This is what sets a luxury shampoo apart from drugstore ones, according to hair care professionals

This is what sets a luxury shampoo apart from drugstore ones, according to hair care professionals

Crowning glory

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @oribe

We'll be candid with you. There are two types of people in the world of hair care: people who use $300 shampoos, and people who... don't. Regarded to be a reflection of one's financial status — and priorities — they are a hallmark of quality (supposedly), luxury (surely), and upper-class refinement (oh hells yes), making them the prime pick for the plush establishments of today looking to brand themselves on the same pedestal. See: Barry's Bootcamp, The Yoga Co., Lolla.

This, does, however, bring forth a host of questions for us intrepid hair buffs. Namely, why are these shampoos sold at such exorbitant prices? What is a consumer paying for when they purchase suds of this calibre? And is there really a difference between ka-ching options and their cheaper counterparts?

We hand the microphone to hair professionals who can answer our burning questions. Below, their insider insights, plus everything you should know before splashing out on these mane Maseratis.

You are spending more... because of product efficacy

"Luxury hair products tend to have better ingredients and performing technology," explains celebrity hairstylist, Tommy Buckett in an interview with lifestyle guide, Domino. "They also are more concentrated, resulting in less product being used each time."

Yup, it seems that mass market formulas are more likely to contain harsher detergents and chemicals — think sodium laurel sulfate and parabens — which are known irritants for sensitive scalps. Christian Serafini, creative director of newly opened luxury salon in Singapore, Les Maison De Stars, agrees. "A cheaper shampoo brand will often consist of a detergent to remove oil and dirt from the hair and scalp. However, these won't place a heavy focus on improving or even maintaining the quality of the hair, and will often leave it feeling dry and making it prone to static."

While mass brands may outwardly appear to provide smooth, silky locks comparable to luxury buys, they unfortunately don't do much for hair in the long-term. Director of latest K-Beauty salon import Juno Hair, Valerie Koh, elaborates: "Mass-market shampoos are known for diluting their products with fillers. These tend to make your hair feel super soft, but they can also leave behind a waxy build-up in the long-term. Basically, your hair feels soft but it isn't actually hydrated from within."

Brands such as Oribe, for instance, are paraben-, sulfate-, and gluten-free. They also offer UV protection (say what), are mostly vegetarian, and contain high-quality essential oils, fruit extracts, and botanicals. That's how it achieved its cult status.

You are spending more... on packaging and fragrance

While drugstore offerings are more inclined towards fruity and vanilla scents, luxury shampoos are scented with signature blends and packaged in fancy imported bottles — all of which incur extra costs. Take Acqua Di Parma, which handmakes individual labels for their Colonia hair and body care range, and Oribe, whose products bear a one-of-a-kind signature scents comprising bright Italian bergamot, white peach, and cedarwood. The disparity in price is, hence, attributed in part to such stylistic choices.


You are spending more... but should you?

It really boils down to personal choice, though the professionals we have spoken to stand firm on the many benefits of a pricier pick. Thankfully, many exist between the $15 and $300 range. "Using the right shampoo can make a big difference to the appearance of hair," says Valerie. "Shampoos and conditioners heavy with sulfates and silicones — most often seen in drugstore formulations — can make hair look limp and bedraggled. Choosing a sulfate-free formula designed for your hair type will give locks a lot more bounce and flow."

While some might forego luxury shampoos in favour of hair masks and treatments instead, bear in mind that they essentially serve completely different functions, and should in no way replace each other. In fact, picking the right shampoo is of such importance that Shiseido Professional's Regional Marketing Manager, Ellen Thum, recommends switching it up regularly to experience the best effects. "Hair and scalp consultations should be done once a month or bi-monthly as circumstances vary due to lifestyle changes," she points out. "This means the best shampoo for you would change accordingly too."

Ultimately, Kristina Barricelli, professional hairstylist and Hairdo brand ambassador, puts it best in a piece by Byrdie. "You are essentially paying for the quality ingredients and the technology that goes into developing these formulations... a perfect calibration of everything that is needed for the hair." Whether you think they're worth the hefty price tag is naturally your call. Mean time, we'll start counting our coins and consider alternating our Watsons buys with our splurges. Hey, moderation is key right?

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