Monday, June 8, 2009
Keeping it real
I hear a lot of whining (some of it's from me but let's ignore that for the moment) about product performance. Some of the familiar refrains go something like:
"This product doesn't seem to achieve Holy Grail (HG) status."
"This product failed to make me look like Melina Kanakaredes."
"This product worked for people on the discussion board I visit but it didn't work for me. I must have gotten a bad bottle!"
Time for a reality check. It's my contention that most of us are either not honest about our hair or we expect too much of products. Let's take a little quiz, shall we? Give yourself one point for every "yes" answer.
1. Do you mix or layer more than two products (yes, this includes leave-in)?
2. Have you ever used a product marketed for hair that was different than your own?
3. Are you especially frugal with application? Or especially generous?
4. Do you see photos of other people's hair and think it looks like yours, only to have a friend point out that it doesn't resemble your hair at all?
5. Do you drift in and out of the Curly Girl regimen, tossing in silicones willy nilly and using sulfate shampoos here and there?
If you got more than three points in that test, pour yourself a glass of water -- it's time for you to swallow a large and uncomfortable reality pill.
Mixing too many products.
Did you know that when a product formulation is created, it is created as a stand-alone product? Manufacturers have no idea that you use a conditioner, a leave-in, a gel, and a serum in conjunction with their product. In other words, you are introducing four different opportunities for unpleasant product interactions if you are using that kind of lineup.
When you buy a new product, use it alone first. See what it does. If it lacks a certain oomph that you know another product in your arsenal can deliver, go ahead and combine them. But if the combo isn't good, it may be unfair to blame the new product. After all, if you're a combiner, then you probably don't like any of your products by themselves. Why slam the new one? What you may be experiencing is simply a failure of these various ingredients to play nice together. It doesn't necessarily mean that the new product sucks. Maybe it just can't carry out its mission because of the competing ingredients you've piled onto your head.
Buying something not designed for your hair.
My hair is fine. With the right products, it can look normal but I know that no amount of smoke and mirrors will change the fact that my hair is intrinsically fine. So why would I buy a product that is designed for thick, coily hair? Isn't that a lot like dating a guy who tells you he's Trouble? Step aside and keep walking if you know what's good for you.
Every so often, you might get lucky when you try a product that isn't made for your hair type, but by and large, second-guessing a manufacturer's recommendation will prove frustrating. Plus, you'll be wasting money. (I know that kathymack is going to take issue with this comment but that's okay. She is an exception to most hair rules, but that doesn't mean you will be, too!)
Here again, at least start with the recommended amount and then adjust it to your tastes. If you slather the stuff on and then complain that it weighed your hair down, didn't you invite that situation yourself? Alternatively, if you used a pea-size amount when a dollop was required, don't complain when the product "didn't do anything."
"But I know what amounts are usually good for me," you might be saying. Yes, you probably do -- but you have never used this product before and you have no idea whether it's like other products. Follow directions first, adjust later.
Not being honest about your hair.
About a year ago, I had a sobering experience. A girl with gorgeous, wavy-curly hair joined NaturallyCurly.com and I instantly recognized her as a hair twin.
What I failed to realize, however, was that we would have been twins if this were 1979. As much as it pains me to admit it, my hair is different now than it was in college, but some part of my brain hadn't fully accepted that fact when I saw the photos of that girl.
Ditto if you've ever just not been honest about what your hair will and will not do. Some of us will never have frizz-free hair. Some of us will never have shiny curls. Figure out what your hair will and will not do, and don't let a sexy advertisement convince you otherwise. Better yet, find the characteristic of your curls that makes them unique and play that up rather than bending your hair's will to some external image it can never match.
Doing it all half-assed.
You! The sheepish one! You know what I'm talking about. You're the one who piles on the polyquats, randomly uses silicones, and shampoos on no particular schedule, and then wonders why your hair won't "behave." Pick a plan and stick with it. Your plan can be varied but it has to be that way because you've determined that your hair responds to it, not because you just feel like mixing things up every few days. The "My religion won't allow me to throw products away" excuse is not valid, by the way. If products don't work for you, there's no sense in keeping them. Give them to friends, or put them on the swap board. Just keep them out of your hair.
And finally, keep in mind that everybody has their own notions of how they like their hair to look. Some curlies like super-defined curls that look like they were formed with a curling iron while others prefer to look like they just returned from the beach. Some have a frizz tolerance of zero while others accept some frizz as part of being curly. "Good curls" are entirely personal and entirely subjective. Expectations vary wildly and one curly's great experience may indeed be another's trauma.
Keep it real, people. But most of all, keep it simple.