The Exciting World of Shampoo

October 01, 1994|By HAL PIPER

Father was introduced to the exciting world of shampoo when he had to use the teen-ager's shower while the master bathroom was being painted.

In his own shower Father uses regular shampoo most of the week. Saturdays he uses dandruff shampoo, in memory of when he had enough hair to generate dandruff. Both products are available in Daughter's bathroom, but as Father studied the bottles on her counter he experienced the exquisite agony of Choice Overload.

There was Anti-Frizz Taming Concentrate, said to ''de-frizz without hold.''

And Air Spray, with ''unscented extra hold (NO CHEMICAL PROPELLANTS).''

And Finesse Mousse: ''a lot of hold without a lot of build-up (alcohol-free).''

As Father's head began to spin, he discovered one shampoo that would make decisions for him: ''Finesse conditioner: self-adjusts to the changing needs of your hair.''

Think of that, a self-adjusting conditioner! And it has an equally smart twin, a self-adjusting shampoo. Evidently the shampoo and the conditioner measure the density (or in Father's case, sparsity) of the hair, and its dryness or oiliness, compare their findings and then recalibrate their emulsions or something. The glories of human ingenuity! First Chartres Cathedral, and now self- adjusting shampoo!

As Father reached for it, however, another product caught his eye. Neutrogena (''extra mild formula'') promised ''superior rinsability.'' Hmmm. What would be the use of self-adjusting shampoo if you couldn't get it out of your hair? Father studied on.

The shower had been running for rather a long time; hot water was draining away. Father shut it off.

''Salon Selectives -- Shampoo PLUS Detangler. Cleans and detangles normal hair in one step.'' That sounded efficient, but tangled hair has not been Father's problem for many years.

Paul Mitchell's ''Super-Charged conditioner with Super Moisturizer.'' Nah!

''Truly fine gentle tearless baby shampoo.'' That brought back memories. Father used to use this stuff on his toddler daughter -- when? -- back in the Reagan administration. No teeth marks scarred the plastic bottle, though, so it couldn't be a relic from then. Possibly Daughter uses it now when she wants to baby herself.

''Chamomile conditioner to bring out hidden highlights in ash-blonde, light brown or light chestnut hair.'' Doesn't say how it works on gray hair.

''New personalized selection shampoo for normal hair, not permed or color treated.'' Possible, possible.

The bathroom was cooling off; Father started to shiver. He wrapped a towel around himself, as far as it would go. Towels in the '90s, he had noticed, don't go around as far as the old towels did.

''Pantene pro-V shampoo plus pro-vitamin,'' which teamed with ''Pantene pro-V treatment conditioner.''

''Salon Selectives Level 5, for normal, full or healthy hair.'' Alas, not for Father.

''Salon Selectives type G, fortifying -- strengthens and repairs weak, damaged or over-styled hair.''

''Sebastian Moisture Base Moisturizer Base Hydratante No. 3.''

Father puzzled over the etymology of ''Hydratante.'' In Greek legend Hydra was a many-headed monster that no doubt would require a particularly efficacious shampoo. Arrows dipped in Hydra's gall inflicted fatal wounds. . . .

A knock sounded on the door. ''Daddy, are you going to be in there all day?''

That was something Father normally said to Daughter. How humiliating! But at least now he had insight into what kept her occupied for so long in the bathroom. She was probably tending her hair-care collection. Twenty-six bottles, spray cans and tubes. Accounting for duplicates, 21 different products in all. Who's to say what's excessive? Daughter's hair is very pretty. At least Father thinks so.

''I'll be right out,'' he called, turning on the water and grabbing a bottle of ''Creative Moisture Shine and Shampoo.'' ''Moisture Shine'' probably wasn't what his scalp needed, but he would rub it into his beard and dazzle the ladies at work.

The shampoo smelled like peach schnapps. Father recalled a bracing day many years ago at a ski lodge in Austria. He inhaled voraciously. At last he had found the shampoo for him.

Hal Piper edits The Sun's Opinion * Commentary page.

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