I’m pretty sure, when I was a kid, shampoo was just shampoo. Bright gloop, wobbling viscously in a cash-and-carry container like bottled jelly. Aside from the medicinal blue cheerlessness of Head & Shoulders, that was pretty much it. There was shampoo, and there was dandruff shampoo.
But bit by bit, shampoo evolved. Like nearly everything in the retail sphere, from tomatoes to toasters, shampoo’s marketing and sales were gradually transformed by diversification. So now there’s shampoo for oily hair. And for dry hair. There’s shampoo for fine hair, for tangled hair, for frizzy hair and coloured hair. For dandruff, of course. For kids’ hair, pets’ hair, pubic hair. There’s shampoo for damaged hair and for thinning hair and for grey hair. Strengthening shampoo, restructuring shampoo, shampoo for sensitive scalps.
There are two things to say about all this. One, there isn’t really shampoo for pubic hair. Two, in this drive towards specialisation, something was, if not lost, then sidelined. My hair. My normal hair. When I go to buy shampoo now, I feel like a freak. I have to scour the shelves to find something appropriate for my normal, balanced, naturally brown, unproblematic mop. My hair is not Death Valley dry. Nor is touching it like running a hand through a bowl of linguine e olio. It’s just hair. Am I really in the minority? Or is the industry trying to persuade you that you’ve got some kind of follicular kink that can only be addressed by a very specific product?
Hair cleaning and home cleaning seem to have followed parallel, suspect paths. Once there was bleach. Now there’s everything from Cif Stainless Steel Spray to Domestos Floor Cleaner, from Dettol Power Bathroom Mousse to Flash Special Surfaces Spray, which frankly sounds like the covert military elite of detergents. It’s only a matter of time before you find yourself tempted by Mr. Muscle Light Switch Gel and Cillit Bang Swag and Pelmet Refresher. But they’re all basically going to have the same stuff in the bottle, right? Are shampoos so different? If I wash my hair – normal, if you hadn’t picked up on that – with something intended for oily hair, will it come out a fire risk? If I use anti-frizz shampoo on my flat strands will I reverse the polarity and cop a Jewfro? Probably not. So maybe this plethora of products needs to be rationalised back to one simple shampoo. Or maybe, by my own reasoning, I need to stop whining and just take the first bottle off the shelf. Even if it’s for damaged auburn flyaway tangled oily hair restructuring, it’ll probably see me right. Except what’ll happen then is I’ll get it home and realise I’ve bought bloody conditioner by mistake.
Oh, don’t get me started.