Mermaidcore and Other Fishy Trends
beach chair beauty advice
Aloha, readers, from a family vacation in Oahu. My current occupation is banking as much time as possible with my four-year-old granddaughter, M, before she, my son, and daughter-in-law fly back to Japan and I fly back to New York. So this post is a grab bag. If you appreciate vacation holidays, please hit the little ❤️ above, and a full moon will rise over all destination weddings.
Let’s start with M, who appears to be the OG of mermaidcore, an actual adult trend consisting of Ariel-approved dripping hair, glitter galore, and the kind of dewy complexion most often found on a small child. It’s been reported that schools of mermaid types walked the runways in recent fashion shows, trailing damp Botticelli waves and fluttering eyelids shimmering with iridescence. After a dip in the ocean, when I appeared before M with slicked-back hair and skin speckled with sea salt and sunscreen, she seemed momentarily alarmed. “Grammie,” she said, quickly recovering. “I didn’t reconnize you! You look like some other kind of…human.” Not mermaid material, evidently.
A recent post about thinning hair and hair loss generated a few reader questions and suggestions. The curious and appropriately skeptical Maggie Bullock of The Spread wanted to know: “What about all the ‘trichologists’ saying they want you to wash your hair a lot, scrub your scalp and ‘balance’ it, on the theory that you keep the hair follicle ‘clear’ to produce a thicker, healthier strand? I get that they're trying to sell you 13 different products,” she said. “But is there any truth to that scalp care regimen? My hair is happier when I wash it less...”
“Great question!” said dermatologist Hadley King when I emailed her. “Probably the most accurate response is that we don't entirely know which is better: more or less washing. There are some limited data that show that people with seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) who shampoo more often with zinc pyrithione shampoos experience improvements in both dandruff and hair growth, which is thought to be because of the effects on Malassezia yeast that causes dandruff.” But King concludes that we need more data.
Bullock, still musing over hair issues, also wondered: Since hair loss is often related to hormonal issues, do over-the-counter hair supplements work as well for men as they do for women? To which King responded: That’s why many over-the-counter hair supplements have different versions for men and women, e.g., Nutrafol Women and Nutrafol Men.
And what about brushing your hair? Is 100 strokes a night a healthy habit? Though it might strengthen your biceps, it won’t help your hair. The less brushing you do, the better—especially if you’ve seen thinning. Brush only enough to style and then…hands off!
A recent recall of certain dry shampoos because of a cancer-causing agent concerned another reader. From my (fully upright) beach chair, I emailed HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf, who, as always, clarified things. The problem with the recalled dry shampoos was the contaminant benzene, which is found most often in aerosols, she noted. Her solution if you’re a dry shampoo fanatic: Either avoid the specific aerosol products on the fda.gov recall list (because most aerosols are still safe) or switch to a non-aerosol dry shampoo (check out Klorane, Hairstory, Crown Affair, or Ouai).
And while we’re on the subject of hair, HNTFUYF’s Maine bureau chief (who just happens to also be a wicked good presidential biographer) sent in a fascinating story about the oldest-known sentence written in the earliest alphabet, which is inscribed on a double-edged ivory comb: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” The oldest-known sentence written in the earliest alphabet known to man (and woman)? On a comb? About hair? I feel deeply validated.
Finally, this is my last day in Hawaii with my family. I brought so many books and doodads for M that my suitcase going home is almost empty. But not my heart.
See you next week.
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Book Club News: A compelling new read!
Though I’ve been a latecomer to audiobooks, once I discovered them I couldn’t get enough. I borrow them from the public library, but as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the library snatches them back before I can finish. So I'm happy to share I'm partnering with Chirp to organize an audiobook club of biographies and memoirs called “Unfiltered Women.” Two things: It’s free to subscribe and Chirp offers great deals. Plus, you obviously get to keep the book to listen to at your leisure.
Every other month I’ll announce a new book club pick we’ll listen to together. You’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the book a few weeks later and hear what other readers thought, too. My fourth pick is the devastating Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by writer and commentator Roxane Gay. Her story is one of extremes: of extreme weight; of extreme sexual violence; of other people’s extreme repudiation and contempt. And yet, because her narration is consciously controlled, analytic, and wise, Gay comes across as a person who—in spite of (or because of) her traumas and her position far outside the grid of social norms—is supremely gifted at accomplishing what’s required for her to not only survive, but also to thrive. In that way, her story feels like a triumph.
To get started, go to chirpbooks.com/val and press FOLLOW to join my club. (Again, it’s free and there is NO commitment.) There, for a limited time, you can buy Hunger for only $4.99 (normally $18.99), including a 50% discount with code VAL50 if it's your first Chirp purchase.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.