Conspiracy theories

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

There's a conspiracy going on, and I'm going to expose it if I have to befriend and betray every hairstylist in the area.

Here's how it works:

You go to the salon and get a new hairstyle. Maybe you get just a trim.

Either way, when it is finished, you look beautiful. You have a nagging doubt that you may never look the same way again, or at least until you return to the salon for your next appointment.

You say, "Wow! This looks great! Now, how do I do this?"

And your stylist brings out some new product, typically ranging from $10-$15 per tube or bottle, and says, "You're going to need this."

In this manner, I've been sold thousands of dollars worth of brushes, combs and products for my hair over the years. Shampoos that were supposed to make it full and bouncy or flat and shiny -- depending on the era -- mousses to whip it up and pomades to beat it down, waxes, glues, gels, manipulators and spikers.

I dutifully carted them all home to my bathroom, dreaming of salon-like results but getting bathroom-like results. I'd use about half of each, then return to the salon to learn I no longer needed HeadGames Attitude Adjustment Reworkable Sculptor, for example, I needed Short Sexy Hair Bulked-Up Texture.

The result: I've got enough stuff under my sink to open a Trade Secret outlet store.

If I could take a stylist into my confidence -- you know, gain his or her trust -- I'll bet he'd eventually look around deviously and whisper, "OK. You know that $2.99 L.A. Looks gel from the early 1990s? Turns out that's the perfect product for any need, but we keep changing the formula so we can jack up the prices 300 percent.

"Also, a comfortable, high-speed, practical electric car was produced around the same time, but we're keeping that off the market, too."

In a recent Zen moment, I decided it was crazy to keep spending money to keep my hair short and straight, when its natural state of being is curly. Plus, longer hair means fewer cuts at $65 each. (The Other Half pays $20 per cut to the same guy. The anti-woman pricing conspiracy in salons is another thing I plan to blow wide open.)

I saw James, my stylist, on Friday. He used a certain shampoo, a certain mousse, a certain shine wax and a certain diffuser to coax the curls out.

At first, I was afraid I'd look like Ronald McDonald's older sister, but it turned out great. Everyone in the salon and, later, at work assured me it was terrific.

Emboldened, I bought a $13 bottle of OSIS shine wax at the salon and then went out to get a new shampoo and a diffuser. (I've bought and lost about 50 of those things since the giant-haired 1980s.)

Back in my bathroom, I went to work on my own head, hoping for the best.

It's Tuesday, and I haven't figured out how to stop looking like Ronald McDonald's older sister.

I'm thinking it's time to stop investing in hair products and start investing in some nice hats and scarves.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor for the Southeast Missourian. She resides in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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