Haircare products: Do you get what you pay for?

Is it really worth investing in expensive haircare products or are budget buys just as good? The Spell team investigates...

Hair & Beauty

It’s safe to say that we’ve tested our fair share of hair products here at Spell. From luxury shampoos costing £40+ to indie buys and high street staples – we’ve tried, tested and applied them all. But one thing that many of you are curious to know is whether it’s worth spending extra pennies on premium hair products.

Psychology comes into play when it comes to our shopping habits. Items that are more expensive are generally viewed as better quality, more valuable and more capable of doing the job. But are we allowing ourselves to be seduced by fancy marketing? A quick peruse at the ingredients list for a shampoo in the £30+ price range alongside a high street version for less than £10 reveals many similarities. Both are capable of doing the task in hand - cleansing the hair - however it seems that some subtle differences are a key factor in the justifiably higher price point in many premium products.

Ingredients

While the main ingredients in both budget and premium shampoos and conditioners might be the same, it’s the added extras often found in the more luxe items that lead to a higher price tag. For instance, that coveted shampoo on your wish-list may seem overpriced, but does it contain organic sustainably sourced ingredients from overseas, which require time, effort and resources to formulate? Melissa Sinclair, founder of Big Hair + Beauty, a premium range of haircare products for natural hair, says: “From the quality of the ingredients we use and the premium packaging we’ve selected to the sustainable practices we’ve incorporated into running our business, we just couldn’t compete with the lower end of the market. Across the beauty industry from bodycare to skincare there are budget brands, mid-range brands and luxury brands, so a wider premium offering within afro and curly haircare should be welcomed and celebrated - especially as many of these are black-owned brands.”

Oribe hair
Courtesy of Oribe

Performance

A primary concern for consumers when parting with their hard-earned cash is whether the product will perform. The uniqueness of textured hair makes it hard to predict results and according to Sergio Giannasso, founder of Giannasso Hair & Beauty in Covent Garden, it all depends on how compatible the formula is with your particular hair: “I always advise choosing shampoo and conditioner based on your hair type rather than price,” he says. “Consider your hair – is it coloured, oily or does it need more volume? Buy products based on this rationale. The more expensive formulas contain higher priced ingredients such as plant extracts, botanicals and essentials oils, which are less likely to cause irritation to the scalp and will also improve the health of your hair.”

Steven Carey from the eponymous Mayfair salon adds: “Most shampoos will cleanse your hair and eliminate dirt, but the cheaper alternatives will contain fewer conditioning agents and therefore leave it feeling a little dry. Try upscaling to a shampoo that contains a conditioning ingredient such as polyquarternium or quaternium. Generally anything ending in ‘ium’ is a conditioning agent.”

Investing in your hair

So, it’s clear that while spending a little bit extra on haircare is worthwhile - it’s not absolutely essential. Yes it’s still possible to obtain quality hair products without spending a fortune.

Sometimes the best way to weigh up whether it’s worth going premium is to think of it in terms of an investment. Items with a longer shelf life, such as wigs and hair extensions, are often worth spending more on. If you’re looking to achieve fun, trend-driven looks, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t purchase budget-friendly hair.

This is particularly true when you consider how the synthetic hair market has come along in innovation, creating styles that last longer and look and feel more authentic. But if you’re looking for something that will last a considerable amount of time, Spell editor Jemima Cousins says paying that little bit extra is the way forward: “I’ve always been prepared to part with a good chunk of change for quality hair extensions. Virgin hair in particular has great versatility because it can be bleached, dyed and heat styled like it’s your own hair. With good aftercare, you won’t need to purchase new hair as often, saving money in the long term.”

So, when it comes to knowing whether to budget or splurge, the choice is ultimately yours. When we probed the experts, most agreed that although expensively priced products can bring numerous benefits, using what works for your own beautiful texture will always yield the best results.

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