Are Your Salon Products Fake?

By Jaime Rappa

We all see them in department stores, online, and even in drug stores. Your salon brand product right there on the shelf! But is it the real thing? 


This is what professionals, like myself, call "gray market". As a licensed cosmetologist & salon owner I make sure that diversion of my salon products won't happen under my roof. 

Diversion is when products are sold in places other than a salon. For example, all genuine Paul Mitchell products are sold exclusively in salons. But you might come across these products at stores you shop at or online. Salon professional products you find outside of a salon are considered to be diverted.  

Heres whats happening. The big retail stores like Target, CVS, or Stop & Shop seems like it would be totally legit to sell, right? WRONG! 

Heres how they get around the diversion to seem like they are authorized. Its quite simple. There are people who purchase salon products from a real distributor. Lots of products. Every product is tracked with a barcode. So how do they get around this? They store the products in some warehouse for years until the products expire, yes they do expire, and by that time the barcodes are no longer "in the system". Slap on a new barcode over the old barcode and off it goes to your local retailer for sale!  

Now, heres the real shady thing. What has happened to these products over the years while in storage? I have heard people taking salon products out of a dumpster and adding alcohol to it to fill it up then sell them.  Opened and used usually means bacteria is forming. GROSS! 

Now, you may find these products MORE expensive than buying from your reputable salon. Thats because in order for Walmart or any other store to sell it, the diversion must worth it to them. If you find them super cheap, like Marshalls and like stores, they are ready to move out quickly. 

Besides the fact that diversion goes unregulated, it poses somewhat of a risk to you, the consumer! Like I mentioned above, products have a certain shelf life. Opened is even less. Add in some extreme temp changes and bad things start to happen. The preservative in some products can become stronger and even produce carcinogens if they contain formaldehyde!  And for those "natural products" that don’t contain preservatives, the ingredients will expire and the product will essentially be ineffective. 

So, what does this mean consumers? Know what to look for when purchasing products. If you see a barcode sticker over another barcode, stay away. If it smells unfamilliar or texture isnt what you remember? Put it back! Buy from salons or authorized retailers! Stores that also have salons in them, such as Ulta, ARE an authorized retailer.  

Please help and let's keep salon products where they belong! 


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