You’ve likely long been touting the benefits of professional beauty products, due to their better ingredients and less harsh chemicals. But how much of that is truth versus marketing hype? One hairstylist, Jacqui Swanson (@jacqui.swan) of Jacqui Swan in Visalia, California, decided to put her hair on the line and test how much, if at all, her hair would be affected by drugstore shampoo. Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and after a week of using the non-pro stuff, her hair color had dramatically faded and her hair felt brittle and way less healthy. We talked to her about why she wanted to do this challenge, and if she would ever try anything like this again. And be sure to check out the highlights section on Swanson’s Instagram page @jacqui.swan for the Shampoo Challenge for yourself and to share with your clients.
What motivated you to do the Seven Day Drugstore Shampoo Challenge?
There was a week in the salon where four new clients in a row showed me these beautiful photos of bright blondes and vibrant vivid tones with all the hopes and dreams of having that hair when they left the salon that day. Expectations were running high. After explaining what their hair would have to go through to achieve their dreams, they were all on board. But when I asked what shampoo they used at home, two said Pantene and the other two said Head & Shoulders. And one of those two didn’t even use conditioner because the bottle says 2-in-1! When I was trying to explain what it means to take care of their hair once they get home, it was like I could see their ears close. They were no longer listening. I was frustrated. While venting to a fellow stylist a few days later I said, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll use what they use and show them it’s wrong!”
What were the criteria for the Challenge?
Wash my hair hot water every day for seven days with drugstore shampoo and conditioner. Style it with non-professional products every day as well. I knew I was the perfect candidate because I have the same hair as most of my clients: a natural level 4 that’s lightened to a level 9.
What did you expect to happen to your hair after seven days? Why would you want to risk potential damage?
I expected it to feel like crap. Very dry and stiff. I knew that even though I was putting my hair at risk of feeling horrible, I also knew that any damage could be easily reversed with the right treatments. I was actually more excited to show how it would look after using great hair products.
How quickly did you notice a change in your hair? Did you notice your hair health or color change first?
I very quickly noticed a change in the quality. I normally can get away with blow drying it with my fingers and it looks nice. Not in this case. My ends looked frayed, as if I needed a haircut, but I had just got one two weeks before. It only got more tangly and more unmanageable with every wash. I noticed the hair health first, but the color was visibly different after one wash, and after two washes the vibrant pop of color was gone.
Which products did you use, and was any one better than the others?
I purchased Pantene Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo and Conditioner, Head & Shoulders Green Apple Anti-Dandruff 2-in-1, Pantene Leave On Detangling Milk, Dove Dry Shampoo and a Garnier Fructis Damage Repairing Treat. Not “Treatment.” “Treat”—whatever that means.
The Fructis Mask was garbage; it didn’t do anything. But what do you expect for $3.00? The Pantene leave-in wasn’t the worst product I’ve ever tried, but knowing what a good leave-in conditioner will do, it doesn’t stack up. I hadn’t used Head & Shoulders in 12 years, and I have to say they have improved their formula. I used it two times and I didn’t get the buildup I remember (but I only used it twice), and I wasn’t nearly as itchy as I expected I would be (I have a horrible dandruff). But I also believe it isn’t an everyday shampoo. You should be switching between it and something else. And first and foremost it is NOT a conditioner! Two-in-one’s are junk.
The main thing I noticed about all of the products was the strong smell. They really get people with the smell. It makes them believe it’s working. But do you really want to wash your hair with perfume?
I can see in your before and after picture that your color definitely faded over the course of seven days. How much of that do you attribute to using these products vs. actually shampooing your hair every day? How often would you shampoo your hair regularly?
Water is the enemy. You want to keep water especially hot water away from your hair as much as possible. Pair that with basically washing with dish soap and say sayonara to your hair color. I am on the opposite side of the spectrum. I should wash my hair more. I say I wash my hair every three or four days, but it’s really like every five.
Do you think that this fade would have been just as prominent on someone who didn’t have a vibrant color, but more of a natural color?
Vibrant-toned hair definitely sees a more dramatic depletion in color, but any way you swing it hair color is going to fade, whether it’s natural or vivid. But when you’re investing a lot of money to get it done, take care of it. Would you put your designer bag in the washing machine?
How do you think stylists can best talk to their clients about the problems of using drugstore product? How do you educate vs. sell?
That’s exactly why I did this. I was struggling to find a way to get the point across. As stylists, we can give our clients all their hair dreams. But if they don’t maintain it properly at home, when they come back, they may complain that it didn’t last, like we did it to them. Many of my young clients come in every three months. That’s four days out of 365 that I’m taking care their hair. They are taking care of it the remaining 361 days. It truly isn’t about me making money off of you buying products or forcing you to spend a bunch of money. I don’t care where you go: Find professional hair brands you like, find good deals and use them!
The response from clients has been amazing! “You convinced me, I need to take better care of my hair!” many have said. Is the answer that every stylist needs to do this to show their clients? I don’t know, but this has been the biggest conversation starter for me to get clients to open their ears to what we’re saying.
What was your biggest takeaway from this experiment?
That people wanted to know how to take care of their hair without knowing they wanted to know. It’s all about getting the conversation started. The amount of messages from girls with questions about what they should use for their hair situation shows they just haven’t been taught how to care for their hair with the hair trends they want. Maybe messaging someone is easier than asking in salon.
Would you ever try anything like this again? (At-home hair color, for example?)
My hairstylist says no. [laughs] But really, that’s a tough one. As a working hairstylist I know if I colored it with at-home color how hard it would be to come back from that and my hair wouldn’t make it. And that’s damage only a haircut will help. But I am thinking of some ideas for future experiments. This was way fun!
Have you ever been more reluctant to shampoo your hair than after this challenge?
I don’t think it’s possible for me to wash less than I already do. [laughs] But no, it didn’t. It definitely made me appreciate professional styling products more than ever.