Monday, 2 February 2015

The Product Hunter

I am constantly busy hunting and foraging for quality hair care products. I echo my view that I do have a bias for natural products. Still, when I think natural my next few thoughts are: effort, doubt and crammed spaces.

The raw natural market:
The natural market is rare (pun intended) as opposed to cooked. Natural spaces are little enclaves where masses of remedies are more densely stacked than Faraday station to confuse even the savvy. Often, I have to ask for advise just to get to the right isle let alone decide which unfamiliar product to try. Their sales strategies are often intrusive and pushy and product recommendations are a package deal. If you buy this one you also get that one and you end up with a full trolley. Not at all ayoba! The natural market is a niche. Natural stores thus are small and closed as opposed to a Clicks or a Dischem that is spacious and lit up- a much more impersonal model but the size and offering makes it a lot less painful. For me shopping for house and personal products has to be quick and easy- hit and run. Being at even Dischem for more than 30 minutes is not my idea of fun.

Consider this- supply and demand for big brands tick like clockwork. When you think pain-the last thing you want to hear is try this and if it does not work try that. We are used to convenience and we want instant gratification. We buy what we are used to because we can get it quickly and easily. We do not want to forage we want to hunt. Spot a target and shoot it. That is what consumer behavior comes down to. Take for example Ibuprofen (Myprodol). Have you ever seen an ad for Myprodol on TV? Neither have I. It just does work. When I’m in pain and I want relief I know if I take a Myprodol it is going to do just that. I take it and it works every time.

When I had processed hair product choices were much easier. It seemed that most things worked pretty ok. There were a few misfires but they were very limited. Since I have had natural hair products just don’t seem to work as well. Which is why I started taking a closer look at what my product choices were and asking myself: why are you buying this one? Is it going to work? What is it meant to do? I now have a mount of unused and useless products lying around my house.

A few months into product hunting I am discovering a few more gems and its exciting. Instead of hunting I now forage. I search, then research, then compare and try them. Regrettably, the best natural hair products, I have found, are not South African. They

Quality natural products come with a price tag, what the teens in my family call “nice price”. I (consumer and product addict) know that quality and cost are inextricable. If I was to want a quality pair of shoes I expect the price to have a high cost. A pair of shoes on the outside of my body and has a low impact on my health. If it does not wear well I may just chuck it and get a new one. I can’t do that with my natural hair. Yes, I may potentially be able to cover it up but what remains under the cover would be my reality.  Why then do I want to spare the expense with something that goes onto my skin and hair?

The fancy packaging of professional products and the sophisticated distribution chains cost a “nice price”. The individual ingredients in these products are often not the best. Is it that I truly believe the ridiculous TV adds that never show reality? Clips that never show a woman with hair that looks like mine? One who smiles on wash days and steps right out of the shower and has perfectly dry and shiny hair? Or glossy magazine pages with weaves and wigs advertising hair growth aids and products? This is not limited to ethnic advertising it is a widespread media issue. What really frustrates me is how all skin care advertising starts and ends with how well it will lighten and brighten your complexion. The assumption is that all women want to be light skinned. Similarly, hair ads perpetrate long, bone straight hair to be the queen of female desire.

I wonder to what extent the images in the media reflect consumer truths? Why their line of attack is so limited? Why manufacturers choose to disregard those outside of these apparent mainstream desires? Why there are not more quality locally produced products? Why the locally available products of high quality, albeit imported are not more popular? Does the thought of the ‘natural products’ really repel consumers? Is the demand for these good quality products not high enough to justify the related marketing costs? Why do we buy sub-optimal products? Why there is such lax regulation of the cosmetic industry in South Africa? These questions lead to more questions.

The expectation is that consumers are responsible for their own action. That they ought to choose wisely: good quality and by reputable producers. There is a short list of requirements that manufactures have to fulfill. The biggest problem lays in the small print of product ingredients. I so wish there were a scanner or app that could tell me if a product was passed by some regulatory body. Also that only ingredients listed is what is actually inside.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to go off-road with my product hunt. I spend time foraging, often a laborious task. I come across very pretty pieces of shiny glass.  Sometimes crystals. Less seldom still I find real treasure.

Love Yourself Naturally
Silk Helmet Lady

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