Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Regrettable Products for The Hair, Part I

Back in the day when I was a teenager and tv commercials encouraged us to smell like lemons or babies or weeds (and by weeds I mean back when it was called Herbal Essence without the extra "s" and it only came in a green color that smelled exactly like a vacant lot full of milkweed after it's been cut with a dull lawnmower blade. It makes me itch just to think about it), it was considered gauche to confess to the hours and hours of hair prep time it took to resemble a young hippie who took the 6-year "shortcut" back home from Woodstock. We were into simplicity. Before we fell victim to Farrah Fawcett's high-maintenance "winged" look, straight hair was in. Parted in the middle. To the shoulders or longer. Maybe held back with two barrettes, but nothing more.

We Caucasian girls spent hours rinsing our locks in everything from lemon juice to vinegar to beer in order to maintain "squeaky clean " appearance that signaled to all an oil-free pate that was worthy of a Seventeen Magazine cover. Lucky was the girl who wasn't cursed with overactive oil glands which practically demanded a daily shampoo. Those who only had to shampoo every other day were the envy of us all...until now, of course, when we realize that a lot of oil THEN meant fewer wrinkles NOW. Yeah...I'm rocking that reality...thank God. Sorry, Dad, for cursing you then about inheriting the oily skin. But...back to the hair.

Genetics helped some of those girls skip a day of shampooing, but the makers of haircare products in the 1970s were still pulling all-nighters to come up with this particular aerosol atrocity which promised similar results:

PSSSSST! Spray it on and hope to God that no one knows that you are too lazy to haul your hormonal ass into the shower and scrape the funk off of your coif and that whatever was in the can could give you back 24 hours of "clean hair". Or the appearance thereof. How could we have been so stupid?

Actually, it was a little like carpet cleaner designed to absorb whatever was on your hair and could magically brush it out. Uh...maybe not so much. It was spray-on powder...just like the deodorant you used to spritz under your arms. THAT stuff was supposed to absorb the perspiration in your "pits" and leave behind a fresh scent. Most likely, we were using the same product in two different places on our bodies. I'm trying not to dwell on it. Really.

I didn't use PSSSSST! I used a dreadful and much cheaper product invented in the 1950s called MiniPoo which was still on the market in 1980. If you look for a Google Image of MiniPoo, you'll either get a picture of dog shampoo products or a smal pile of animal excrement. I've checked. For all I know, MiniPoo was--in reality-- a combination of both.

It was a talcum powder that you were supposed to sprinkle on the oiliest part of your hair and then brush it out. The bonus? It was a light brown color so that one didn't end up looking like Thomas Jefferson in a powdered wig. The bad thing? Well, let's just say that if dirt and water make mud, the process of mixing oil and tan-colored powder makes something similar and equally unattractive when spotted in clumps near the part in your hair. And brushing it out of your hair was a DELIGHT that required permission from the EPA and your own personal "Hazmat" suit. Have I mentioned the joy of scratching later on and coming up with brown fingernails? It looked exactly as though one had walked for hours through a sandstorm only to arrive completely coated and just in time for a brisk walk through the sprinkler.

I'm just saying that beauty, as well as the pursuit of it, is a cruel, cruel joke and women have been its unwitting victims for years. Personally, I tried it all. The mucous-based Dippity-Do which dried to a light petroleum sheen while your hair was in rollers and then--later-- drifted onto your shoulders in a virtual snowstorm of plastic dandruff.

The Clairol Kindness hot roller set (don't be fooled for an instant by the name Kindness), which were hard, pointy and unforgiving rolls of heated plastic with metal interiors that melted off one's fingerprints during the roll-up and which felt exactly like you were wearing a tiara of cranky baby porcupines that someone had thoughtfully set aflame after fixing them to your scalp with U-shaped metal clips the size of horseshoes.

And Nair Depilatory...for removing unwanted leg hair because we were...again...too lazy to shave and had not yet met/married the former archaeologist/man of our dreams who didn't care if you shaved or not. No one told me about the eye-watering fumes that smelled as though someone had accidentally left a bucket of rotten eggs in a hot closet. And the rule about not using it with open cuts (Hmm. Like those earned from a shaky encounter with a razor???) wasn't a joke. The burning and...I'm pretty sure I saw puffs of smoke...made quite an impression on my young mind.

Ahh yes...good times.

What torture methods did you endure as a teenager to preserve your "natural look"?


Blogger Gina said...

I used to steal my sister's Love's Baby Soft ALL THE TIME. I can still smell it now.

I remember using foam curlers left in overnight, and man, did the plastic frames on those dig into your skull!

As for the hair, I think I used some straight-up baby powder. I probably thought I was fooling people because I had blonde hair. Most likely I didn't.

Between that and the Love's I must have smelled overwhelmingly like a baby. No wonder I never got asked out. ;)

11:07 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I can smell Love's Baby Soft right now! If I still had some, I would spray it all over, I LOVED that stuff! Never tried to PSSSSSST...but I DO remember some VERY bad perms, where all I had was frizz, then I would use a curling iron to curl said frizz. God, my hair was FRIED! Now I color my hair to cover all the gray, but that's as far as I go with the chemicals! Love your blog!

5:35 AM  
Blogger R. Robyn said...

I think Nair pretty much takes the cake. They have a variety of products, and I'm sure I've tried them all. Each more painful and smelly than the last.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

One word: Epi-Lady.
I begged my mom for it and then only used it once. It had metal coils that moved really fast and ripped the hair out of your legs. Ouch! I swear to god that thing was an instrument of torture.
I also would use Sun-In to get that beautiful blonde California look. Never worked though, unless orange colored hair the texture of straw was a beautiful California look.

5:43 AM  
Blogger OldMotherHubbardSharesAll said...

Quick Tan - that was the best! No one noticed the orange palms or the streaks of orange up and down my arms & legs! I'm sure everyone thought this white freckled chick lived at the beach! Yep I'm sure I fooled EVERYONE!

How I hate looking at the pictures fromt he summer between my 8th & 9th grade...........what are those little people called on Willy Wonka - that's what I looked like!

6:34 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I hate to admit this, but damnit. ... I bought some of that Psssst! stuff a few months ago because the BABY won't let me wash her hair the conventional way. Can you all say "I-D-I-O-T-M-O-M?" Another $4 down the proverbial drain.

Oh, but the memories.

7:14 AM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Thank you for all the good laughs and memories! Never did go the Minipoo route, but I washed my hair every damn day (and still do). And Dippity Do...we used that to keep our ponytails in place for drill team.

Let's see...most of my painful memories are in the skin care area. Sea Breeze. Clearasil. Oxy10. It's a wonder I have any skin left on my face at all.

How about Wet and Wild cosmetics? And Designer Imposter fragrances?

I remember the first time we found mousse at the drugstore. My brother and I both wanted some, so my father bought a single can and ordered us to share it. We decided to spray a bunch of it into a coffee can so that we wouldn't have to fight over the mousse can. Then the next morning we were actually surprised to find just a trickle of liquid at the bottom of the coffee can. Where did the mousse go??? (rolling my eyes at my own stupidity now)

7:22 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

"A tiara of cranky baby porcupines that someone had thoughtfully set aflame ..." Oh, I am going to pee in my pants laughing!

I abused my hair with a brush-style curling iron on a daily basis (and often got it entangled in my hair as it charred and smoked). I also made the grave error of using my mother's "Fanci-Full," a temporary hair color - as in, washes out after one application. I was dying to dye my hair but, at 15, I was too chicken. I applied the Fanci-Full, trotted off to school, and then got caught in a rainstorm. Nothing says pretty like reddish-brown rivulets washing down the neck of your Peter Pan collared Catholic school uniform blouse.

7:27 AM  
Blogger InterstellarLass said...

Ahhh. Love's Baby Soft. And those curlers! My bone-straight hair didn't like to be curled. But I was one of those that could go every other day without washing my hair. When I was little I used "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific". Evidently you can still buy it.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Those fucking curlers. Man. You couldn't sellp, so Yes, you had curly hair, but the bags under your eyes made you OH SO Attractive.

I went a little heavy on the Mousse revolution of the 80's. And where did "Sweet Honesty " go?

Then I was a new age hipping girl from 1985- 1991, so I failed to brush my hair most of the time. YEah for living in Vermont!

8:19 AM  
Blogger jess said...

Oh how i loved Loves Baby Soft. We used to make special trips to seattle to get it.

I used to straighten my hair every single day.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Don't forget hair "crimping." Ugh.

And Nair used to stain my bathtub. And then I must have built up a tolerance to it, because it stopped working on my leg hair, although it didn't stop smelling like rotten eggs.

I remember a few years back when they debuted a "No Offensive Odor" Nair. Somehow, I think that may have been a marketing mistake.

9:02 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Yeah, Arabella. Never re-market something as containing an ingredient that the item should have contained in the first place. "MCDONALDS' CHICKEN MCNUGGETS: NOW WITH REAL CHICKEN!!!?????

9:08 AM  
Blogger LetterB said...

I used a curling iron every day in junior high. Once i burnt the f*ck out of my neck with it. I wore a turtleneck for a week because I was afraid someone would think it was a hickey.

9:39 AM  
Blogger daysgoby said...

Oh, and the smell of the old curling iron as it sizzled when the Aqua-net hit it - I can still remember that!

I'd forgotten about the U-shaped pins. They never worked unless you used six million regular style bobby pins to hold the U shaped ones in, and then your hairdo was frizzy and uneven anyway...

Remember the Alberto Hot Oil Treatment? You could practically butter your toast with your hair....

9:56 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

I hated Love's Baby Soft. The smell of it made me queasy. Unfortunately my best friend loved the stuff. She had oily hair too, and a ton of home-remedies to fix her frizzies, oilyness, and damaged locks. Some of which included Mayo, eye whites, and baby powder. Bleh.

Need I mention the Koolaid dye jobs?

10:17 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

LMAO. Eye whites?! Ewwwwww. I meant egg whites folks. Settle down.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Lynilu said...

OHMYGAWD, the memories!! I tried most of those things. We humans do fall for all kinds of stupid ideas, don't we?

I remember in the mid '60s when we were wearing hair teased into heights beyond reasonable, then sprayed with liberal amounts AquaNet to hold a crisp, unmoveable helmet on the head. My sister-in-law and I were caught in an unexpected rain as we walked with our husbands in a street market, 8-10 blocks from our car. The rain washed the AquaNet out of our hair and streamed down our faces. Damn, that stuff hurts in your eyes!! The evening ended by our husbands trying not to laugh out loud while leading us blindly through the streets back to the car. Not long after that I cut my hair short.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Minipoo?!! oh hysterical, totally missed that one somehow! I was into the Jean Nate body splash - remember that? ugh. And I think Coty perfume. I did the Dippity Do - gross and Nair - did not work!, too. I also purchased some crazy steam roller contraption. The roller were on top of basically a pot of water that you plugged in and heated up. Supposed to prevent friz - HA.

12:32 PM  
Blogger aka Brandi said...

All of the above??? Guilty.

I remember my mom, who's a hairdresser, talking about the old ladies a few years ago who were still using that no-water shampoo between their weekly appointments. Gross.

My mom still has a set of those poky hot-rollers and uses them when she has a big date night with Dad.

I always had long hair and tried my DAMNDEST to fashion a farrah-do out of it. It didn't work and I have a few school photos to prove it.

1:16 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

Instant spray shampoo? EW! That's just...wrong.

I had a really bad experience with Nair. I mistook it for face-firming lotion and slathered it all over my face, then went to bed. Oops.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I remember the Dippy Do gel. Mom use to use that on my hair before she put curlers in my hair.

And when I was in high school, mom got those hot curlers with the U shaped clips. They just recently got donated to Goodwill. I graduated in 1975 *-)

9:30 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

This post is the best. I used Pssst once when I was in the hospital and had a hard time was so foul!

I gave you some link love over at

6:09 AM  
Blogger Spamboy said...

Every morning in the Spamboy household features a variation of the same conversation, where my wife is spending an hour drying and straightening her Cajun curly hair and I am walking out of the shower, putting one drop of gel in my hair, shaking it around, and walking out the door. So I figure, if I am so quick, she can spend whatever money she wants on products. Psssssst!, here we come.

6:09 AM  
Blogger The June Cleaver Diaries said...

I was a teenager in the '80', and the last thing anyone wanted was to look natural (witness the Spiral Perm Follies).

I would use mousse AND gel on my hair, then spray my bangs. And while my bangs were still wet from the spray, I'd sizzle them with a red-hot curling iron. Then tease, tease, tease with a 'rat comb,' and seal the whole thing with a half a can of Aqua Net Aerosol--- pink can. I took pride in the fact that by lifting a single strand of hair, my entire hairdo would lift as one big mass.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Nap Queen said...

You are cracking me up with the "minipoo"! Just the other day, I heard someone on E! singing the praises of baby powder for greasy hair. Just sprinkle it in and Voila! Um, no thanks.

We were also fans of the foam rollers which we always used the night before school pictures, and we were ALWAYS sorely disappointed with the lumpy, bumpy frizzy mess of hair they created.

6:56 AM  
Blogger reading said...

Ah, Dippity-doo. The only thing at the time that could make my curly hair relatively straight.

Sun In, anyone?

7:45 AM  
Blogger The Queen Mama said...

Perms. Many, many bad perms. And much mousse, gel and glaze. I was also addicted to Skin Musk.

11:02 AM  
Blogger The Queen Mama said...

Perms. Many, many bad perms. And much mousse, gel and glaze. I was also addicted to Skin Musk.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

I remember using something called Sun-In when I was a teen in the mid-70s. It turned my hair a bizarre color of yellow-orange, like the crayon called "Melon". You pump sprayed it on, so it was blotchy melon. Then in the 80's there was the crimping iron for those times when you wanted to look like you just stuck your finger in a light socket.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Annie, The Evil Queen said...

I have two words for you- curly perm. Eeek.

7:45 PM  
Blogger shpprgrl said...

I did almost everything you listed as well as your commenters. I would spend forever trying to keep from washing my hair, I could have just washed my hair, it would have been quicker. I just did a post about my stinky 80's pefume. I wore Babe and Love's. Regrettable hair products? My friend and I once bought an instant overnight perm kit with the money we saved. It wasn't a real perm, stunk worse than a real perm and gave us lots of crimped ends. We did it in the heat of summer and it lasted all of an hour.

8:20 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

sun-in. yeccch. stinky and *mean* to my hair. which, btw, ended up looking decidedly un-sunny. rather, I appeared to have had an encounter with an acid bath, because my locks had a decidedly orange hue where the sun-in had been.

also, me too on the nair. what the hell do they put in that stuff? it's RUDE. and, p.s., doesn't work. at all.

9:39 PM  
Blogger CISSY said...

My sister and I used to iron our hair -- literally with an iron. That was the days before non-African American women knew what a flat-iron was. The straighter the better. And the we did the braid thing. Two little thin braids pulled back from our face, framing our long straight locks. Our favorite products were another "natural" from Bonne Bell. Yep. Those were the days.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Pope-rah said...

i rocked the Love's baby soft too! It was the only perfume my mom would let me wear at the time that didn't smell "whorish" as she would say.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Oh thanks for bringing me back! I still remember when mousse made its appearance and everyone was moussing. Meanwhile frizzhead here--not looking so good with the mousse. Not that it stopped me. It was better to look terrible than to not use the mousse.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Lucky Lum said...

I believe Minipoo has got to be the topper!!
I did try the babypowder method for my off-day of shampooing.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Psssssssssst. I have to tell you a secret.

Lean in a little closer.

A little closer. It's a juicy secret.

Can you smell my hair? It stinks.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

I knew a girl in high school who was all about the Love's Lemon and the guys LOVED her. What the hell was that about? Men have a preference for citrus based scents or something?

3:16 PM  
Blogger Rock said...

Yes they do.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Mom / Ma'am / Me said...

I do not remember Mini-poo. The name is killin' me!

For me, the beauty regiment was Sun-In followed by the curling iron with the tiniest of barrels to fry the crap out of my hair. That fakey orange tan stuff that other people mentioned to give me a little color. And I cannot forget the blue eyeshadow!!

5:25 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wear jeans, flannel shirt and grow my hair long.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

Hey there, everyone...just wanted to let you all know that there IS at least ONE product on the market today that DOES really work, really well for shampooing without water between baths/showers (TRULY without water--not a concentrate you have to add water to). It is simply called "no-rinse shampoo." It is what NASA astronauts use! It's very watery and you have to more-than-dampen your hair with it (then lather and thoroughly towel-dry), so it doesn't save a whole lot of time, but at least you don't have to rinse. And it's perfect for camping trips, when you're running late & don't have time for a full shower, or for whenever your city decides to do underground work of some sort and shuts off the water without warning! :)

There are many places to buy this stuff, but the cheapest place I've found is at It's still not exactly cheap, but it's well worth it for how well it works and lasts quite a while if you don't use it all the time. It sure beats psssst and minipoo! :)

And if you do decide to buy some from vitalitymedical, please be sure to tell them Melissa Fornof referred you...maybe they will give me a discount on *my* next purchase! :)

11:38 AM  
Blogger buzzcutmom said...

This was South Dakota, so no hippies to be found anywhere! Guys had crew-cuts and we girls all had lacquered bouffants. Either flips or short, tapered necklines with huge bouffants set in petal curls.

I used either Adorn or Miss Breck hairspray--in large quantities! If it rained, we covered our precious hairdos with clear plastic "rain bonnets." Remember those?!

I wore Yardley perfume in the 60's. Switched to "Tabu" in the 70's, but had to stop wearing that because it gave me a headache.

12:58 PM  

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