The high price of vanity | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I just can’t help scratching and, so far as I know, no willpower on earth—except a yogi’s—can deal with an itch otherwise. The coward that I am when it comes to physical pain, I endure it to some extent, but, for the life of me, not an itch!

And when it’s from an allergy, when relief goes beyond scratching, pain becomes, ironically, my liberator. As happens in my case, scratching is absolutely forbidden, and I hadn’t realized why, until this morning.

I woke up hardly able to open my eyes, and it took a while before I could recognize the monster peering back at me in the mirror. But I can’t feign innocence; my hands or, more accurately, my nails, look guilty as hell. Gone wild scratching away in the night at eyelids, bags and possibly eyeballs themselves, they left incriminating traces where the itch had got too much for me.

In desperation I had even resorted to burning away the itch around my eyes with Vicks and later with the stronger Tiger Balm—salt thrown on wound had never felt so ecstatic. If I had managed any sleep, it could have been only from such extreme measures, helped, of course, by extreme exhaustion.

But how could I pretend to even wonder why this was happening to me? I bolted out of prison, a prison where I had been serving a life sentence of twice-daily application of a prescribed lotion for hair growth and daily shampooing with, again, a prescribed brand. It was all part of a deal I had locked myself in: Escaping it would mean all my hair escaping, too.

Well, in an irresponsible act of rebellion, I stopped everything, cold turkey, just like that. I shifted to brands containing environment-friendly ingredients and promising equal results. They were cheaper, too. I felt righteous and free! Now I’m paying the costs.

Pact for life

But blessings come in the least expected ways. I went to my dermatologist, a dear old friend, and she promptly began testing the products I’ve been using—both those prescribed for my old regimen and the new substitutes. Without medical clearance I have plunged blindly into a pact for life against which I now dare rebel. The tests are now proving that allergy does not always erupt at the first provocation, but can develop over a period of using a product—exactly what happened to me.

The result of my short escape to freedom is, I’ve had to stop dyeing; already, an inch of white roots is beginning to show. But I’m not giving up on dyeing just yet. I intend to resume it as soon as I get my doctor’s clearance and get the suitable brands. My doctor has also given me redeeming news: a hypoallergenic hair dye is now available.

I’ve been told that, while the tests continue, I should stop the old regimen, that I should in fact quit whatever it is I’ve been using on my hair. I’ve been put on a temporary substitute for shampoo produced in my dermatologist’s own lab, safe and ridiculously inexpensive compared with all I’ve been sucked into.

I obey, but not without apprehension. I’ve been warned that if I stopped my hair-growing treatment for four months, six months at most, I’d lose all the hair I had grown back—and more. But, again, dermatologists who seem more credible, if only because they’re not into hairy deals, say that, since only minoxidil can make hair grow, it must be the ingredient common in all those concoctions.

My deal certainly doesn’t come cheap: special shampoo, a complementary solution, zinc and other vitamins and minerals, the works. But hope appears on the horizon—in fact, it appears as near, I’m told, as Cash and Carry. New American products are said to be available there at reasonable prices, and, true enough, all containing minoxidil, just enough—2 percent or a maximum of 5 percent for extra strength—and also applied in the same way mine is, twice daily on the top part of the scalp. But reading a few negative testimonials on the Internet scares me, prompting me to get myself tested before plunging this time around.

The lesson, learned the hard way, is, don’t go into anything without seeking medical advice. I get mine from a dermatologist-friend of many years who at my age looks 30! The challenge of looking good at any age doesn’t have to be risky; neither does it have to be costlier than necessary.

Anyway, I’m in no way giving up until my search for the hypoallergenic hair dye proves futile or too complicated for an easy street person like me to handle. However, I still feel that the hair-growing lotion is an urgent matter. If all else fails, it’s wigs!

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