A Fine Mess

You suspect you have hair issues when experienced, on-set stylists say things like, “Yeah, let’s not fool with this,” and “Maybe we’ll just do a nice comb-through and watch for fly-aways.”  You’re certain of it once you’ve seen panic in the eyes of the one hair pro who did “fool with it.”

It’s not that I have bad hair.  It’s taken a lifetime to understand that.  Really, it’s just “set” in its own way.

I have fine, straight strands that are as soft as cornsilk.  The slightest breeze will make them dance.  Actual wind will produce a tangled tuft.  But, mostly, it just sort of sits there and hangs out.

There was a time when it would take a curl ~ but only with serious coercion.

There are photos of me, at the tender age of 5, looking as cute as a button in a white cotton slip and pastel-colored perm rods, a towel draped across my neck to catch the eye-watering fumes of a Toni Home Permanent.  I loved that smell ~ and its promise of bouncy ringlets.

The home perm quickly became a regular ritual, supported by Sunday night pin curl sets and Monday morning comb-outs.

Sometime during my tween years, I had one perm too many.  Too much toner left me looking more like Mike Brady than Cindy Brady.

Mike Brady (Robert Reed) and Cindy Brady (Susan Olsen)

Much to my horror, this was captured for posterity in my middle school yearbook (go, Mustangs).

I would very much like to reproduce that image here ~ mostly for shock value (oh, it is BAD); but it is entirely too cold to go into the attic and root around for the annual.  Suffice it to say that the whole experience “scared me straight” and “permanently” cured me of the biannual rite.

I began high school the following year ~ permless.  Mid-way through, we ticked over into the ‘80s, the Era of BIG (big big big…) HAIR (hair hair hair…).

Just in case you were wondering, 80‘s hair was bigger than Texas hair.  In fact, it birthed it.  But hot rollers, crimping tools and curling irons produced little more than a wave in mine.  And, even when the weather was clear and cooperative, the sad result never had any real staying power.  (Thank God for good friends like Ann Marie LoFrisco who was always at the ready with nimble fingers and an elastic to transform my fine, flat “don’t” into a decidedly French ‘do.)

Puberty turned my hair into an oily, greasy slick which did not play well with products.  Gels, mousses and sprays only clumped together and weighed it down.  It took me two years to grasp this concept; it took me two seconds to embrace clarifying shampoo.

As the ‘80s were winding down, I signed with Ford and began modeling in New York.  My dream was to see myself on a billboard ~ with curly hair.  My reality was hundreds and hundreds of tear-sheets with just four crummy curls in the bunch.


A kind stylist (and founding member of the “let’s not fool with it” camp; she’d worked with my hair more than a few times and knew its limitations) offered up a little straight talk.

She pointed out that clients repeatedly booked me based on a headshot featuring long, straight locks.  And she encouraged me to accept my linear, skinnier hair ~ much as I had my plus-size curves.

It was profoundly liberating.

Today my hair is exceptionally healthy.  Twenty years of leaving it alone has seen to that.  Beyond a daily shampoo and light, detangling conditioning, my hair is virginal:  It’s never been touched by heat.

Despite its good condition, I still have problems with oil and volume.  Even clarifying shampoos can leave behind a little residue.  So I regularly rotate the stock on my shelf and occasionally experiment with new brands.

Recently, I discovered two wonderful shampoos ~ ideal for fine, flat follicles.  Here’s the skinny:

Garnier Fructis Body Boost Shampoo is a wonder.

Ginseng and lemon cleanse the hair and lift it from the root, giving you not just volume but actual body.  Citrus helps to keep hair clean and oil-free all day long.  Green tea fortifies the follicles, producing stronger, healthier growth.

I’m not wild about Body Boost’s strange scent, which smells oddly of old-time cherry-flavored cough syrup (I suspect it is the bitters of the green tea that hit that particular sour note); but I’m certainly willing to overlook it in favor of exceptional product performance.  You will see and feel a difference after just one use.

Also, bonus points for the brilliant easy-open flip cap design and built in “grippers” on the side of the bottle.

Pantene’s Aqua Light Shampoo is “weightless cleansing” at its best.

Product lathers well and rinses clean, washing away oil with minimal stripping.  Paraben- and silicone-free, there is nothing heavy to be left behind.  Hair feels lighter and really shines.

Additionally, the scent (think “sweet floral rain”) is absolutely divine.  I will reach for this one again and again for that reason alone.

Garnier’s Fructis Body Boost and Pantene’s Aqua Light are available at big box stores, local drugstores, in most supermarkets and online.  Both perform surprisingly well, and retail for under $5 ~ a supreme bargain for those of us in a “fine” mess.


  1. Ah, fine, wispy hair. I too wanted the curly locks. Just a week’s growth was enough to make any perm flatten. I also wanted long, long tresses. Now I love my ultra short hair. I’ll never go back.
    (Come on, let’s see you, just once, with pigtails.)

  2. tiggermama says

    KEWLNESS!! we are hair twins – and i can’t tell you how helpful this was. i am going SHOPPING!!

  3. Jennifer says

    The little girl in pig tails with the Toni Perm box? Me, circa 1970!

  4. Jennifer says

    You will not be disappointed with these shampoos! The Pantene Pro-V Aqua Light Conditioner, while slightly challenged in the detangling department, is also very kind to fine, oily hair.

  5. WiseOldOwl says

    Great to know what to choose–I have hair like yours and I don’t even want to THINK about the 80s!

  6. Jennifer says


  7. I have had a love hate relationship with my poker straight hair. I have done the perm route — spiral was the only thing that would take. I liked it but so harsh and so long to get it done. I love flat irons just to get the kink out — I have some killer cowlicks. Thanks for the shampoo recommendations I am in the market for something new. I have been in love with the Aussie shampoo for years but just this past year they changed the formula and it just isn’t the same as it used to be. I even took a break and went back — I hate it when companies fool with things that are already working.

  8. Gabrielle says

    Well, my hair is not like yours… it’s thick and full and just piles up if I let it grow out too much! However, I couldn’t agree more with this post. Embrace yourself completely. You have the hair/body/face or whatever that you are meant to have! It can be hard to figure out how to work with it… but it’s worth the effort!

  9. Susan says

    Thank you! I’ve added both shampoos to my list. I too enjoy the world of thin not gonna curl hair. Pain the pattootee it is. Thankfully the “bob” doesn’t stary too close to dowdy. Thanks again.

  10. Pam says

    Me, too! Me, too! My hair is fine and straight and oily. I have to wash it every day. I miss the green Clinique Clarifying Shampoo they used to sell years ago.

  11. Jennifer says

    I also loved the Clinique Clarifying Shampoo! It left my hair evergreen-clean (my scalp actually tingled). And I liked that minty smell. Would love to hear what kind of products those of you with fine, straight, oily hair are using, too….

  12. We always want what we can’t have, lol! Here’s my “perm” story. When my hair long it was super thick ,heavy, and straight. In High School I always wore it in a pony-tail because I had no idea what to do with it. Well I saw one of my friends putting huge amounts of L.A. Looks Green MEGA HOLD hair gel to make her curly hair “manageable”. I thought to myself…I wanedt to have a huge bottle of hair gel and do my hair too!! I just really wanted something different. So I went to my Dad and asked him to take me to the salon for a “spiral perm”. I got to the salon ready to have my virgin hair transformed into beautiful wavy curls. First of all, the perm smelled like a mixture of Pork Rinds and Nair, and because my hair was so long and thick, I used EVERY perm rod in the place. I thought my head was gonna fall because it was so heavy. After the ordeal was over, we took them out and I had the tightest set of ringlets imaginable. I was scared at first but I was told it would relax and be fine. The next day, I had my GIANT bottle of L.A.Looks Mega Hold and put half the bottle in my to make it look good. I went to school and everyone was shocked and and mid-day my hair was half gel’d and half frizzy and dry. When I would go out into the sun my hair would heat up and smell like Pork Rinds and Nair. I have never planed on smelling like ann EGG…espcially in HIGH SCHOOL!!! I kept the perm for a month with was ready to say GOOD-BYE. I went to my Mom and asked her what to do. We ended up putting a relaxer into my hair and combing it out. BUT as a bonus my hair became wavy and voluminous, so it wasn’t ALL bad. The things we do to our hair, lol!

  13. By the way…I’m not 100% positive but I think that minty feeling from the clinique shampoo was the Green Tea or Sage. I used Pureology Hydrating Shampoo and one of those ingredients made my hair feel like I had rubbed Vicks 44 on my head, lol. I really liked it.

    @ Moe- I agree Aussie has changed their ways. Another company who did that was Herbal Essences. I loved there “herbal” smell. Now a days it smells like fruit punch, haha. But I do really like their Honey I’m Strong shampoo, it has help my hair a lot!

  14. Jennifer says

    Loving all these comments and exchanges! Anyone have additional product recommendations?

  15. Cat says

    Ha! I have thick, curly (yet bizarrely fine) hair, and I always wished for pin-straight hair. Whenever I get my color touched up (every four weeks like clockwork), my stylist does a blow-out and flat-iron and I enjoy it immensely for two days before I shampoo it and go back to the wild, wild curls.

a peep out of you