once the products have “disappeared” from the books of the distributor, the products have new barcode labels slapped on them, are re-bottled (in packaging that looks only marginally different from the original), diluted, blended with alcohol, and any number of unregulated and potentially harmful practices. Once the products hit the store shelves, they are either greatly reduced to move quickly, or inflated in price to make it worth the retailer’s while to go through the process of diversion.

Diversion in the Online Marketplace

You may or may not be familiar with an online retailer named, “Stock N’ Go.” I was excited to see this site because they sell every salon and drugstore hair product (hello, Ecostyler, and even Jane Carter) you would ever want at a heavily discounted price, depending on the quantity you purchase. And when I say heavily discounted, I mean 50% off or more. For instance, the Tigi Catwalk Oatmeal and Honey is available for $8.78 (opposed to $15-$20). And even though I question whether this conditioner still exists, that price is pretty darn tempting. But at the same time, it’s probably not worth getting old or watered down products. (For the record, Lavish Curls isn’t even on the Curls website anymore.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 10.04.37 PM

The High Cost of Low Priced Products

Besides the fact that diversion is inherently shady and unregulated, it poses a real risk to consumers. Products are formulated with specific preservatives and even the strongest ones can only hold up for so long (especially in extreme temperatures that occur in some warehouses). Of particular concern are products that contain formaldehyde-releasing (or donor) preservatives, that are designed to release over time. The longer they sit, the more they release and the more potentially toxic they become. And for those products that don’t contain the stronger preservatives, the ingredients in them will expire and render the product essentially ineffective. Grey market products are a literal waste of your time and hard earned money.

How to spot fake products

So, what does this mean for us as consumers? Essentially, #staywoke. Be informed. I’m not saying you have to locate the nearest Paul Mitchell or Aveda salon and purchase exclusively from them, but that’s one way to guarantee the veracity of your products. If you have a favorite salon product that you purchased from the salon or an authorized retailer, commit what it looks, feels, and smells like to memory. That way, if you find yourself purchasing it somewhere else, you can check what you know against what’s on the shelf. Stores that also have salons like Ulta are authorized retailers, and also have online disclosures about their supply chain transparency.

I didn’t realize how prevalent grey market practices were among big box stores and smaller beauty supply stores, until I was browsing in Target and stumbled upon these Mizani products on clearance:

Photo Feb 12, 3 46 18 PM

Have you come across any grey market products or used them before? What was your experience?

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Andrea Bonds
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What about the companies who advertise that they are now available in Target or other stores (such as Miss Jessie’s and Curls). Often times these products are just as expensive as in the Salon which would lead me to believe they are not grey market. I assumed it is just convenience. I don’t buy expensive salon brands anyway, but I guess I’m a bit skeptical about this grey market business.

PJ
Guest
PJ

A lot of the time, specialty brands that go mainstream end up changing their original formulas (as in the case of Carol’s Daughter) or they come out with a cheaper version (with different/cheaper ingredients) for the store (as in Curls for Target). If you compare the ingredient lists, you can see both of these instances play out.

Ama
Guest
Ama

Agree, just like when high end designers have clothes/accessories in Target. But dang what Target is sellin Oyin Handmade?!?

natural
Guest
natural

I don’t believe this of target and other chain stores you know how much money one could get from suing walmart for this? I think in the case of redken they want you to come into the salon and buy it so all the money goes back to them no third party.

Bigantic
Guest
Bigantic

I always thought most of the beauty supply stores (those ones in small ethnic neighborhoods and sell weave) sell products without authorization. o_O

Even convenience stores will be selling fake brand purses, fake Paul Mitchell, Chi products bought from some other store’s clearance section, mix tapes, etc.

atlcharm
Guest
atlcharm

Wow, great article! That could explain why so many products haven’t worked for me. Great to know that Ulta is authorized.

TT
Guest
TT

Can we have a list of aurthorized retailers for hair products, if its not too much

Just_browsing
Guest
Just_browsing

SIMPLE SOLUTION: Make your own shampoo and conditioner in your kitchen
and save money and possible poisoning from expired or bootleg products.

Homemade
Shampoo and Conditioner recipes are all over youtube, this websites and
many other websites. So don’t be lazy, save the bald patch, ignore the
good bargain and pick up some coconut oil, mayonnaise and eggs instead
and get cracking on that waist length HAIR!!!

JenniD
Guest
JenniD

Now I love me some DIY and experiment regularly, but that is NOT a simplistic solution lol. Bald patches can be had mixing up things that you know nothing about. Many of bad skin irritants are linked to essential oils and soap based cleansers. Its not that black and white. You have to take into consideration of ph balance, mold growth and hunting down products etc.that may or may not be available in your home town/ county. Also there are many of low grade coconut oils and shea butters out there on the market.

OXxo
Guest
OXxo

Big brand stores don’t do it where I live as if a well-known retailer is selling grey market products the license holder can take them to court or simply threaten to. This started with branded clothing years ago. Beauty supply stores get up to what they want until they get caught by the authorities and fined. Even if they get fined a few times and in the local media that doesn’t stop them. For example they sell products with illegal ingredients such as skin bleaching creams under the counter. Likewise sellers on the internet can sell complete fakes regardless of… Read more »

StraightShooter
Guest
StraightShooter

This is a really informative article.

Miss Tamey
Guest
Miss Tamey

I luv my natural hair community. Y’all keep me up on everything going on. This was a real eye opener for me because I’m always searching for a deal.

Reece Wynt
Guest
Reece Wynt

Winners/Marshalls…

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

I have seen these products at my Local CVS store. So to avoid it, I either buy from their site, or I click on the tab that says where you CAN buy them if they say you can buy this at Target then I’ll get it there because they have been given the green light to sell it there. I use Enjoy products ( in my rotation) and lucky for me I just get it from the source at a discount I’m friend’s with one of the Co-founder’s brother who does the sells and distribution for the company. =)
SCORE!

atb10
Guest
atb10

This article is right on time. I was just about to buy Nioxin off Ebay for my alopecia until I saw this. Suffering from hair loss, I do not need anything knockoff. Many, many thanks for this. I’ll now buy the system directly at the salon.

Mya
Guest
Mya

Yes, I’ve been hearing a lot about knock off’s lately. What upset me most are companies that come out with products for black women but turns out they are white or Asian companies just wanting the black dollar. I’ve been buying cosmetics directly from black opal’s website or kgreenlipcollection.com bc I KNOW these companies are BY BLACK FOR BLACK.

Jim Bod
Guest
Jim Bod

notice nobody is showing you the fakes, mostly because they are not. ebay sellers have no tax to pay, no insurance, just no overheads at all, and are happy making a honest buck, unlike these salons constantly ripping people off.. long live ebay. dont get fooled by pages like this, they want you only to buy from salons etc

TheDiva
Guest
TheDiva

Great info! Always check a brands website to either order directly or find an authorized distributor. Let’s be logical here and put ourselves in the shoes of a company who wants to maximize profits, while lowering risks, which is sort of the goal of a successful business (no matter the size) as no one goes into business to break even or lose money (that, my friends, would be a charity, non-profit, or failing business) — Why would we deny those who sell our products legitimately? That would mess with volume and profit — if we want a successful business we… Read more »

TheDiva
Guest
TheDiva

I did a little more looking and according to the Paul Mitchell FB page Ulta IS an authorized dealer of their products even though they aren’t listed on the website. Guess that will be my next stop today!!

Alyssa
Guest
Alyssa

I’m happy to see that Ulta is an authorized retailer, however I’m always skeptical. I recently purchased a 1 liter bottle of Big Sexy Hair volume shampoo at Ulta that was on sale for $12, and it seems watered down and I always have to shampoo twice to get my scalp clean/grease out. It fits the bill as far as no fabricated bar code slapped on it and the shampoo looked consistent with the smaller sized bottles, but it gives me no volume and doesn’t seem like a good product for a high-end brand. Now, I haven’t used this shampoo… Read more »

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