When I was in college, I had a friend who woke up one morning in a fog, and mistakenly put contraceptive cream instead of Crest on her toothbrush. We laughed about it almost daily for the next two years, doing our own parody of, “Is it a floor wax or is it a dessert topping?” from the old SNL commercial parody with Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner. A nasty grain alcohol punch at a frat party the night before was partly to blame, but we felt lucky that the reverse scenario had not played out. She might well have used the Crest Clean Mint in her diaphragm, instead of the contraceptive cream.
These days, most of us don’t make those kind of mistakes, at least not because of alcohol. We make them because, damn it, we can’t read the fine print. When you can’t read the directions on the back, something bad is bound to happen. Damn these manufacturers, they still don’t get us–don’t they know we can’t keep our reading glasses in the shower? (The glasses are kept beside the toilet, of course, where they are also essential.) Manufacturers don’t seem to get that we can’t read a size 4 font. See? Of course you don’t.
But aren’t manufacturers always telling you to follow the directions? Aren’t we 50-plus women a critical market? Aren’t we, as mature consumers, supposed to be checking out if the ingredients in our household products are going to kill us?
The deep hydration UV+ Bamboo hair masque that I recently received as a gift has been sitting in my shower for a month–I don’t know if it is leave-in or rinse-out. The print is so small I can’t even read it with my reading glasses. Same with a product in a fancy glass dispenser called Caviar Anti-Aging, Photo-Age Defense Repair, Patch & Protect. That one has been sitting in my medicine cabinet collecting dust while I try to figure out if it is a hair product or a skin product. Who knows? Maybe it is both (or maybe it is a dessert topping— seriously, it looks and smells delicious!)
I complained to Mike (he loves it when I complain about first world problems like my beauty products). He was less than empathetic. “You would think that after 54 years, you would know how to shampoo and condition without directions,” he said, and walked away. Men! They so don’t get it. And what was I thinking discussing this topic with a man who uses one-step?
So I called a friend. One with big hair and eyes like mine. “Oh My God,” she said, “I hear you, sister.” Just recently, she told me, she had been walking around for several days with sticky, greasy, flat hair. She was miserable, and mystified. She finally figured out that the hair product she had been using was not a styling cream at all, but was actually a rinse-out conditioner. Another friend told me about a girl who put a pomade styling product on her hair as a leave-in conditioning treatment and went out for a walk in the hot sun. The wax in the product melted down her forehead, bugs got stuck in her hair, and she couldn’t get the product out for days. No alcohol involved in these situations, just a lack of legible directions.
Our beauty products are complicated- Nourishing rinses, thickening agents, relaxants, curl protectants, sculpting foams, balms, mousses, repair creams, straightening treatments. The bottles and tubes are beautiful, and they smell good enough to eat, but those of us who are 50-plus need to know three basics — in a bold 14-point font: 1. What body part does it go on? 2. Is it leave in or wash out? And, 3. Are the ingredients going to kill me?
Because without instructions, we are dangerous.
Can you read the directions on your hair product?