How do I find ingredient lists?
Ingredient lists online are often incorrect because they are rarely updated. Make sure you double check the label on the bottle before you buy it. Drugstore.com, Walgreens.com and CVS.com are websites that have ingredient lists posted. Another option is to do a search for Name of Product and the word Ingredients.
What is this ingredient?
You can do a google search for the name of the ingredient and that should give you the answer to what it does. Or, this link lists ingredients found in hair care products in their respective categories.
Check to make sure you aren't buying a base with fragrance added.
If you are buying a product from an ETSY seller or a small online business, make sure you aren't paying a premium for a premixed base with some fragrance added. In 2010 some of the smart wavies and curlies on NC.com figured out that many of the products they were buying from online sellers were premixed bases with much higher prices. One woman found she had purchased the same exact base under different names from different sellers. These threads are old, but they give you some examples of what I'm talking about.
Hair Products and their Bases (list many products and their equivalent bases)
Essential Wholesale Co-op (see post # 2, it lists a few products and their corresponding bases)
This thread was known to me as Duchess of Curls Gate. Duchess of Curls, a popular curl enhancer at the time, currently sells for $15 for 8oz. It is Essential Wholesale Simple Aloe Jelly with some lavender added. The Essential Wholesale base sells for 16oz for $7.40 or $14.65 for a half gallon. So, for slightly less money, you can get a half gallon instead of 8 oz and then add your own lavender scent.
To make sure you are not paying too much for a repackaged base, do a google search for your product's ingredients and see what pops up. If you find many other products and/or a ingredient supply website, the product is probably a premixed base. You may be willing to pay more for the convenience of a smaller bottle, but you should know what your options are.
Same Product Different Name
Keep an eye out for lookalike products. The lookalikes are likely to come from hair companies owned by the same parent company (like Proctor and Gamble). You don't want to have a product not work for your hair and then buy the same product again with different herbal extracts added. Here are two links that have examples.
Beauty Brains: Are You Cheated When a Company Sells You the Same Product Under Different Names?
Curltalk thread. Page 2 posts 21 and 25
And my post on look alike Aussie, Pantene, and Herbal Essences gel, A Gel By Any Other Name...
Salon vs. Drugstore
If you read the labels, you will find that the ingredients in salon products sound about the same as the ones in drugstore products. Yes, formulation can make a difference, but IMHO you are usually paying for marketing when you buy a salon product.