Are there risks involved in choosing cheaper versions of big brand technology from China that have infiltrated the Australian market in recent times?

The answer was a resounding ‘Yes’ from our eight industry experts at the fifth Professional Beauty Industry Roundtable, who all agreed it was crucial to choose quality over price in the salon.

All our participants – including Mandy Gray from True Solutions, Karen Austin from Skin & Laser, Farshad Kazazi (Kaz) from Eden Laser Clinics, Daniel Clifford from ClinicalPRO, Bruce Byers from Cynosure, Metro-Dora Clifford from Beauty Thru Nature Skin & Laser Clinic, Mathew Green from Syneron Candela and Meredith Langley from The Beauty Room Cosmetic Clinic – warned that you ‘got what you paid for’ when it came to purchasing equipment.

Mathew said it was all about efficacy, while Kaz said service parts were the most important thing when looking at cheaper brands from Asia.

Meredith said it came down to having the confidence in the product knowing it’s a reputable product with clinical data behind it, while Mandy said it was a matter of price versus performance.

Bruce said it was the same old corny cliché – you get what you pay for – while Daniel said copycat products were a huge problem.

Metro said you had to be able to operate the machine correctly and be able to read the manual, while Karen said the risks of cheap imports just weren’t worth it.

Watch the video below for the full discussion.

“Some of the risks that people could be exposed to are regulatory issues with the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), assuming that things are properly registered for the right indications. Efficacy, questions about efficacy. Is there robust peer reviewed scientific literature on the device and its effects, but most importantly are the results reproducible? You may have a device with one customer that works well and another one that doesn’t because of quality control. You may be using the device according to the manufacturer’s guidance with the right parameters, but then you see people getting burnt as an example. What is the clinical support? Often this cheaper equipment is sold by very small companies with limited resources for post-sales support, both clinical, technical, regulatory, marketing, business development, so you’re very exposed. Do they have local parts? Often these devices can be copies of reputable equipment. They may have a very short run life, which means they may be discontinued, you may be left with something that’s no longer made and the distributor has no parts.”

“When a machine is down, the business suffers. The business suffers financially and it cannot sustain a lot of downtime. Having someone turn up for service is one thing but if there’s no continuity in having parts available, you can’t fix the problem. Service parts are the most important thing when you’re looking at cheaper brands from Asia.

Meredith:: “I think it comes down to me, about my salon philosophy. Where do I want to sit in the market? Do I want to have a brand of equipment in there that’s good quality and has got reputation and it’s got support behind it or do I want to not do so. To me it comes down to having the confidence and my staff have the confidence in the product knowing it’s a reputable product with that clinical data behind it. That’s what I look for.”

“It’s price versus performance. If it’s price, there are lots of companies you can go to, which will do it cheaper and save you the time. But if you’re looking for performance, come and see me. Performance is what differentiates equipment. I buy equipment that’s been made in Europe, the UK, America, mainly because of quality control. When you buy a house, you check the foundation, that’s more important than what’s on the top. With equipment you have to do your due diligence.”

“I love Chinese and the Chinese people, and I love Korea and the Korean people, and even Slovenia and the Slovenian people, where a lot of these products are coming out of. But it’s the same old corny cliché – you get what you pay for. The reason their prices are cheaper is because the components they’re putting inside the box of these products is cheaper. The flash lamps don’t last as long, the optics, the laser head. All these components are being compromised in these products and that’s why they’re cheaper. They’ll run well for the first three to six months but after that they start to deteriorate. Everybody is in it for the long term, not for the short term and these are not disposable consumable products. When you buy a product, you want to have it for at least five years plus and the robust that comes inside the product of the long running product is because of components are of the highest quality and that’s where they can’t be careful about.”

“It’s important to have solid products. Copycat products are our problem and that’s never going to go away. If it’s something good, somebody will copy it, but where it’s being developed and what’s the backing behind that is the other problem. We deal with a number of other suppliers, factories and manufacturers from around the world and it’s interesting to know the cost of the item really affects the delivery cost here in Australia. We’ve got items from the US, from Spain, Italy, even Korea. What we look at is when we supply a product, how quickly can we back it up with replacement parts or the support? If they’ve got a question about a function, how do I get that feedback from my engineer team, where could they be? If you do go for the cheapest option, which unfortunately tends to come from China, there is not backing behind that, there is no support, there is no technician that can give you answers. The quality of the output, is it actually what it says? Does it then die after a couple of months or a couple of years?”

“The industry is seeing the value. What I found as a clinic, it’s very important for my staff to be able to follow a guideline, to follow a menu and to read the menu and understand what it’s saying. Lots of machines that are made in China don’t have even clear instructions. That’s very important for you. If you’re not there, for your staff to be able to say, ‘Okay, a sign has come up on the machine, what does it say? Let me take the manual, have a look at what it says’. Can they have that guidance before they call maintenance or the supplier? If the machine is turned on, turned off, would they be able to know what to do? It comes back to what you buy. You want to make sure that the money you invested will return. You pay for what you get. We waste a lot of time and time is money.”

“Always quality. The risks of cheap imports just aren’t worth it. You’ve got risks and injury to the clients, injury to the therapists, injury to your reputation and then ultimately injury to your financial stability. It was never an option for me and I spoke to an independent engineer once and he was called out to quite a predominant clinic in Melbourne that bought an Asian laser. The instructions were written in Korean and they didn’t know how to use it. He had to supply an energy measure tool, a parameter, to find out what button is for what.”