We live in a society obsessed with multitasking. I’m not just talking about doing two or more things at once so you can be more efficient in using your time, I’m talking about products that serve more than one purpose. They save space and you feel so clever when you can use something in more than one way, don’t you? Isn't that the allure behind the Kirby vacuum/spray painter/dog groomer sales pitch and Ron Popeil's informercials? We love things that can serve as inanimate jacks of all trades.
Universally approved products:
Read a few columns of Hints from Heloise and you’ll quickly learn that baking soda is the mother of all multitaskers. Yes, you can bake with it, but it also sucks up stinkiness found in the freezer, the litter box and a multitude of other places! Mix it with vinegar (another favorite, and possibly the father of all multitaskers) and pow, it’s an effective cleanser. Need to make a volcano for the school science fair? Make sure you use baking soda. Out of toothpaste? Not a problem, just rub some good ol’ baking soda across yer teeth and keep it moving!
There are some other things people like to push as having multiple uses. Hair conditioner as shaving lotion is one. I can see how this would be a good idea if you don’t like using it in your hair, but sometimes that stuff is expensive. I mean like $10-20 a bottle. Yes, you save space in the shower, but use the $1 bottle of Suave if you insist.
Another suggestion I’ve heard about is using anti-chafing cream as a make up primer. Yes, someone actually compared the ingredients and figured out you could buy the cheaper crotch cream and use it on your face. No, I’m not testing it.
Don’t ever do this:
Hand lotion as hair conditioner
Growing up was hair hell for me. I have a mother with wash n’go hair. She really uses nothing in it. It’s a little oily, so maybe she will use shampoo, but even then, it doesn’t even matter what kind she uses. She could probably use dish soap if it came to that. Someone like this does not need or use conditioner. In fact, to a person with such easy hair, conditioner may be looked upon as an unnecessary thing marketed to suckers who will buy anything they see advertised. I can tell you firsthand that some of us need and benefit from conditioner. That 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner stuff won’t cut it (see, sometimes the multitasking product comes prepackaged). Some of us need conditioner, and sometimes we need more conditioner than shampoo. Sometimes hair just laughs at you until it’s properly tamed and moisturized. Once my mom thought she could get by using hand lotion. Why? I guess because it was already in the house and didn’t require a purchase of that made-for-suckers-only conditioner. It was a pointless venture. Please, if you even think about hand lotion as hair conditioner just forget it and buy the conditioner. Don’t try to be clever about this, hair can not be fooled.
Bar soap as shampoo
This happened in a hotel. I would have been better off just leaving my hair alone, but no, someone suggested using the hotel soap as a shampoo (I guess this was before shampoo in the hotel bathrooms became standard, or before we started staying in hotels where it was standard). What resulted was a dry crispy mess. I didn't really care because it was just too cool to rub the bar of soap on my head. Yes, at one point in my life I was really that easy to please.
Bug spray as lice remover
One of the benefits many black people have is that they don’t catch lice. The shaft of the hair is oval, which means the little buggers can’t hang on. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit this trait. I still remember scratching and scratching like mad and insisting “No!” whenever my mom would ask if I had lice. Well, how was I supposed to know? I was 6 and it didn’t occur to me to check myself in the mirror. I just thought my head was hot and itchy.
Maybe my mother didn’t know they make kits specifically to handle such a crisis. Maybe she thought it was another marketing ploy for all those suckers whose kids had lice. All I know is that our lice kit consisted of raid and a plastic comb. Why run out to the store when you have everything you need in the spray bottle marked with a skull and crossbones?
So I sat there getting sprayed and combed. It seemed to go on for hours. I don’t know if that stuff permeated my skin or if the fumes went to my head, but I do know that I smelled like bug spray for hours, possibly days. I believe I blocked most of it out.
Peroxide as hair color
Notice a trend? Much of the don’ts have to do with hair. If you have high maintenance hair like mine, the best thing to do is to find what products work and stick with it. Maybe it likes expensive products, but think of the money you’re saving. If you try a cheap product and the experiment goes awry, you will probably have to spend even more money to fix the mistake. I'm sure you know this already, but the subplot to this entire entry is this: Be nice to your hair.
Peroxide was a favorite of my sister. It’s what, a dollar a bottle, you can apply it undetected, and all you have to do is walk out into the sunlight. Mere hours later, you have changed the color of your hair. It’s like the sneaky teenager’s dream. It works okay for people with lighter hair, but if yours is dark brown or black, guess what? You end up with orange hair. ORANGE. I guess this is a good thing to some people, and it was rockin’ in the 80’s, but if you’re a self respecting adult, just pony up for a proper dye job.