I Narrowly Escaped Keratin Hair Destruction

What’s cooler than smoothing your hairs with an at-home keratin treatment? Finding out a day later that the product was swiftly discontinued and is now the target of a class action lawsuit. Oops.

suave-30-day-smoothing-kit

I guess that’s what I get for using a cheap drugstore replacement for a chemical protein-restoring treatment that generally runs from $150-$300 at salons. It sounded like an economical way to tame my long, haystack-esque hair. Plus, the ingredient list excused it from the formaldehyde controversy already surrounding the popular service.

I wouldn’t have tried it if I knew it was allegedly making people’s hair fall out. Luckily, I didn’t have this side effect. I’m pretty careful in the presence of anything that smells like chemical warfare and requires gloves for safe handling. I repeated the instructions in my head like Hail Mary’s and timed each step with my phone’s timer.

The mild results: hair that felt like cornsilk. A week later, it still looks a bit smoother and straighter than before.

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Sometimes wind blows at exactly the right time. Wearing: American Apparel lace tee

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Because the smoothing kit was discontinued – not recalled – I assume there was a high incidence of user error. The website says customers who already bought the kit can still use it, but reminds them to follow the directions closely and make sure the product is appropriate for their hair type. People with permed, dyed or otherwise damaged hair were warned to steer clear.  But aren’t women with “damaged, brittle, breaking or dry” hair precisely the market for a frizz-smoothing product? It’s kind of like selling cold medicine that’s dangerous to take if you have a cold.

I asked Suave why they discontinued the product and got this response:

Hello Kayla,

Thank you for contacting us regarding Suave Professionals Keratin Smoothing Kit.

We are committed to ensuring our consumers have an excellent experience with all of our products.  After receiving a greater-than-expected number of hair-related consumer complaints, we evaluated the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Smoothing Kit and decided to discontinue its retail sale. 

We recommend trying the rest of the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Line, including the shampoo, conditioner and the serum.

We don’t have any plans to reintroduce the product at this time.

 

Sincerely,

Your friends at Suave

Okay, Suave, I guess you can still be my “friends,” seeing as my hair isn’t breaking off in chunks.

The moral of the story is to ALWAYS FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. It will get you far in life and might even result in good hair.

Pretty-Stuff-of-the-Month Club

Beauty Bar is fancy. The cosmetics retailer is so fancy, in fact, that you have to pay for samples. But, for some people, joining their “Sample Society” may be the most economical way to indulge in the newest beauty products not coming to a Walgreen’s near you.

It’s worth it if you:

1. Like to try trendy things but don’t want to gamble and waste money on ones that don’t work

2. Can hardly finish a bottle of anything without it expiring or losing its appeal

3. Think mini things are cute and surprises in the mail are fun

4. Want a free year-long subscription to Allure magazine

How it works:

They charge you $15 (includes shipping) at the beginning of the month and send you a box with a mystery mix of five travel sized perfumes, makeup, hair and/or skincare. The selection is somewhat customized to your preferences according to a short survey you complete. The package also comes with a little booklet of tips and a coupon worth $15 off your $50 purchase of any of the brands featured. I probably won’t use it, but if you love one of the products and decide to buy it, the whole set pays for itself.

And, of course, you can cancel whenever. “It’s a free country,” as they say.

What you’ll get:

No ketchup packets of moisturizer here. Every sample is large enough to use regularly for at least a month. Here’s what my first package contained:

allure beauty bar

Neato owl bookends and boring books not included

1. Fekkai Olive Oil Glossing Cream– No, it doesn’t smell like olives. I once coated my hair in actual olive oil for an at-home treatment, and I smelled like a salad even after two shampoos. Unlike most of the stuff in your kitchen cabinet, I’d recommend this for frizzy hair. It’s perfect for when you’re wearing your hair down and don’t need the hold of a gel.

2. Ren Glycolactic Peel Mask– I’m intimidated by the word “glycolactic” and hadn’t tried an acid peel before, but at least this one is natural. It smelled and felt like putting apricot jam on my face. At the prescribed 10-minute mark it started to burn a little, but my skin felt fine after I rinsed it and my complexion was better than usual in the following week.

3. Oscar de la Renta Esprit D’Oscar roll-on perfume- smells sort like baby powder, but more sophisticated. I didn’t love the scent, but it grew on me. Plus, the thing’s exceedingly portable.

4. Skyn Iceland Relief Eye Pen– This is a magic wand for hangovers. My body may still be on strike until I get a breakfast taco and Vitamin Water, but at least this helps my sleepy zombie eyes.

5. Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant– You shake a bit of this powder onto wet hands and it dissolves into a paste with which to scrub. It wasn’t scratchy or even grainy, so I was surprised at how well it exfoliated my skin. It was as smooth as I’m gonna assume dolphins are. People with sensitive skin should check it out.

South By Southwest

I didn’t hit SXSW too hard this year, and I think that’s what made it so pleasant. I spent more time at friends’ houses than at venues this week. I had one hour-plus driving experience within a three mile radius, with suicidal pedestrians outnumbering parking spots 5,000 to one. I stuck to out-of-the-way venues with free shows that I knew I wanted to see. As a result, I made it through with more money than I started with, minimal hangovers, and some semblance of rejuvenation to start this week.

I got photographed for the Urban Outfitters blog. I wasted this little moment of style exposure on nearly the same outfit as my other, uh, press. At least I can say I follow my own advice.

This was taken right before I fell in love with Eleanor Friedberger again. I’d seen her play with the Fiery Furnaces before, all scowls and miss-matched clothes, flying through the awkward lyrics as if auctioning off absurdity. Seeing her alone with her accoustic guitar doing some songs off Last Summer cemented my opinion that she can tell touching, authentic stories that are just as interesting without the bells and whistles of Fiery Furnace songs.

Some other bands:

Best Coast

My friend used a little deception and a few connections to sneak us past a huge line of grouchy teenagers to see this show. We caught the last few songs. It was exactly what I expected, except I expected the free beer to not have run out.

The Strange Boys

So good. Everyone seemed happy to be crammed together under the disco ball for this experience.

Light Asylum

I was resistant to this harsh Brooklyn duo. It seemed designed for eardrum assault, and it was not a good match for a sunny afternoon under a tent. Between songs, Shannon Funchess quit singing like an opera understudy of doom to plug their new album too much and make vague quasi-political statements. But if I said I didn’t do a bit of dancing it would be a lie.

Grimes

Okay, fine, Pitchfork. I’m becoming the stereotypical girl who’s entranced by Grimes. Visions is a refreshing album, and she performs that music like a damn MAGICIAN. She was sick during the show I saw, but hit her signature high notes as best as she could. She’s like a riot grrl for 2012, although she has a totally different sound, audience, etc. It’s in the way that she shrieks instead of crooning, performs like Lykke Li but runs her own show (instead of just banging the occasional drum), and dresses like a 10-year-old without parents. She’s that geeky girl you really should have sat next to in the middle school cafeteria.

Psychic Ills/ Crocodiles

Man, I don’t know. The beer was free.

Goodwill Hunting

The belated  recap of a 20-pound shopping trip

The place:

The irony of the Blue Hanger (aka the Goodwill outlet) is that there aren’t any hangers. There are no shopping bags or dressing rooms, either. It’s where used clothes go to die. It’s bargain hunters’ heaven, but also kinda like hell.
I love the smell of mothballs in the morning, but this place grossed me out a little. The first thing I noticed about my fellow shoppers was that several were donning latex gloves. This seemed comically snobby to me, but the phrase Maybe they know something I don’t ran through my head as I plunged my hands into the abysmal blue tubs.
A strong 30 percent of the garments were badly stained. All manner of undergarments were present. Strangers’ grungy pillowcases had to be pushed aside. And yet, everything smelled like an unfamiliar but clean home. I suspect that the stuff gets sprayed down with Febreeze the way grocery stores mist the produce with water. I concluded that unprotected thrifting is okay. Besides, I can’t shop anywhere without basically groping all the merchandise as part of my evaluation process.

Gloves are a good option for people who are all uptight about the possibility of finding a disembodied head.
Another thing to be ready for: many people will value the hunt more than your bubble of personal space. They will crowd in and reach over you like it’s a designer shoe sample sale. Thankfully, I didn’t have much competition for the styles I wanted there, unlike the  picked-over stores in hipster territory (Savers, anyone?)

The goods:
The outlet only sells clothing, house wares, and books. I have no idea why shoes and records are out of the picture. The three categories are separated for the most part, but all apparel is hopelessly mixed. At a regular Goodwill one must search through racks sorted by color instead of size ( a system I will never understand) , but here, one has to plough through about eight long rows of  bins to see all options. Although the heaps of baby clothes and unsanitary bedding get in the way, this disorganization made me open up to the possibility of  cute boys’ tees and men’s sweaters.

Personalized marriage clocks also available

Bargain books — because reading best-sellers from as recent as 15 years ago is uncool and promotes the atrophy of rainforests probably.

The pricing:

When you check out, your items are dumped into a basket on a scale built into the floor. You’re charged $1.29 per pound. It’s like a frozen yogurt shop, but with cotton. There is an exception to the rate if you buy particularly heavy things. I was charged a flat rate for my two pieces of luggage and hardback book.  I also used a (no longer available) Austin Perks $30 voucher that cost me $15.

The finds:

  • Floral minidress
  • ACDC tee so cool and worn-in that I forgot I hate ACDC
  • High waisted, holy grail Levi’s jeans
  • Short, silky slip covered in a strawberry print
  • Racerback tank with faded palm trees
  • Navy henley
  • Lee light grey dolman sleeve sweatshirt
  • Bright mosaic knee-length skirt
  • Brown leather tote bag
  • Cornflower blue round 60s hatbox/suitcase
  • Bank of Illinois deposit bag (aka new pencil bag)
  • Tie-dye tank top
  • Purple gym shorts
  • Black and white striped boat neck
  • 80s blazer
  • Punk-ass studded belt
  • Uncannily pristine white camisole
  • Lace doily
  • Basic blue jeans prime for customization
  • Hawaiian print/safari shirt…
  • Liz Clairborn maroon silk skirt
  • Taupe belt with gold closure shaped like a wishbone
  • Floral pearl snap western shirt
  • Black cropped leggings for yoga
  • Black leather backpack/rolling suitcase
  • Hunter green riding pants
  • Red crochet-back tunic (makes a very cute nightgown)
  • Thick-knit camel cardigan
  • Basic grey camisole
  • High waist denim shorts
  • Gap 1969 black skinny jeans
  • “Beauty” by Bobbi Brown (hardcover book)

Grand total: about $20. So go check it out when you find yourself with more time than money. The sky is the limit. The size of your closet is also the limit.

On Pins and Needles

Is acupuncture just a series of really pointy placebos?

***

Photo by Deborah Leigh

 

Well, I did it. I got my first acupuncture treatment almost entirely for kicks.

An alternative medicine specialist once gave a lecture on the topic during a class I took on the drug industry. She admitted that the main demographic for therapeutic pin-pricking was “bougie chicks.” I decided to give it a try, since I like to self-identify as bourgeoisie whenever I’m not busy purchasing Ramen noodles or stealing hotel soap.

What better way to medicate beyond my means than with a Groupon? For $30, I bought myself and hour and a half long appointment.

The office’s secretary asked me to fill out a 10-page packet beforehand that consisted of humorously personal questions and about 34,523 little boxes I could check off if their corresponding ailments applied to me. Turns out acupuncture can be the answer to just about anything. And who doesn’t “feel tired” or “sneeze occasionally” (only a minor exaggeration…)?

I suffer subtly from what I’m  going to call the Trifecta of Ugh: stress, allergies, and fatigue. The doctor, who unfortunately wasn’t an ancient Chinese man, addressed this.

He incompletely explained that allergies result from problems with “the gut” (I thought it was mold and pollen this whole time…), but since putting tablets of Zyrtec in my gut seems to control them effectively if not naturally, I moved on to the other Ughs.

As far as stress goes, my hopes were limited. If someone wants to hand me a diploma and a few thousand dollars, I’ll be golden. The doctor was formerly a UT student, too, but referred to my “college life” in a way that I registered as patronizing. He warned that life will only get much harder when I get a real job instead of working at my current job AND full-time load of disparate studies.

He had a real suggestion for my fatigue, though: quit the sugar and carbohydrates. This is good advice, except he really did mean quit them just short of my body going into ketosis. I love cereal too much to die of avoiding it. I’ll stick to my reduced sugar and whole grains goal, thanks. He kind of scoffed when I told him I studied nutritional science and that maaaybe my iron deficiency was to blame, too.

He said he doesn’t trust dieticians.

Awkward consultation complete. It was time to lay on the massage table and trade prodding questions for… prodding.

He tried to distract me with  a story about how much he loves the band U2 while inserting the thin needles in a quick, precise tapping motion. I had several pins in my cushioning: 2 in my biceps, forearms, the webbing of my hands, a couple in my shins and feet, one in the top of my head, and one right between my eyes. It was a good look.

Then I laid there for an hour, staring at the ceiling, listening to New Age flute music from a boombox and trying not to move. My limbs felt achy and I was so bored that it felt more like punishment than therapy.

Next time I’ll try recreational chiropractics for more excitement.

I left feeling just as one does upon quickly rejoining the world after a nap: hazy, slightly self-conscious, and probably unfit to turn left  onto a busy multi-lane street. For the rest of the afternoon I tried to perceive an improvement in my mind or body. But I didn’t feel any different. In fact, I had an awful headache. A week has passed, and I’ve noted no long-term benefits, either.

A couple friends have reminded me that believing wholeheartedly in the procedure probably helps it yield better results. Yet I was quite open to seeing it work some magic.

The list of people who shouldn’t get poked grows:

1. The squeamish

2. The broke

3. The skeptics

4. The reasonably healthy who just want to try things for the hell of it and then blog about it later.

Contemplating Suicide? Try This Instead.

Sally Hansen hair remover wax strips,$5.09 at Ulta

If ever you find yourself on a little self-hate kick, don’t dabble in hard drugs or cut yourself. Do an at-home bikini wax!

I’ve had DIY regrets before (crooked bangs, crooked hemlines, crooked black-tipped hair dye-job), but my hand-eye coordination was not to blame this time. Can I blame Sally Hansen? These little wax strips make for pretty painless eyebrow maintenance, but there was no warning on the box that says “May draw blood and cause involuntary shouting when used on bikini line.”

Maybe I do need to seek professional help.

One Fine Evening: Bill Callahan Starts Apocolypse Tour

A Bill Callahan audience is respectful. A few strums of his guitar and the Mohawk crowd of his fellow Austinites silenced itself to gaze onward, rapt. He opened with “Riding for the Feeling” and flowed through nearly as many songs from 2009’s “Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle” as the new album he was kicking off the tour for, “Apocalypse.” The band seated behind him on the outdoor stage carefully kept up with his songs’ copious tempo changes as Callahan sang them, clad in an all-black suit like Johnny Cash (with the bass vocals and chugging train rhythms to match).

The set was interrupted only by a few “HO!!!!”s and loud beats carrying down the street from Emo’s, where hip-hop group Atmophere was playing the same night. Slug was not rapt; he just rapped.

Callahan’s audience did some whooping and hollering of its own during “America!,” his ode to our “grand and golden” country. Maybe they were digging the way the pace speeds and the guitars rev up, but it probably had more to do with TV news playing mute above the bar, still plastered with headlines: US Kills Bin Laden. He subtly inserted Pakistan into the lyrics’ list of targeted countries.

Photo by Chris Taylor

Tunes from “Woke on a Whale Heart” were ignored entirely, but luckily he closed and encored with Smog favorites off “A River Ain’t Too Much to Love.”

At first, it’s hard to see the benefits of hearing the songwriter live. The music, too substantial and genuine to call for any stage theatrics, is performed so true to the recordings. And his albums are so warm, and recorded so perfectly that you get as familiar with his voice as with a good friend’s. But his careful control over the songs is impressive in itself, and his perpetually  twisted facial expressions show how enveloped he is within them.

In an interview with The Rumpus, Callahan said that each show is like building a new city with the audience in the space of an hour. Last night’s “city” was a peaceful one on the outskirts of a metropolis with a big hip-hop scene. Its structures were built in spite of the threat of wildfires, budget cuts, and tornado season. The climate was colder and darker than surrounding regions, and the good people held fast to a set of common values. There was only one village idiot pumping his fist in the air. And, of course, it was in America.

Girl Crush

For a couple of dudes, Girls (songwriter Christopher Owens and producer Chet “JR” White) know how to get into a feminine mindset. “I wonder if he is impressed? Should I have worn the other dress?” Christopher Owens muses in the opening track of the band’s latest EP, the dramatically titled Broken Dreams Club.

Fans of Girls’ debut album,called Album (confusion ends here, I promise), won’t be disappointed. It even has similar cover art: four photos featuring roses and the guys sitting on beds.

The new EP delivers their usual knack for feel-good downers, this time with the welcome addition of…lots of brass? It works because it’s not grandiose (that would destroy the charm in a heartbeat). Instead, the instrumentation comes together to achieve a real 50s doo-wop feeling, especially on the A side. It takes you out to the hop, but that hop is in San Fransisco and you’re wearing Wayfarers indoors with that poodle skirt.

Pedal steel and swaggering trombone on the title track make it golden, but not an oldie. “Heartbreaker,” however, is so predictable that you’ll swear you’ve heard it on multiple family road trips. But hey, I can’t say it’s bad.

Girls record songs for slow dancing in you apartment kitchen, for closing time, and for Urban Outfitters promotional videos (true story).

These songs are sure of themselves, but do nothing if not celebrate being young and aimless.

Owens’ stoner-surfer voice was made for “Substance,” an ode to those illicit materials that “help you rock’n’roll.” But it’s actually a complacent tune about giving up on reality. Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls lends backup vocals.

Sharp breathing and relentless snare give “Alright” the most potential for jostling around at a live show, but it, too, breaks down into an easy sway.

“Carolina,” the last song, takes a while to emerge from it’s foggy beginning, but once Owens sweetly suggests he “carry you home to Carolina and never let you go,” that’s it. You’re smitten.

Visions of Joanna

After gingerly hiking up the Paramount theater’s carpeted stairs, one has a good view of  a harp-playing angel painted on the concave ceiling. Last night Joanna Newsom was perched at her own harp on the stage, directly beneath it.

“I see they got my rider,” she joked upon noticing the coincidence. It was the perfect setting for a night of gorgeous musicianship and, you know, an awkwardly long discussion about breakfast tacos among her band members. Percussion, banjo, violins, trombone, and some good ol’ hand clapping rounded out Newsom’s songs. The band played a satisfying mix of selections from all three of her major albums, even including three songs from Ys nearing 10 minutes each.

But it was the performance of her newest material from Have One on Me that was the most fun (“Good Intentions Paving Company”) and heartbreaking (“Go Long”). It is her more personal songs of late that get an eager audience closer to the songwriter who possess what has been called “celestial pluck.” The stories Newsom now weaves so gracefully with her improved (but still unmistakable) voice, half childish chirp and half folksy rasp, take place in homes, in California,  and in averagely poignant relationships we can all relate to.

She closed the set with a well received rendition of “Peach, Plum, Pear,” in which she changed a prominent lyric to past tense. “I was blue,” she sang, and soon skipped offstage to the roar of a standing ovation in her blue and white checkered dress and a big smile.

*photo originally published in Bust magazine

Good Grief: A Review of Destroyer’s Latest EP

“Grief Point,” like any good conceptual work, was something I knew I’d be a sucker for upon hearing the description alone. The second of two songs on the Archer on the Beach 12” (created with the help of Tim Hecker and Loscil) finds Dan Bejar reading over ambient recordings from his own journal about making the recording itself. Tones pulse beneath found sounds of drinking, walking, flicking a lighter, and the distinct ring of an office telephone. Gentle and relaxed as his speech is, it’s a feat that nothing overpowers it. The song is highly personal, despite the way his informal reflections never stray far from the trademarks of his lyrics.
Above all, “Grief Point” is, for lack of a better word, a treat for his fans, who tend towards strong loyalty. His monologue is that of an intelligent voice filed down with humility, admitting to his own struggles with the creative process.

“Archer on the Beach” continues down the road Bay of Pigs paved with electricity, although no proverbial disco ball lowers from the ceiling halfway through to help it dance along its less cumbersome duration. It seems to confirm Bejar’s transition from wordiness to repetition. In last year’s Enemy Mine, his contributions to Swan Lake included lyrics such as “Spider, spider, spider!” and “Ahm ba da doo da da dum…” But we hear the same indicators of his writing style with his use of conversational phrases and a sort of verbal enjambment, the meanings twisting in different directions from one bar to the next.
Archer contains a sadness that sparkles just enough to keep the unsympathetic rapt.

Both bode well for January’s full-length, Kaputt.

“The problem with Destroyer is…” Bejar sings, trailing off with the tune of a heavy exhale. Twelve records in, I still don’t know how to finish that sentence.