Hair Salon Product Selection

When you’re in the midst of running a busy salon, up to your elbows in colour and tangled up in foils, the sight of the sales rep at the door might make your heart sink. You don’t have time to sit and chat and the choice of products can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps you would like some tips on where to start when selecting products for your salon?

Take control

Sales reps often drop in unannounced or visit regularly to capture continuous sales but it’s ok to insist they make an appointment and it’s ok to put a limit on how often they come to see you.

Most companies will accept returns of unsold merchandise so get the rep to sign off old stock before agreeing to take a new order. This way you can ensure your salon stays fresh and up to date with recent trends. If a rep is pushing a particular product you don’t have to take it but, if you are tempted, make sure they give you the best deal to maximise your margin. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; understanding the nature of the products available can help you offer the best service and range without unnecessary expenditure.

Colouring and lightening

A barrier cream and stain remover are real must-have products for colouring hair. The cream will protect the hairline from harsh chemicals and the remover will eradicate drips or seepage.

Hydrogen peroxide, also known as developer, is an oxidising agent used in colouring and lightening hair. The higher the strength of the hydrogen peroxide, the higher the degree of lift that can be achieved. Hydrogen peroxide is available in 3%, 6%, 9% and 12% solutions. Pre-softening with 6% liquid hydrogen peroxide will lift the cuticle layer, allowing permanent colour to deposit correctly into the cortex instead of lying around the cuticle’s surface.

Permanent colours can be used to lighten or darken hair. They must be mixed with a developer to change the hair colour. Semi-permanent colours don’t require a developer and last for 6-8 shampoos. There are mousses, gels, sprays and rinses. Quasi-permanent colours can only darken hair and fade gradually over 12 weeks so root regrowth is less noticeable. They are more effective at covering grey than semi-permanents but less effective than permanents. They don’t remove the natural hair colour so the result is more natural looking and less uniform.

Bleaches only lighten hair and are mixed with developer. Emulsion bleaches contain a cooling agent so are suitable for full-head bleaching. Powder bleach is good for partial colouring techniques since it does not expand as much. Avoid using it for a full head as it will cause scalp irritation.

A pre-pigmenting product can be used to replace pigments that have been lost through a lightening process. They prevent future colour fade and stop undesired tones occurring when darkening hair.


Relaxers are used to alter very curly hair into wavy or straight forms. Lye and no-lye hydroxides are more effective on type 4 hair than thioglycolates and the effects are permanent.

Lye hydroxides contain sodium hydroxide in a cream emulsion, enhanced with vitamins, moisturisers and proteins that help to protect the hair during processing. Lye hydroxides break down the bonds more quickly and the hair is left with more shine, however they can be more irritating to the scalp.

No-lye hydroxides do not contain sodium. The most active ingredient is calcium hydroxide or guanidine hydroxide. A liquid activator of guanidine carbonate is added to the relaxer cream just before use. No-lye relaxers work more slowly and are milder on the scalp so are often used on dry hair.

A pre-relaxer will be needed for clients requiring touch-up applications. They even out the porosity of the hair and enable equal absorption of the relaxer cream while minimising moisture loss and chemical damage.

Scalp protectors shield the scalp from irritation during the chemical application process. The consistency is usually a lightweight gel or oil containing ingredients which reduce itching and provide a soothing barrier.

Post-relaxer treatments are needed after the normalising phase to protect against breakage, seal the cuticles, moisturise, soften, detangle and restore hair to its normal pH.


Since colouring, relaxing and the application of heat puts a lot of stress on our tresses, let’s take a look at some of the shampoos which can be used to nourish hair.

Normalising shampoos are used after a relaxing service to restore the normal pH of the hair. They typically contain a chemical indictor which causes the lather to change colour if any alkali remains in the hair. Clarifying shampoos remove the build-up of natural oils, styling products and shampoo residue. Chelating shampoos remove the build-up of minerals, hard water deposits and chlorine and should be used in combination with a normalising shampoo if a calcium hydroxide relaxer was used.

Coloured hair can be protected with a shampoo with a low pH which closes the cuticles and stops the colour molecules from escaping.  

Shampoos for damaged hair contain proteins which cling to the hair and fill in the damaged areas. Anti-dandruff shampoos contain Zinc Pyrithione which reduces scaling. Coal Tar shampoo does the same and is particularly effective for clients suffering from Psoriasis.


Conditioners inject hair with moisture, so the more luxurious, the better. A leave-in conditioner is ideal for dry brittle hair and is very useful for detangling. They contain nourishing protective ingredients and are sprayed onto wet hair.

Oil conditioners are applied to dry hair and processed with heat. They leave the hair feeling soft, supple and shiny. Deep acting conditioners can be used to recondition the hair as part of a 4-6 week treatment for hair in very poor condition.

Creams or emulsions work in a similar way to the hairs natural grease, coating the hair in a thin film, leaving it shiny and manageable.


Styling and finishing products add value to your client’s experience and enhance their image. They deposit a coating on the hair shaft, protecting it from humidity and give the style longevity by holding the hair in place.

Heat protecting sprays coat the hair with a protective layer, shielding the cuticle and cortex from becoming damaged or excessively dry when heat is applied.

Hair sprays, lacquers or spritzes stiffen the hair, making it feel crunchy until brushed out. They come in the form of a pump, aerosol or spray nozzle.

Mousses boost shine, condition, volume and body without forming clumps or build-up. They are a lighter alternative to gel and can be used to reduce frizz and define curl. They are available in soft, medium and firm holds and can be purchased as a spray or a cream.

Gels enhance texture and are available in medium to firm holds as well as wet-look. They stiffen the hair and are stronger than hair spray and wax but weaker than hair glue.

Waxes, pomades, putties, glues, whips, moulding gum and pastes define texture and movement and are available in soft, medium and firm holds. Waxes don’t harden like gels, leaving the hair pliable.

Pomades make hair look slick and shiny without drying out. They last longer than most styling products and take up to 10 washes to remove. They contain petroleum jelly and mineral oil and even perfume and colouring agents. Stiff pomades contain more beeswax while light pomades contain more oils.

Setting lotions increase volume and movement while dressing creams apply texture. Serums are good for reducing frizz, giving a soft, natural hold while adding a high gloss finish.

Men’s Grooming

With the current trend in beards and moustaches comes a rise in the demand for male grooming products so it’s well worth stocking up on a few of the essentials.

Beard thickeners are spray-on products used when the hair is still short to help give the appearance of fullness.

Conditioning lotions and balms can prevent new-growth itch or, if used on an established beard, will dissolve oils trapped between hairs. They shape the beard and reduce fly-away hairs.

Beard oil is a must-have as it replaces the natural oils lost from washing. It can be used to help style or straighten the beard.

Moustache wax provides hold and is suitable for touching-up while gels and hair sprays provide control but lack flexibility and resistance to moisture and humidity.

Since dry skin can lead to an itchy beard it’s important to provide a good face wash that can be used to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, aiding in the removal of dead cells and lifting in-growing hair. Don’t forget night creams which hydrate and nourish the skin overnight and dislodge dead skin cells.

Having a thorough knowledge of the products in your range will give you the confidence to promote them to your clients, keeping you at the cutting edge of hairdressing.


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