Monday, December 7, 2009

How can a product review be useful to you?

Have you ever purchased a product because you read a good review of it? Have you ever had the same experience with it as the reviewer?

If my own experience is any guide, you answered "yes" to the first question and "hardly ever" to the second. So what does this mean? Is there something wrong with your (and my) hair? Are these product reviewers lying? Did we misunderstand the reviews?

Except for reviews that are written by shills for a given company, the answer to all of those questions is "no." But that takes us back to the original questions of why it's so rare to have the same experience with a product as somebody else.

You know why there are so many products out there? Because there's so much variation in hair! There's porosity, texture, volume, and elasticity to consider. And not only is there variation among heads but there's the mineral content of the water you use, the temperature and dew point where you live, the other products you might also be using in your hair, how badly your hair needs to be cut, your diet, your stress level, and even your hormonal activity.

A product review can only be helpful if the reviewer has a head of hair similar to yours and lives in conditions that approximate your own. What are the odds of that? I don't know. I flunked math in school because I preferred English.

I see blogs dedicated to reviewing products and to be honest, I rarely read them. They are well-intentioned and I'm sure the reviewer feels she's rendering a service, but without knowing any of the variables I listed above and without knowing how much product the reviewer used, the review is pretty worthless to me.

Reviews also can be helpful, though, if the reviewer compares the product to another product. Then you have some frame of reference, especially if you've used either product. When a reviewer has reviewed many products and can compare and contrast, you can start to get a feel for what her hair is like -- and how it differs from or is similar to yours. In my case, my hair tends to be pretty sensitive to humectants. I limit them and avoid products that have a lot of them high up on the ingredient list. If a reviewer gives a thumbs up to products that are humectant-heavy, I know that her hair is very different from mine and I won't pay too much attention to what she says because we're comparing apples and oranges. It doesn't mean she's a bad reviewer or that the product is bad (or good) -- it just means that the combination of ingredients in that product is better suited to her hair than to mine.

But wait, you might be saying. Wouldn't you be able to figure most of this out just by reading the ingredient list?

Yep. And that's why I think product reviews are of limited value. Read the ingredient labels for yourself and you'll be able to make your own determination about what will work for you. Even this method isn't foolproof obviously, because although we know what's in a product, we never know how much of each ingredient is in it. That's where experimentation comes in, and only you can do that for yourself.

If you've found a product reviewer who seems to like the same products you do, you are one lucky curly head. But for the rest of us, the only reliable way to know whether a bottle or tube or jar contains our holy grail is to read the label and/or try it ourselves.

And then, of course, you can write your own product review, if you like.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Amen! I have learned this the hard way. I tried several products that got raves from everyone, only to be disappointed. Now, instead of being frustrated and confused, I know how to pick which products to try. You are so right. Learning about ingredients, the dew point, etc., has been the key. No longer do I need to waste money after listening to someone's raves or a stylist's recommendations. I can look at the ingredient list myself and make an informed decision. I have the same problem that you do with humectants. My porous hair wants nothing to do with them until the dews are in the 50s! (Which is rare in my climate.) So a sylist is trying to sell me a curling cream. I pick up the product, see that glycerin is #3 on the list. "No thanks." Money and sanity saved! :o)