How to have good hair in New England.

So I wasn't going to write this because I thought, this is probably not the high-brow kinda stuff I want to put on my website. And then I remembered: it's my website. So I'm going to talk about my hair for a minute. 

Seriously still laughing at this.  Source

Seriously still laughing at this. Source

I have awesome hair. Big, curly, awesome hair. No matter how I cut it, it boings up and looks great. I've been shaken by old ladies my entire life who NEED TO TELL ME HOW MUCH MONEY PEOPLE WOULD PAY TO HAVE THAT HAIR. When I was little, my hairbrush was literally an afro pick.

One at a time, ladies.

One at a time, ladies.

But I live in New England, and it gets humid in the summer, and drier than dry in the winter. There used to only be a finite number of months (or weeks, or days) in a year when my hair would be at optimal curly controlled-ness. And my skin in winter was itchy and terrible. Because I was literally sucking all the awesome out of my body every single time I showered. 

SULFATES ARE BAD. They're detergents--yes, like the kind in which you wash your clothes--that suck all of the natural oils (moisture) out of your skin and hair, and they're found in most big-name shampoos. Oils are good; they prevent frizz and give your hair body while making it healthy and shiny. Sulfates are probably why dandruff is such a problem. (Meanwhile, dandruff shampoos are full of sulfates...not a coincidence.)

It's not hard now to find sulfate-free shampoo, and depending on the brand, prices are comparable to the other stuff. And honestly, if you're struggling so bad you can't afford to buy a slightly better kind of shampoo, skip the 'poo altogether and just buy conditioner. Obviously rinse your hair well before using, but that's enough to clean your hair. Some people cut out all hair-washing products altogether. So it could even save you money to treat your hair better.

So here are my good-New-England-hair tips that cost next to nothing: 



  • Skip the sulfates when shampooing. My current favorite shampoo is a brand called Soapbox. It smells awesome and they work with and donate to charities around the world. I've also loved Beessential in the past, but it can get pricey with shipping. Still a delicious product and worth every penny.
  • Rinse your hair well, and then turn the water as cold as you can stand it. I read somewhere that rinsing your hair with super-cold water locks in the moisture and oils, so I decided to try it. My hair's been awesome since I started doing this, so whatever the reason, I'm sticking with this routine.
  • After washing/conditioning your hair, apply a little more conditioner as a leave-in. It doesn't have to be any fancy brand; I use the Soapbox conditioner.
  • Use alcohol-free styling products. After cutting sulfates for a while, you might not need much in the way of product. But make sure it's alcohol-free, or it'll suck your hair dry. Current favorites are Crack Styling Crème and Old Reliable: the Frizz Ease line from John Frieda. Girl knew what she was doing.

Better hair and skin is as close as the next time you run out of shampoo/soap. And then all you have to do is choose differently.


Give "beautiful" a rest already.

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for North Korea. 

Thousands of people in concentration camps! Fake, empty villages masking widespread famine and disease!  State-approved haircuts! How is this even real in 2015? I am equal parts fascinated and horrified by everything I learn about that place.

Today, though, I'm just horrified. And not about North Korea: about the Huffington Post's latest words on the country. The piece (which I'm not going to link, because it's pointless) is a slideshow of North-Korean women with the title: "Photos Of Women In North Korea Show Beauty Crosses All Boundaries." 

My audible reaction when I first saw the headline: "So f*cking what?"

As a human with eyes and critical-thinking skills, I can deduce that if life is hard somewhere in the world, women usually suffer the most. Imagine having your period in the middle of a refugee camp...or giving birth in one. Or losing children to starvation or AIDS. And let's not forget everyone's favorite war crime: rape! I can't imagine the women of North Korea are somehow exempt from the extra helping of suffering. So why in the world would this writer waste our time, and this opportunity, on something as trivial as beauty? 

Beauty. In this new and mostly awesome wave of feminism, it has become a term of empowerment. "All bodies are beautiful, and all women are beautiful. It doesn't matter how you look or what you wear; don't worry, girlfriend, you're beautiful, too!" The message sounds new, but it still exists within the tired, old framework that beauty equals worth, when it comes to women.

So I ask you today: Why do we all have to be beautiful? What does beauty have to do with anything?

Of all the curious/disturbing/surprising things about women in North Korea, why on earth should any of us give a crap if they are beautiful? Would you ever see a piece like this about the beauty of North Korean men? Or think pieces on how all men are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside? No. Because men haven't been conditioned to crave--need--that kind of affirmation. 

It's time to move the conversation in a new direction, away from outer aesthetics altogether. We need to find new ways to lift up women that don't involve telling them they are beautiful. And at the root, we need to stop raising our girls to need reassurance of their attractiveness.

Let's put "beautiful" to bed. Let's embrace more tangible, measurable reasons we are awesome: intelligence, humor, tenacity, strength, creativity. Let's raise our girls on a diet of meaningful words and see what happens.