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Protect yourself!

Sold Only in Professional Salons

I recently purchased some shampoo at my local big box store, and it stated “Sold Only in Professional Salons”.  Is it the same product that I purchase from the salon where I get my hair cut?

That’s a good question with a hard answer.  What we are talking about here is called diversion. Diversion is an industry term for the unauthorized sale of salon products. Manufacturers claim that diverted products may be counterfeit, tampered with our handled improperly, resulting in stale, dented and out-of-date products. In addition, lab tests have shown that diverted products that have been contaminated or diluted. So yes, it may be the same product, but it may be outdated, diluted or even contaminated.

Is that legal?

Yes and no. There have been numerous lawsuits regarding diversion. There is a lot of money involved in diversion, and it inspires passion on both sides of the issue. Manufacturers do what they can to stop the diversion of products. They have contracts with distributors that require them to sell only to salons with stiff penalties if they break the contract. Some even go so far as to put tracking codes on each unit so they know who bought each one from the factory. Then they follow up by sending test shoppers into chain stores, big box stores to track the codes and figure out how the product got on the shelves. Manufacturers have tried to use the claim that if customers see “salon only” products on discount shelves the products will lose their attractiveness. Some cases have pleaded in favor of the manufactures others have not.

Should I still use it?

Another hard question. I recommend you don’t. Product often finds its way to big box stores because it didn't sell at a salon. It might be expired or very old. Look for discontinued packaging, batch codes that are scratched off the bottles, dented or damaged bottles, caps that don't match the bottles, or excessively dirty bottles. These are signs that the products you are buying may have been tampered with or contaminated. If you purchase a product that had the batch codes removed it could be a problem if there was a recall for health reasons; there would be no way to track affected merchandise that has had the batch codes removed. In addition, most products are guaranteed. If you use the product and are not satisfied with the results, most manufacturers will take it back. However, to honor the guarantee, you will need to prove that the product was purchased at a salon by providing a receipt.

Where do I get the best deal?

People assume that because a product is purchased at a large discount store that the products are less expensive. In the case of beauty supplies, this is rarely the truth. In order for those stores to get the product, they have to buy it from somebody who already bought it wholesale. We regularly check prices at large discount stores to make sure we still have the best price, and rarely are we higher. We quite simply get a better deal ourselves when we buy from proper channels.

Bottom Line

Manufacturers guarantee their products because they want you to have a good experience with them. Because of that they try to make products only available to reputable salons and salon professionals.
Support your stylist and salon owner. Shop local—they appreciate your money a lot more than that big box store.  Chances are giving you the best deal, and their advice alone can save you from big disappointment.


Have a beauty related question? We'd love to hear it, and so would our readers. Email your questions to

We’d love to help.

If you don't have a stylist or esthetician you work with, give us a call and we'll set up an appointment to help you with your skin-care or hair-care products. We have several make-up artists that are happy to help you find new colors and techniques that make you feel beautiful. Letting us know when you are coming in will ensure we can give you all our attention. This is a free service, and there is no obligation to buy our products.


Disclaimer: This newsletter is a compilation of many voices and is not necessarily a single person. We have done our best to represent the subject matter as thoroughly as possible, but we make no guarantees. Please use this newsletter as only one of several sources, as it contains both facts and opinions.