Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A hair-raising experience

I’ve heard that you should change your brand of shampoo a few times each year just to keep your hair on its toes, so to speak. In other words, if your hair starts to droop, it may be time to give it a shot of something new to perk it up.

Well, lately my hair has been so droopy, I look like a basset hound. And the more I wash it, the droopier it gets. No “oomph,” no style, it just hangs there like overcooked linguini. Even hours in curlers and a good dose of hairspray haven’t helped. The minute I set one foot outside in the wind (insert any other weather condition here), poof! I’m a basset hound again.

So I stood in the hair-care section of the supermarket the other night and cluelessly stared at 4 zillion bottles of shampoo until my eyeballs ached. There was shampoo for oily hair, dry hair, brittle hair, color-treated hair, frizzy hair, synthetic hair and thinning hair. There was volumizing shampoo (to make hair louder?), highlighting shampoo, shine-inducing shampoo, dandruff-eliminating shampoo, louse-killing shampoo, hair-growing shampoo and clarifying shampoo.

And that was only the top shelf.

Back when I was young, shampooing was pretty simple. Just about everyone used either Prell, Breck or Halo shampoo. They weren’t made for any specific hair problems. They were just plain, old-fashioned, get-out-the-dirt-and-gunk shampoos.

Halo was supposed to make your hair shine so much, it would look as if you had a glowing halo surrounding your head. Prell was so thick, the ads claimed that a pearl could be dropped into it and not sink. And Breck was famous for its Breck Girl ads, which featured gorgeous women with perfectly coiffed, gleaming hair. Not one of them had even the hint of (heaven forbid) a split end.

Personally, I always used Halo, even though it made my hair feel like a cactus. I never used Prell, but my friend Janet did, and her hair didn’t look much better than mine. I guess the fact that a pearl could float in the stuff didn’t matter a whole lot. I mean, a pearl really wasn’t all that heavy. If they had dropped a few lead fishing-sinkers into the shampoo, then I might have been impressed.

There were no fancy hair conditioners back then either, but there was something called Tame cream rinse that helped get rid of frizzies and snarls. Not too many people used it, though, because it was considered a luxury. Most of us just suffered from incredibly dry hair that formed so many knots, it got yanked out by the roots every time we tried to comb it.

Men didn’t have to worry about dry hair, though. The Elvis hairstyles that were popular back then required greasy stuff like Vaseline (if they were on a budget) or a special hair slicker like Brylcreem (if they wanted to splurge) to keep their curls and waves properly “swooped.” So the guys walked around with hair so greasy, you could see your reflection in it, while we girls looked as if we were auditioning for the part of the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

And shampoo lasted a long time back then because most people shampooed only once a week. We were told that frequent shampooing robbed hair of its natural oils and would result in breakage and premature baldness. And frankly, it was little scary to picture myself looking like my grandfather.

Anyway, I ended up buying a couple new shampoos at the supermarket the other night. One was guaranteed to thicken hair, and the other said it would add loads of body and curl. Both sounded as if they would banish “limp” forever and give me something pretty close to a luxurious lion’s mane.

I tried the hair-thickening shampoo first. My hair ended up feeling as if I had washed it in a vat of glue. I couldn’t even get a comb through it. Things like dust and dog fur immediately clung to it. And I woke up the next morning looking as if I’d slept with my head in a lint trap.

So I tried the extra-body shampoo. My hair did look thicker…probably because it was full of static electricity. When I pulled my sweater up over my head to take it off that night, my hair stood straight up on end. But at least it wasn’t limp.

I figured that if I used a conditioner in combination with the extra-body shampoo, I could get rid of the static and still have body. So I went down to the local pharmacy and read the labels on 486 conditioners, then finally decided on one called “Smooth and Silky.”

It did make my hair smooth and silky…and perfectly straight. If I had covered my head with a sheet of brown cellophane, it would have looked about the same.

I momentarily toyed with idea of heading back to the pharmacy and buying the shampoo that grows hair, but I just couldn’t shake the thought that if I had to actually touch the stuff to use it, I might end up with hairy palms or knuckles.

So I am $15.86 poorer and still haven’t found a shampoo that makes my hair even remotely resemble the thick, flowing, spun-silk hair that all of the models have in those television ads.

Heck, I wonder if they still make Halo.

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