This past weekend I was sick. Really sick. Like head-on-the-bathroom-tiles, wish-I-was-dead-because-dead-people-can’t-puke sick. So Monday morning, when I finally felt better enough to not cry at the concept of eating a water cracker, I decided to perk myself up and beautify.
Luckily (although later it would turn out to be UNLUCKILY, like cursed-for-100 years-after-breaking-77-mirrors-and-crossing-paths-with-1,000-black-cats-while-walking-under-endless-ladders unluckily), I had purchased a product that promised a “perfect blow dry." The vials of “Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Blow Dry Perfector” were sitting on my shelf.
I wish I had left them there. Instead, I put on the plastic gloves, which really should have been the first red flag — what kind of hair sleek-ening product promises such silky softness and sensual smoothness that it requires you to protect your hands from it? Did I take the hint and run the other way like I should have?
Blame the virus I just battled, or maybe blame the fact that I’ve been programmed to accept and submit to preposterous products and processes in the name of “beauty.” A stranger seeing my butthole before ripping out its innocent protective hairs? Yeah, sounds okay. Strapping talons to my feet? No prob! I even have friends who wear suffocating Spanx every day “because I feel more, well, me!” What?!
So I read the instructions, which include a disclaimer along the lines of “it's natural for this product to have an odor.” I highlight my hair (another concession to beauty at the price of health and sanity — put a zillion chemicals near my brain? Okay!) and I figured I’m used to the smell of hair products. No prob, I thought.
I opened the vial of serum (it’s a two-step process: serum and then some other goo). Words cannot describe. But for you, I’ll try.
It was like being slapped by an egg salad as it sat, vomiting, on a turd. It was like being hugged by a sea-cucumber excreting maggots who were each suffering from dysentery. It was like dying, then having your corpse worn as a corpse-hat by a haberdasher who's into that sort of thing, then having him die, and his corpse-hat-corpse being worn as a hat by his apprentice who takes over the millinery shop. It was like gout. It was like Bambi’s mother’s death. And then her zombie. Snacking on that skunk Flower.
And so, I put it all over my hair.
WHY DID I DO THIS? I don’t know! Wait, I do know! Because of the above-mentioned insanity of thinking femininity somehow requires suffering, pain, and horrible, fetid, noxious smells. My best friend just revealed to me that she's gotten needles of Botox in her crows feet at 31. Crows feet she got from a teenhood addiction to tanning beds. Pain on pain, and potentially, even deeper pain from cancerous disease and disaster. But boy do the corners of her eyes look like a baby’s bottom!
At one point, my cat came into the bathroom, where I was standing with a towel draped around my neck, because the package advised that I might not want to let this stuff touch my skin. (Another red flag I insanely did not recognize.) Mind you, he’s a vocal cat, and sensitive to smells — like when he smells salad dressing, his blue eyes close up like he’s a furry little feline stoner — but he shot out of the bathroom yowling.
Soon, I would be too. As I dipped into the shower after sitting for 20 minutes with the stuff — because, I figured, once I had this regurgitated-egg-yolk, fish feces, goat entrails potion on my head, I might as well grit and bear it for the recommended time — I touched, at last, my hair.
It felt like the sun bleached hayfields of a Monet painting. It felt like the Brillo pad that's been crusting and rusting to the edge of my sink. It felt like Garth Algar’s coif after a trip through the Serengeti. It felt like pain. No, wrath.
I actually screamed “What have I done?” to no one, while bent over the tub.
I washed it out again, and still my head stank. I opened the windows. I moaned like Ludo in Labyrinth, my favorite movie, when he gets sent to the Bog of Eternal Stench and has to step over the rocks that jut up out of the murk, and every time he treads on one it emits wild, popping farts.
Only the bog was my hair.
On the Garnier website, there are a number of positive reviews for this product, presumably from people who a) hate themselves, b) hate other people, c) are insane, d) cannot smell, e) cannot feel texture, or f) all of the above, in which case, I really do forgive them for writing those reviews, because that sounds like a tough life.
But below the handful of positive reviews from insane-os are scores of real reviews. A sampling:
- SaraW: “The instructions warn there will be an odor but the smell was so much worse than I ever thought it would be.”
- Maki418: “The smell is horrible and it will not go away. I've washed my hair over and over and it still smells. Now my hair is like rubber.”
- KimMie88: “It smells so bad my husband had to leave the house.”
- KimV: “The only way I can describe it is like if you put NAIR on it and washed it out before it completely melted it”
- MAD1: “can't even comb my hair it looks like and old piece of carpet!”
And that’s on the company website! Amazon has more horror stories.
So I sprayed a billion spritzes of perfume into my hair while I styled it with a blowdyer and a straightening iron, and in the end it looked exactly like it always does after I blow-dry and straighten it, with the main difference being that it feels one zillion times worse and smells like death.
To top if off, my eyes sting from where I spritzed them (the instructions say to go to the hospital if you get it in your eyes, FYI, but the funny thing is that your hair is right next to your eyes), and I now have old woman fingers where I accidentally got some on me. Like crone-style, which kind of matches my odor, so at least I have consistency going for me.
Am I a victim of my own vanity? Hells yes. But are the people at Garnier at least partially responsible for marketing a product like this to women under such a fuzzy name as “blow-dry perfector” rather than the chemical slop of
water, Cysteine, Ethanolamine*, PEG-14 Dimethicone, Hexadimethrine Chloride, Aminomethyl Propanol, Polysorbate 20, Oleth-20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Cetrimonium Chloride, Dimethicone PEG-7 Phosphate, Parfum/Fragrance, Pentasodium Pentetate.
(*Ethanolamine, by the by, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor, causes “central nervous system depression in exposed animals” at certain levels, and don’t even get me started on Hexadimethrine Chloride.)
But a more appropriate point of blame would be assenting to the notion held by many — myself included — that beauty is pain, pain beauty. (Note they never say that about “handsomeness.”) That concept is what allowed this disgusting product to exist, and what made me slather it on my head. Even my already brutalized stomach flipped and flopped a resounding “don’t do it! Please dear God don’t do it!”
My hair — and the colleagues who sit by my cubicle and have been hit by its wafting stench with the ferocity of a cartoon hand symbolizing "stink" every few minutes — are the worse for this morning’s mistake. But I think, maybe, I’m for the better.
Hairiette Hirsute is the fake name of a writer whose company does not permit opinion writing but who felt it her civic duty to share the horrors of this morning's misadventure. Also, her hair is naturally straight, which just makes this worse.