What's In Your Shampoo?

I frequently get asked 2 questions, Why did you become a stylist is the easy one to answer. The question I always struggle to answer is, “What do you wish you knew more about when you started your hair career?” It is hard to answer, because there are so many things that I wish I knew more about when I started.

I’m DeVerne Augustus, and I’ve been a salon professional for nearly 2 decades. If it is a job in a salon, I’ve done it, including being an educator for color companies. I came to the salon industry later in life nearly 30, (Gasp!). It was a designed career change from sales. In sales, the type I did, I was always looking for new places to sell. If I was doing my job well, I was working myself out of a relationship. It made it hard to stay ahead and growing. I had the great fortune to work among salons as a consultant for business/salon environments,

The reason why I became a stylists? That interaction I saw made me fall in love with what stylists get to create in their careers. They are creative, emotionally charged and invested, empathetic, and relationship builders. What I loved most was that a good stylist that serves clients well gets to do the work again, for the same person, in 4-6 weeks. That was a new thing and a big draw for me.

When I started out in the salon world as a stylist, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I still learn new things everyday. I wish I knew more about the business side of things when I started. Not much was taught in hair school. I wish I knew color better, or how to do a better fade… What I really wish I knew more of was how important product is, home care product. We all learn how destructive chemicals can be, and learn to respect them in school. We learn the basics of graduation, directing hair, creating movement, and whatnot. We all become more proficient in our skills with more practice. But we never really learn much about product formulation and the real difference between ingredient quality, formulation processes, quality control in manufacturing…. We are kind of taught product is product, use what you like. All salon product is good, all other product is bad.

The product side of the business is something we typically learn from our product reps who tell us only what they have been told to tell us by the manufacturer. And those companies and reps have a specific agenda, Get us to buy their stuff. Period.

Maybe luck just wasn’t on my side when it came to product reps, but none of them could help me understand how different ingredients interacted, or worked, or what they did that was not desirable to the integrity of hair, or the bodies it grows out of. They couldn’t tell me why this $30 bottle was better than this $18 bottle. I had great relationships with my reps, they just didn’t know these things either.

Let’s take SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). Did you know it was developed to clean soot and grease off of engines in WWII? It is widely used in personal care products for it ability to work in varying pH and water hardness environments. It also foams a lot and easily. But, would you really want to use engine cleaner on your body or your family?

Going on 5 years ago, I found myself in a situation where I needed to know more about ingredients and formulation, a lot more. What is the difference between amino functional silicone and cyclic silicone? Why can a client use a shampoo with cocamidopropyl betaine from me, but in a grocery store brand they react to that cleanser? Is sulfate really different from sulfonate?

What makes one line more gentle and effective when 40% of the ingredients in it are the same as that brand that is harsh?

I didn’t have anyone in my circle who could answer those questions. And I had other professionals telling me things that made no sense or appeared to carry no scientific logic. It was like they were selectively editing information to suit their arguments, or worse yet, just making crap up. Or maybe they just wanted to be right and didn’t really care about out come?

Well that set me on a journey to discover and learn. It was an eye opener for absolute certainty. I’m not a chemist, or a formulator, my specialty had always been doing hair. What I am is a researching menace. I will chase information down every rabbit hole I can find.

You’ve probably never heard of me, and that is how I liked it. All I wanted to do was do great hair for great clients, and live a great life. Well, all this research and what I’ve shared about what I’ve learned has changed that! You probably still have never heard of me, but the pond I’m am known in is getting bigger and bigger every day. If I’m honest, that is a bit scary, but I really believe our profession needs to know more about how the products we recommend affect the bodies we recommend them to, and how they affect our planet.

Once I started realizing how important it is to understand not just ingredients, but ingredient grade, and how things work together to resist or promote residue and build up on hair and overall functionality, I started cataloging ingredients.

At first it was just a spread sheet, for me. One that I would use to refer to when someone made a claim about a product or ingredient that seemed off. Then people started coming to me directly with questions about ingredients and formulation. Which turned into social media content, then a few groups, then eventually an ebook sprung from all the info and questions.

If I’m completely honest, I was appalled at what I did not know, and did not know I should be self educating on. It was heartbreaking to see all the mis information out there that was being perpetuated by industry influencers. And it was maddening to learn that many many professionals just didn’t care enough to get the right information. All it seemed they were interested in was perpetuating the status quo.

It isn’t difficult to find this information. It’s all out there, a few key strokes away on google, but you have to be willing to read multiple sources and glean the truth. I learned that so many just weren’t willing. But more and more are all the time and that is a very good thing in my book.

I didn’t know if anyone would even care about the ebook, but people started purchasing it. Somewhere around 4500 people have purchased it since 2017, which is a wonderful thing. I’m grateful for everyone who put their trust in me. The book gets updated as new information is available and found. The focus is on ingredients you want to see in your products. So much of the available information is on the 10 or so things to absolutely stay away from. Not much is available on the good stuff. Or why these new and different ingredients are better. What I’ve learned is that just because something is new never means it isn’t better. Isn’t it better to keep moving forward, disrupt the status quo and keep the work moving ahead? If it wasn’t for innovation, we would still be in the stone age.

Link for the book www.whatsinyourshampoo.com

DeVerne Augustus is a 19 year veteran of the salon industry, he is no longer behind the chair due to some health issues that put him out to pasture, but is intensely involved in the salon industry and product distribution. He now lives in Palm Desert CA with his husband, Dana, and 2 dogs, Angel and Gus.


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