Wisdom – Off The Top Of My Head

31 Aug Wisdom – Off The Top Of My Head

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 22.8.22


When you are no longer young, you find you are regularly asked what you had wished you had known back when you were.

“What would you tell your teenage self?” is a great question. It’s an invitation to pass wisdom forward so you’re not the only person who learns from your mistakes or benefits from your victories. Plus it’s a delight to hold the memory of your 16-year-old self for a moment, and be grateful life now involves fewer pimples and less angst.

Such a noble question deserves an august answer but lately I find the thing I am passionate to share with people – the thing I wish I had known about much sooner – is dry shampoo.

Full disclosure – I do not own shares in dry shampoo. Though I wish I did. I’d be as proud as if I’d invested in some other life-changing invention like the washing machine or the bicycle which both contributed greatly to the liberation of women.

I ponder the inventions that changed our lives forever – from tampons and contraception in my lifetime right back to the public toilet which meant Victorian women could venture even further from home than their bladders would allow. Somewhere on that list, I’d put in small letters, “dry shampoo”.

I cannot overstate the freedom it has brought me because – further disclosure – I have fine hair which is neither curly nor straight, and a scalp that tends to oily. Friends, what a combo. It means I have, for my whole life until this point, felt the need to wash my hair every second day and then, with varying degrees of commitment, encouraged it into something that is not frizz.

Cumulatively, that’s a lot of time which could have been spent on other things. I might have written another book! Had more children! Studied art history! But no, there I was, shampooing, conditioning, detangling and blow drying because my head felt grubby and my hair had about as much shape as dropped cake.

I tried a dry shampoo once before – something on special at the supermarket because you don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that might not work. And it didn’t – it came out of the can as a white spray and stayed that way on my black hair. Aesthetically, it was similar to that canned fake snow people sprayed on our summer windows to indicate Christmas. This was in the years before someone suggested we give up that northern hemisphere nonsense and embrace the Pohutukawa. If you’d put a red-breasted robin on my head, people who have said, “I see what you’re going for there, but it’s not working.”

Then last September I had ear surgery involving incisions and stitches. I was instructed not to wash my hair for two weeks, and that dry shampoo would be my friend. Two weeks! That’s seven washes missed! It was hard to imagine how lank and out-of-sorts my hair and I would be.

I invested in a fancy dry shampoo which made assurances that made it sound similar to dry-cleaning clothes – all the benefits without the wet. Outlandish promises are often made in the world of cosmetics, but this one was kept. Now, even when I could go back to alternate-day washing, I don’t. I discover, left to its own devices, my hair might even curl in a fairly pleasant way. Also, I keep hats handy.