Hair care products help us look our best, which is why some people are willing to spend major bucks on them. In 2014, consumers funneled more than $50 billion into the U.S. salon and spa industry through sales, according to the Professional Beauty Association.
Salon professionals are warning consumers that their hard-earned money may not be going towards the products they wanted. Depending on where products are sold, hair products could be different than what's advertised on the bottle.
“Diversion is the unauthorized sale of professional products to a third-party or a wholesaler. Paul Mitchell calls it a back-door deal,” said Molly Mummert, a senior stylist at Studio 7 The Salon and Spa.
John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS) has contracts with distributors who then sell the products to professional hair salons. Somewhere along the way, the products are ending up in the hands of wholesalers. Typically, the products are sold illegally through authorized sellers or purchased on the grey market and re-sold online or through wholesalers.
“Then you see it end up at our CVS or Target,” Mummert said.
The problem isn't necessarily the "back door deal," it's what happens to the product once it's been diverted.
John Paul Mitchell Systems only guarantees their products purchased from a professional beauty salon and not from a drugstore, supermarket, or unauthorized source. And throughout the years, JPMS has been tracking what happens to diverted products.
“They found bacteria, they found the product separation in there. It could be a totally different product,” said Mummert.
While the consumer may not be able to identify whether or not a product has been tampered with, they will most likely see a noticeable difference in the price.
ABC2 bought the same Paul Mitchell color care conditioner at a local salon and then at a nearby CVS. The bottle cost $11.50 at the salon and $14 at CVS.
"So, not only are you getting a diverted product as far as what it's made of, but you're spending a few more dollars," said Rosalind Holsey, owner of Studio 7 The Salon and Spa.
Holsey added that diverted products takes money away from local salons, and consumers are paying more for a potentially inferior product.
"I would not ever suggest buying a product from a chain store or a grocery store. You're just not safe, you don't know where that product came from," Holsey said.
How a product is stored can also affect its performance. Temperature can affect the ingredients and product shelf-life. According to JPMS director of brand protection Vikki Bresnahan, some sellers have even been known to top off bottles with different products in order to make them look more full.
Bottom line, stylists want to make sure their clients have the same great experience at home as they did in the salon.
ABC2 reached out to CVS for comment, they sent the statement below:
"All hair care products we offer for sale are purchased - and are being sold - lawfully under all applicable laws. These are genuine products in good and saleable condition. CVS pharmacy is committed to offering its customers one-stop beauty shopping -- for everything from high-performance skincare exclusives to seasonal color trends and salon-quality hair care -- all under the CVS Beauty Guarantee, which offers 100% money back refunds on all beauty products for any reason."