Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The "Sham" and the "Poo" in Shampoo

I'm a guy. I'm not bald. (Yet.) And so, at least once a month, whether I need to or not, I wash my hair. This USED to be a fairly simple process: 1) go to the store; 2) buy some shampoo; 3) lather, rinse, repeat. (The only tricky part was knowing when to stop repeating all the lathering and rinsing.)

I say "used to" be simple because, well, have you been down the shampoo aisle lately? You have to be a chemist, florist, hair stylist, or fruit grower to understand what half the stuff they are selling is anymore!

The shampoo aisle contains both shampoo and conditioner. Apparently, hair needs to be "conditioned." Do I understand what this means? No. I can understand the concept behind shampoo. Hair is dirty; it needs to be cleaned. Hence, shampoo. "Conditioner?" I'm just not sure. But, I'm willing to concede the point that everyone needs conditioner so I don't come off sounding like a complete neanderthal or visigoth.

As I look at the shampoos and conditioners I realize that my first problem is I don't know what kind of hair I have. Every product is specifically designed for a certain kind of hair. There's stuff for "Fine Hair," "Dry Hair," "Curly or Wavy Hair," "Weak or Damaged Hair," "Fine to Flat Hair," "Dry or Frizzy Hair," and "Frizzy, Dry and Unmanageable Hair."

[I should point out here that everything in quotation marks was found on an actual bottle of shampoo or conditioner at Walmart.] (I wonder, can I write off that Walmart visit on my taxes?)(How about ALL of my visits to Walmart?)

I really don't know which, if any, of these categories my hair falls into. I scour the shelves for something normal, but the only thing I find is for "Normal/Thick." That's great, but what if my hair is Normal/Thin?

One company has product that wants to take your hair from one state to another, with labels that read "Flat to Volume," "Frizzy to Smooth," and "Dry to Moisturized." When I see the word "volume" I immediately think of the big-haired women circa 1962, with their beehives, buns and bouffants. This is not a look I want for myself.

"Frizzy to Smooth" confuses me a bit. I've known women with frizzy hair who wanted it to be smooth, but I've also known women with smooth, straight hair who would go to great lengths to make their hair frizzy. (Of course, it's possible I'm confusing frizzy and curly.)

And, as far as the "Dry to Moisturized" is concerned, I'm assuming dry is bad and moisturized is good. In fact, there are several other bottles promising to make your hair more (or possibly even the most) moist. There is "Nourishing Moisture," for when your hair hungers for moistness. "Luxurious Moisture," for when your hair wants to sip champagne and eat caviar. And "Moisture Renewal," for when the subscription runs out on you hair's moistness.

Some of the claims/promises on these bottles I can understand, and others make no sense at all to me. "Featherweight Conditioner" brings to mind the Farrah Fawcett feathered look that was popular when I was in junior high in 1979. (Yes, I'm THAT old!)

"Color Preserve Shine" reminds me of when I used to visit my Mom. The only shampoo she had in her shower said it was for hair that had been colored. The shampoo itself was a frightening shiny purple color. I was so afraid of what it might do to my normalish non-colored hair that I actually went to the drug store and splurged for some 99 cent trial size shampoo.

"Breakage Defense" sounds to me more like some kind of full court zone press that Duke's Coach K would call for during a time out than anything I would want to rub into my hair. (And while we're talking college basketball, when I see "Smooth Vitality" on a shampoo bottle, all I can think of is the shiny, bald, smooth head of analyst Dick Vitale.)

I'm not sure who would buy "Anti-Humidity" here in Utah. There IS no humidity here. It's the desert. It's a dry heat. (And speaking of dry heat, "Climate Protection" sounds more like the subject of an Al Gore speech than a shampoo/conditioner.)

The most confounding of these bottles claims to be "Hydralicious Self-Targeting Conditioner." I don't even know where to start with this one. First of all, "hydralicious" is not a word. I know, I looked it up. (When I went to it asked if I meant "hydraulics.") And then, what in the world does "Self-Targeting Conditioner" mean? I'm wondering if it wasn't something they came up with by throwing darts at random words, like a few years ago when they named that James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace."

Of course, picking what KIND of shampoo you want is only half of the battle. You then have to decide on the FLAVOR, too. Not content to just fix (and moisten) your dry, damaged, frizzy, fine, flat, and unmanageable hair, the shampoo people also want you to choose from a list of flavors that would make the Jamba Juice menu board jealous, and more colors than a Crayola Crayon box could contain. (And I'm talking about the jumbo 64-pack.)

Most of these are fruit flavors. But, they have to be a little extra complicated. It can't just be apple, it has to be "Juicy Green Apple." It can't just be strawberry, it has to be "Sun-Ripened Strawberry." It can't just be coconut, it has to be "Tropical Coconut," or "Hawaiian Coconut."

Cherry is especially popular. There is "Wild Cherry Blossom," "Cherry Explosion," (It's like a little cherry bomb going off in your hair!) and "Wild Cherry Twist and Jewel Orchid."

Other combination flavors include "Moroccan Rose & Passion Fruit," "Aloe and Water Lilly," and "Sweet Pea and Violet." Violet gets a flavor all its own, called "Wild Violet," while its more subdued cousin gets a flavor called "Calming Lavender."

I have no idea what "Passion Flower Sunrise" is. Although I must admit that "Refreshing Waterfall Mist" does sound...well, refreshing. Also refreshing? "Mango Mandarin" and "Kiwi Lime Freeze," both of which sound delicious.

I'm not sure what an oxidant is, but it must not be good for your hair, because anti-oxidant flavors are popular. There is "Ginseng Lemon Green Tea Anti-Oxidant" and "Anti-Oxidant Rich Pomegranate and Grapeseed Extract." Neither of these flavors sound very refreshing to me. Instead, they both sound like they might be sold at something called Doctor Throckmorton's All Star Traveling Medicine Wagon back at the turn of the last century. (That's 1900 I'm talking about.)

The most confounding flavor I came across was "Olive, Avacado and Shea." I'll admit I have no idea what shea is. To me, it's the stadium where the New York Mets played baseball up until a few years ago. Olives have a distinct fragrance, but I've never thought of it as something I'd want my hair to smell like. Meanwhile, avacado is the main ingredient in guacamole. Guacamole, of course, reminds me of any of several diapers I have changed in the last few years. So, "Olive, Avacado and Shea" makes me think of nachos at a baseball game and/or poopy diapers. So no, I won't be putting THAT in my hair.

So, where does that leave me in my quest for shampoo? Well, there's still one safe haven that seemingly hasn't changed since way back when I was a kid: Johnson's Baby Shampoo. It doesn't have a flavor, just a calm, soothing yellow color. And, it doesn't discriminate against hair types, it just simply promises "No More Tears." And I don't think any of us want to cry when we are shampooing our hair, especially with all that lathering, rinsing and repeating.

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