Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
I had a vague feeling that something was wrong. Very, very wrong. But what? Then it came to me. My hair was lifeless and dull. There was only one thing to do. I reached for my Herbal Hair Shampoo. That is its actual name, which is, I guess, to distinguish it from Herbal Carpet Shampoo—though you’d think that bottle would be bigger.
The label claims my shampoo can actually train the hair shaft to repair itself, which sounds exactly like what dull, lifeless hair like mine needs. Now if it could just train the hair shaft and its little hair shaft friends to stay out of my drain.
After shampooing, I worked in my Volumizing Mousse, which promises to add luster and make my hair more manageable, though it makes no promises about the rest of my life. It can do these miracles because it is made with “pure botanical essences.” (In lay terms, that’s plant juice.)
I blew dry my noticeably more manageable hair, styled it, then used my Freeze and Shine hair spray, which helps “restore bounce and shine” because, as the label says, “when your hair shines, you shine.”
After putting all of this goo on my hair, I wondered why I’d bothered to wash it. Then I saw the results. Stunning! And that day, my husband did comment, “Wow! Your hair is no longer lifeless and dull. But your skin…”
Actually no one commented. I made that part up. But I didn’t make up the big promises my hair care products make—or the part about having dull and lifeless hair.
It was further evidence of a lesson I learned long ago after waiting in vain for my new toothpaste to make my teeth whiter in just 30 days: The people who write the advertising and label copy for beauty products are not copywriters. They are fiction writers. (That is more polite than calling them big fat liars.)
There are the science fiction writers who can look at a product containing such ingredients as panthenyl ethyl ether, ammonium xylensulfonate, or methylchloroisothiazolinone and describe it in much more marketable terms like “essence of nature” or “natural beauty.” I suspect these are the same ingredients that make up floor wax. But “essence of nature” does sound better.
There are those who write the “thrillers” of beauty product copy. I’ve seen skin cream that will “obliterate zits” and mouthwash that will “seek out and annihilate the bacteria that cause bad breath.” My hand lotion was made in the USA but clinically tested in Switzerland. That sounds like a good James Bond movie plot, but seems like a lot of trouble to go through for hand lotion. Incidentally, it lists “aqua” as its first ingredient. Near as I can tell, that means water. But aqua does sound better…and more Swiss.
The romance writers of the cosmetic industry are unembarrassed to describe fingernail polish and lipstick using words like flirty, mischievous, and coy. And they are all unembarrassed about using the “new and improved” slogan. But who, I have to ask, would make a product “new, but not as good?”
Certainly not the makers of my “new and improved strawberry-scented body wash.” It is made with oat protein, pure mountain spring water (probably directly from the tap), and all-natural botanicals. (That is natural plant juice as opposed to juice from silk plants, which would not be natural at all.) Plus it’s not tested on animals which is lucky because they’d probably eat it.
Fantasy writers make up the majority of cosmetic fiction writers. If all my products did what they say they do, I’d look rich, glamorous, and twenty-two. And that would be a best seller.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact