Diversion: Buying Hair Products at Drugstores, Supermarkets or Target? Read This!

I’m on the left, talking to Shu Uemura’s Art of Hair rep, Beth, at the Anti-Diversion event held at the Tribeca Grand Hotel last week.

Last week, I attended an event thrown by L’Oréal USA’s Professional Products Division (PPD). PPD brands include Redken, Matrix, Pureology, Logics, L’Oréal Professionnel, Kérastase, Shu Uemura Art of Hair, Mizani and Artec.

At the event, we learned that the brand recently launched an Anti-Diversion Communications Program to educate the salon community and consumers about their anti-diversion strategy. What is diversion? Basically, it’s the selling of beauty products at unauthorized retailers. On the list of unauthorized retailers are drugstores and supermarkets, even Ricky’s and Target. I’ve definitely purchased these brands there in my quest for lower-priced products. In fact, I was skeptical about this entire topic, thinking how convenient it was that the L’Oreal was telling me how I need to pay full price for my addictions (hair products) directly at salons.

But what I didn’t know is that when you buy from unauthorized retailers (whom I’d never known were unauthorized), you run the risk of purchasing contaminated or counterfeit products. To ensure that the inventory of these products has not been compromised, it’s important to purchase salon products only in authorized outlets including salons, professional stores and select brand manufacturer websites. Also? Pricing in mass outlets is typically elevated 10% so there’s really no “deal” to be had.

David Craggs, President of L’Oreal’s Professional Products Division, educated us on the dangers of purchasing hair products anywhere other than a salon. The few exceptions include Trade Secret, Regis and Ulta.

“L’Oréal USA’s PPD sells professional products to salons and stylists, uniquely for their use and for retail by them,” says Craggs. “We are committed to fighting diversion, and have been battling this huge industry problem for many years. In fact, thanks to a high sophisticated secondary coding system that is 100% accurate in tracking products, we have cut off diverters and over $30 million in product sales. Through product coding, PPD continues to eliminate diverters and diverted product.”

To do my part to urge you guys to buy authentic, guaranteed products, I’m going to link to the brand’s website where you can find distributor info as opposed to linking to online retailers. Let’s put a stop to diversion!

Click here to learn more.

17 Comments Diversion: Buying Hair Products at Drugstores, Supermarkets or Target? Read This!

  1. Richard

    You named the top three diverters, Trade Secret, Regis and Ulta…

    You forgot one tho, the manufacturers.

    If they wanted to stop diversion they would have years ago, fact is, if not for diverters and those that buy beauty products at “unauthorized retailers” most of these companies wouldn’t exist today…

    Professional beauty product sales consultant

  2. Conya

    OK girls, this is the real story.These products in the retail store are absolutely the real thing, and they are no more likely to be old than in the salon. The fact is, they are placed in retail outlets by the very people who pretend that they are fighting diversion, the wholesale distributors, with the manufacturers turning a blind eye to the whole process. These Professional only product lines are gold to their makers and distributors because they do not have to invest a lot of money into marketing the product to the public.The products are first sold legitimately to hair salons. Hairdressers and salon owners use the products on their clients and if they like them, they recommend them to all of their clients. At this point, the hairdresser becomes a walking, talking advertisement for the product. In a medium size salon, that equals thousands of people being told how great this product is. They also are building a business base, like any other retailer. Think about how many salons (how many are in your town?)are out there promoting these products. Once the product becomes hot (thanks to hairdressers) suddenly it shows up in all of the big retailers.All of the huffing and puffing by the manufacturers about stopping diversion is just a smoke screen.
    There is no way a huge company like Target could buy enough product from a distributor without the support of the manufacturer. Consequently, the profits that a salon may have spent years building can go right out the door. You can see why they may tend to try to scare you out of buying from Target.
    They just took a paycut. Without getting too much on a soap box, as a salon owner I have been refusing to carry a product once it hits the discount and drug stores. I don,t bother to tell my clients misinformation about old or contaminated products.
    I just tell them the truth, once a product hits Target, it has been PLAYED.Everyone uses it now. Who do you think has the new HOT product? I do, of course!

  3. saraj1784

    hey guys! I use to work in the professional hair industry. The fact is these huge companies know what they are doing. They know what distributors are selling to these drug store, grocery stores and the fact is it comes down to money! They rely on this! Can you image how much money they are making? They are making lots of money selling them through these channels! They are hurting the salon business and the non salon business. My suggestions is to look for the brands that are not diverted at all! Does anyone know of any? I found one in my research. I never heard of it before (haha that’s how you know its not diverted). The brand is called bain de terre _ I actually found it on myspace and they have a statement saying they are not a diverted brand.


  4. drhair

    This is an interesting blog topic. As a salon owner of 30 years here is my two cents worth. I am no fan of product diversion.

    Obviously, I have a vested interest in this subject that is economical; however, I would like to address some of the comments I have read on this blog.

    Hair care products have a shelf life of approximately 2 years. Most if not all of the “modern” salon brands are formulated from “botanical, cosmetic ingredients,” not chemical ingredients. True, there is chemistry involved in the formulation of hair care products; however, most of the preservatives in these formulations are natural salts. They are not really intended to be antiseptic.

    Let’s talk about bacteria and the notion that you would have to ingest some to become infected. Actually, your skin is your first line of defense against any infection. As a cosmetologist, I can tell you that many clients have broken skin on their scalp, especially if their scalp itches. What would be even worse than purchasing a product with a contamination of bacteria, would be purchasing one with a fungal contamination.

    Reading these posts I come away with the impression that there is some sort of resentment with the notion of purchasing a product from a salon rather than a grocer. Let’s explore that notion. One comment said that salons were as likely to be selling counterfeit products as a grocer. Not likely, salons purchase from authorized distributors at wholesale prices. It would not make sense to purchase on the grey market to stock your salon from an economical standpoint.

    I can tell you for a fact that grocery stores are marking up salon products usually 8% to 15% above salon retail in my area. If you don’t believe me, do some shopping for yourself. Price some items in the store and then price them in the salon.
    When you do this, you will probably notice the difference in packaging. Most but not all of what I see in the grocery store is outdated or discontinued product. Why would you pay more to get less? I guess it makes you feel good give a hairdresser the shaft. Just be honest.

    Lawsuits have been tried and failed. Once Wal-Mart, you or any other entity owns a product it is yours to sell as you please. It is a question of ethics. You either have them or you don’t.

    My opinion is that in this economy the grey market will flourish. Whith businesses going under all over the country inventories will be liquidated from salons, distributors and manufacturers and I don’t think someone who is going broke will be particular about where these inventories go.

    I will tell you this, if you buy from an authorized outlet,”a salon,” your chances of buying a safe authentic product are much better than shopping in a grocery store. If your hairdresser is worth a damn, you will probably also buy the product that was intended for your hair or hairstyle.

    Be certain that you know who put the “poo” in your shampoo. Happy Lather!


  5. Anonymous

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I used to believe there was no difference in the products myself. But at two different Targets in my town, I no longer buy their “salon” prodcuts because the Kerastase masques I’ve bought from there HAVE been contaminted. There were particles of dirt in them (i’m guessing it was dirt, it was something not right), a gnat(!) in one, a peice of hair in another. It was DISGUSTING. I also noticed they mostly don’t come with their boxes and their “seals” which are the little covers are missing. Sooo, F convenience, I’d rather fork over the gas money to drive further to the salon that carries legit non-contaminated, boxed Kerastase products than to purchase the nasty contaminated ones from Target.

    1. Anna

      Never ever buy something that is not safety sealed or that is out of the box. That’s not a diversion issue, that’s an issue with products of any kind (food, drugs, cosmetics, electronics). If you buy something that is damaged, dirty, or missing a seal, you are buying a product that has likely been mishandled or tampered with (possibly by the store, but more likely by other customers).

  6. Amber

    Hey Jenna,

    Doll, you’re free to disagree with whomever, no worries! I appreciate your participating in the convo, seriously. And I’m not saying I 100% agree with all that L’Oreal is saying. All I intend to do is make you aware that diversion happens. Can you buy products at supermarkets/drugstores that are probably okay? Of course. I just wanted to make you aware that there is a potential risk of getting old, counterfeit, or contaminated products only because the company has no way of tracking what happens to a shipment that’s been sold to an unauthorized retailer. Have I purchased products from Target and CVS? You betcha. I’ve never had any mishaps, either. BUT I have noticed that the price wasn’t much lower (if it was lower at all).

  7. Jenna

    Hmmmm…. I’m still skeptical. I’ve never seen a barcode tampered with on a bottle of a product from a retailer like Target, and I’m sure such stores wouldn’t accept products like that. Also, I can’t remember a shampoo or hair product ever being recalled, so I don’t know what L’Oreal is so worried about. And can hair products really go bad when they are such chemical cocktails? Not a good breeding ground for bacteria in the first place.

    In terms of the 2003 testing by FOX News, the website doesn’t say they also tested the same products purchased at salons, so I can’t take findings of that test seriously at all. And maybe that amount of bacteria they supposedly found (again, I’m finding this hard to believe bacteria could grow in these products) would get someone sick if they ingested it but using it on your hair? Really???? It’s a hugely misleading statement at best. There would have been many major lawsuits against these retailers if people were actually encountering this issue. And those special news stories are known for blowing things like that out of proportion to scare the viewer into watching the show. And if the tests had been conducted by an outside source and not FOX themselves, I’d be more easily persuaded to believe in their findings.

    Sorry Amber, I hate to disagree with you since I love your blog soooooo much (my favorite ever, really!) but since your information is coming from these major retailers that gain financially from getting people to stop purchasing these products outside of salons, I can’t help but be skeptical! But who knows, there may be a little truth to some of their arguments.

    1. Anna

      This!!! My friend, who works in a salon, posted something about this on facebook and I was immediately skeptical. I could *maybe* see some small stores getting “unauthorized” products, as in getting secondhand stock from another store, but counterfitted / tampered products are so unlikely to be a widespread practice. Especially in big chains, which have really stringent requirements for the products they sell. Now re-selling products is not illegal, but selling counterfeit cosmetics, or selling just about anything under another brand name without permission IS definitely breaking laws. That would make the practice a bigger liability than it would be worth for stores with that much visibility, I would think. I don’t doubt that “unauthorized” retailers are re-selling products bought wholesale from other stores, but the whole counterfeit product thing is just so totally unlikely it would require some really outstanding evidence (which none of the numerous blogs and “news” articles have really provided).

  8. Amber

    Guys, here’s the situation. It’s not that all items sold at Target, supermarkets, etc. are definitely going to be counterfeit or old. But, once an unauthorized retailer has control of the inventory, they frequently get rid of the bar codes on the product so it can’t be traced. So if there’s a recall for any reason, L’Oreal has no way of tracking that particular shipment. Also, because L’Oreal can’t control the inventory, there’s no GUARANTEE that the product isn’t old, counterfeit, or contaminated. They have no way of maintaining control over a shipment if it’s been sold to an unauthorized retailer.

    Also, I know I’ve seen some seriously old stuff sold at supermarkets/drugstores… vintage packaging is pretty telltale.

    It’s just something to think about.

  9. diana

    Wow. That is some story. I buy hair brands from several retail stores like Target and Walmart all the time and to say that they are selling counterfeit products just sounds unreal. That’s a huge claim to make and I agree with jenna that if it was a big problem, legal action would have been made already. It’s ridiculous.

  10. Jenna

    Yeah, I agree with Shannon. If this really was such a big scandal, if these companies were actively trying to prevent this from happening, many lawsuits would have been filed against these companies, and they would stop selling these products. There can only selfish financial incentives for L’Oreal to speak out against this.

    Here’s what The Beauty Brains had to say: “The legal liability of stores like Walmart or Target would just not be worth it to sell anything but the highest quality products from legitimate suppliers. You have just as much chance of getting a counterfeit product at a salon as you do at a local drug store. This myth is propagated by salons and salon brand companies to help boost sales in salons and maintain the exclusive nature of the products.”


  11. Shannon--A Girl's Gotta Spa

    If these outlets are not selling true brand name products, why can’t L’Oreal and other companies sue them and get them off the shelves? I just find it odd that CVS can have a whole shelf dedicated to Paul Mitchell yet the Paul Mitchell brand is saying they are not their genuine products…so how can this be allowed to happen? It happens with JOICO, Sebastian, etc etc. We see it everywhere–so I am just as skeptical as you (were).


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