The truth about high-end brands in drugstores

You might think you're getting a deal on that salon brand at Target — but you're not even getting the real product at all. Click through to find out what you're really getting when you purchase those products!

I went to CVS recently to browse what's new in makeup, and I came across a display of Dermologica, Peter Thomas Roth, Philosophy, Fresh, Murad and even Bare Escentuals skin care. This may not seem totally out of the ordinary to you, since we've all gotten used to seeing Bumble and bumble, Fekkai, and other salon brands of hair care at Target, but these are high-end skincare brands that are usually only found in salons, spas, and specialty stores. To give you an idea of what's wrong with this picture, imagine seeing NARS, Smashbox, and Urban Decay at CVS. It doesn't fit, right?

*Pssst... be sure to make it to the end of this post, where I tell you exactly which brands you should NEVER buy from mass retailers like CVS, Target, and other dugstores/grocery stores!

You might think, "Who cares where I find high-end brands? The more accessible, the better." Sure, as a consumer, it's easier for you to get your Dermalogica at CVS when you're picking up a prescription than to find a local spa that sells it. But for stores like CVS and Target to sell these products to you is undermining small, local businesses like salons and spas that make a huge percentage of their money on retail sales. It's also incredibly deceptive, because what you're getting is not the same product as what you'd get from an authorized retailer. 

Authorized vs. Unauthorized Retailers

When high-end brands are intended to be sold in salons, spas, and other specialty stores, the companies form relationships with those retailers. The products are purchased by the retailers directly from the companies or through an authorized distributor. They get the newest, most updated products & formulas, and they're the first to know when products have been discontinued or new products are being introduced. At La Bella, for example, we are an authorized Eufora retailer. If you go to Eufora's website and look for salons in Richmond, Virginia, you'll see us on the list.

When unauthorized retailers want to sell these high-end products, they are unable to get them from the company or an authorized distributor; instead they get products from other shady sellers who've purchased the products in bulk and are reselling them to chains like CVS and Target.

The catch: the barcodes on the products can be tracked, so to avoid getting caught diverting products, those shady sellers store the products in a (usually not climate-controlled) warehouse for a few years waiting for the barcode (and, inevitably, the product) to expire before reselling them.

So when you buy high-end brands in drugstores, you're buying old, expired, and sometimes discontinued products... the same price — or sometimes even a higher price — as the brand-spankin'-new products your hairstylist/esthetician just recommended to you in the salon.

Wait, they're the same price? Or even more?

Yes. Those chain stores fool you into thinking their prices are lower because it's the type of store they are, but the truth is that in a lot of cases they charge the same price or even more for a lower quality product. And you'll buy it, because it's convenient and you think it's probably at a discount. Unfortunately, it's usually not.

I can only put it bluntly: you don't know everything you think you know about your skin and hair. 

True story: I spent my life thinking I had oily, breakout-prone skin. I loaded it with salicylic acid and other drying products to attempt to reduce breakouts. I bought light moisturizers, or didn't moisturize at all. Nothing ever worked. Then I got a facial, and learned from a licensed, professional esthetician that my skin is not oily, it's actually severely dehydrated. Everything I'd been putting on my face in an attempt to fix it had actually made it worse, and my skin was over-producing oil. There I was thinking I knew my skin better than anyone.

Another true story: before I was a hairstylist, I would never spend money on my hair because I thought there was nothing I could do with it. I'd get Hair Cuttery haircuts and constantly lament my limp, lifeless, can't-hold-a-curl hair. I also washed it every day because it got greasy every day, and I thought I had to.

Then, I started working in a salon and eventually became a hairstylist. I learned that there were so many things I thought I knew about hair that I didn't, including the fact that I didn't have to wash my hair every day; it was the washing that made it greasy. And yet I had walked around every day thinking I knew everything there was to know about my hair.

Related: On not washing your hair

My point? You have experience with your own skin and hair, but licensed professionals have experience with all skin and hair. There are things we know because we had to learn them to become licensed professionals, and there's a reason you have to be licensed to be considered a professional in our industry.

So when products are made for licensed professionals to sell, it's because the products are like prescriptions, and it takes someone with a higher level of knowledge about skin and hair care to know who should use what products. When you're given incredibly convenient access to the products without a licensed professional to help you, you are likely spending a lot of money on the wrong products.

*Pssst... be sure to make it to the end of this post, where I tell you exactly which brands you should NEVER buy from mass retailers like CVS, Target, and other dugstores/grocery stores!

So here's my big question.

Often, clients will get recommendations from their stylists/estheticians/what have you, and then go somewhere else to buy products that are either the exact same products at the same price, or other products at the same price level (ahem, Ulta). My question is this: Why are consumers so averse to buying products from the professionals who recommend them?

As a hairstylist at a high-end salon, I don't have customers, I have relationships. I have clients I see every 3 weeks, or 6 weeks, or 10 weeks, but that I see consistently or have been seeing for years. And I'm sure some of you reading this have a relationship with your hairstylist: you wouldn't miss an appointment for the world, you book out for the year, etc. Most likely your hair is the best it's ever been because your stylist has spent so much time doing it that they not only know you and what your preferences are, but they know your hair and how it's going to react to certain colors, or being cut in certain ways.

Your hairstylist arguably knows your hair better than you do. 

So my honest, I'm-looking-for-an-answer question is why won't you trust their product recommendations?

I think a lot of people don't trust that hairstylists get a commission off of products they sell, and to that I'll say three things: first, the amount I make on product commissions is the smallest part of my paycheck; second, if you like your stylist, why wouldn't you want them to make money on the products you use?; and third, selling you products that aren't right for you simply to make a small commission only makes our jobs harder, and you're probably going to return them anyway.

Perhaps not all stylists think about it the way that I do, but the way I see it is that I'm only successful if you're happy with your hair. When I recommend products to my clients, it's because I want their hair to be as beautiful and manageable as possible, and I think those products will improve their hair.

This is how a good stylist will see product recommendations — not as a number on their paycheck, but as a useful tool for you to have at home. Can a drugstore do that?

Scroll down to see exactly which brands you should NEVER buy from mass retailers like CVS, Target, and other dugstores/grocery stores!

NEVER purchase these brands at Target

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So now you've heard my spiel about why you shouldn't get those high-end brands at the drugstore, but I truly, honestly want to know...

Where do you get your beauty products? Do you take your stylist's recommendation, or do you pick and choose on your own? Do you use drugstore products or high-end products?