Articles > Business > What Would You Do: “Secret” Products On Clients
Last updated: September 28, 2017

What Would You Do: “Secret” Products On Clients

Do you ever bring "secret" products into the salon?

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It’s not an uncommon scenario: you need to create a certain shade for a client, but your salon’s color line makes it seem impossible—so you bring in your own color. Or you’re loyal to a certain styling line, but it’s not one that your salon retails, but you use it anyway. How do you navigate these “secret” products? Or should you even allow them at all? One BTC member is having this problem, and all of you weighed in on what you would do!



I was recently promoted to manager at the salon I’ve worked in for almost 9 years. Here’s my dilemma… stylists are using “secret products” on their clients that the salon does not sell. The owner and I think this makes the salon look unprofessional and like the stylists don’t believe in what the salon represents. The stylists claim that the color or finish they require for certain clients can’t be achieved with our current salon products. As you can imagine we can’t carry every product line and I think in terms of color especially, I feel like it’s stylists being a tad lazy …not wanting to re-formulate or create w/ new color lines? Am I wrong? Are there really certain colors only possible w/ particular brands? What should we do?


There are two major issues you all considered when answering this question. First: booth renter or commission-based? And second: haircolor only, or wetline and styling, too? Here are your opinions.


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It Depends
, a booth renter, said her salon uses one color line and a variety of styling lines, and she uses a mix of many brands. “Every head of hair is different. I could make it work with only one line, but I want that head of hair to be as perfect as I can make it, so some heads require different products. If a client wants a certain product, I send them to a salon that sells that line. I haven’t lost a client yet. They appreciate my honesty. Did I lose a couple dollars from product sales? Yes, but a return happy client is worth the couple dollars I lost.”


But in a commission-based salon, many of you said “secret products” should be a no-no. “When you’re working for a salon, you’re signing up for the full package—color and products—and that requires you to pick a company you can get behind,” said Ashleigh Sleeter on Facebook. “If you only use this or only use that, maybe renting a chair makes more sense.”


@icecreamriot is a booth renter and said, “While my salon owner carries a popular line of products for clients to purchase, we each carry our own products for use. I like it that way—stylists are a creative breed, so why be bothered what each artist chooses to use on their canvas? But if you’re commission-based, I can see how you would be upset. Product sales are important and are ultimately being taken away from the ‘house’ by the stylist stepping out on the house brand. But…to each their own. It’s bad business to try and fit us all in the same box.”


There’s the argument that certain shades aren’t achievable in certain lines, and @stylensmile acknowledges that. “If they are commission and you provide the color, let them know they must stick with the lines you provide, but make sure you have everything they need. If you know there are shades that your current semi or punky color line doesn’t have, let everyone vote on one line to individually keep those shades stocked from. Some punky colors are impossible to mix.


For others, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you need—your options should remain open. “If a client wants something in particular that your shop can’t deliver due to what’s on or not on the shelves, you’re limiting yourself and your stylists,” said @dinosaursbro. “Do you need to carry EVERYTHING ever made? No. But you should always remain OPEN to the ever-changing world that is hair. If you don’t keep up with the times, you’ll get left behind. You should never want to limit yourself. Would it break the bank to once a month order a few tubes of a color that was requested and is being used? No, you’re making money and satisfying the desires of your clients.


Educate and Evaluate
This could be an opportunity to improve your salon. Said @turtledovemommy, “Sign [your stylists] up for a product/color knowledge class and let them ask the educator how to achieve the looks they wany using that product.” @busybeautypdx echoed that idea: “Maybe if you do some fun classes can help them discover some new formulas using the salon line. I know personally, if I’m resistant to something and I can be shown a new perspective, I can be swayed to conformity.”



“As a salon owner, I have been in the situation where new stylists to the salon have preferred to use the color lines in which they were previously using,” said @maureenhairqueen. “I have always been open to this as I feel it’s an opportunity for me to learn a new line. Simultaneously, I would provide education on my current lines and have them slowly integrate them into their arsenal. I would not bring in the full color line, but have them choose only the frequently used ones. Usually after a period of time the new line would either be phased out or embraced if we loved it!”


George Ritzel weighed in on Facebook. “Run a report on what you know sells to see what line is the lowest sale, then remove it to make room for what [stylists] are using,” he said. “In the end, they are happy, and your retail sales go up.”


The Keep Salon commented on Facebook too, adding that when their salon converted to a new haircolor line, they did have some formula issues. But, “the problems did work themselves out as the technology of the line we started using exclusively became more advanced,” the salon wrote. “We’ve ocme to realize that the exceptions to the ‘no outside product’ rule do exist and are valid, but are very, very rare. It’s important to always try new things and be open to bringing in new lines…but the brand comes first. If the salon has an exclusive line, it’s best to commit to that 100 percent and not compromise it. The biggest problem that I’ve had with sneaking in outside chemicals is that the results do not advertise what the salon necessarily does, and attracts more future clients who want these services/results that your business technically doesn’t offer.”



Adds @stylensmile, “Make a salon policy that all styling products must be something you carry for retail. If your current retail is lacking a particular option, like for curl, texture or dry shampoo, vote on one other line to bring those missing things in from. This will increase sales too, because otherwise clients are buying those products after they leave. But if the stylists have all the options they need, provide an educational day to show them how to use your line to get those results. They either don’t know or don’t care. Give them no excuse to use something else. And make it a hard rule.”


And some good insight from @katieburgess1313: “As a younger stylist, I think it comes down to structure. What is your desired salon structure? Is it really important to you that everyone be more united and uniform in the products they use, or do you want a more individualized and creative atmosphere? Once you make that decision, don’t be afraid to enforce it. I’m the kind of person that needs to know what the expectations are. If I know where my boundaries are, I will stay within them and just get creative within them to serve my clients. I would also encourage you to talk with those stylists about it. I have seen so many managers, not just in our industry, be frustrated with something in the workplace and complain to everyone but the responsible party.”


Definitely Not
Some of you felt pretty strongly that this was not OK no matter how you slice it. Said @saralindsaythemakeupstore, “Simple. No ‘secret products’ should be used on guests. That’s ridiculous!” Added @ellasbraids, “If you feel like the stylists don’t believe in what the salon represents, why are they there? You guys are a team. That’s dangerous if you’re all not on the same page trying to reach for the same goal. Integrity is important and they don’t display it.”


There’s one legal issue to consider that @xscarletstarletx pointed out: “I hope each stylist has an MSDS on hand for each “secret product” they are using, because if not, this is a serious OSHA violation and could cost them their licenses, not to mention will shut down the business and incur heavy fines. If you decide to let them have their secret products, you should require that they bring you the MSDS, the product, and perhaps even have you sign off on it saying it’s approved, that way if they get caught with something unapproved, you have good reason to suspend or terminate.”


“Do your job as a manager and if the stylists don’t like it and don’t want to follow the rules, they can find work elsewhere,” said Elisa Eisenhardt on Facebook. “It’s not worth the lawsuit you may end up with.”