Friday, October 31, 2014

Hairspray hijinks

At writing group last week, my friend Lucy Stimmel said she'd discovered an old photo of her grandmother.

"I couldn't believe it, I kept staring at her head. What had she done to her hair? It was all plastered down, like she'd used sugar water for hairspray or something."

My mouth dropped open. "Really? Sugar water?!" Here I'd thought when it came to hair, I'd heard it all.

"I just couldn't get over how strange she looked."

In Lucy's memory, her grandmother Lucille Philamena Demase had wild, flyaway hair, as in the photo on the left, taken in 1940.

Now here was an earlier picture of Grandmother Lucille from 1932. How had she managed to pull off this pressed-down hair in the days before aerosol sprays and hair gels?

Lucy shrugged. "Who knows? If they used sugar water, though, I wonder what they did about the flies."

The conversation got me thinking. Just when had hairspray first come into use?

The Encyclopedia of Hair says the first aerosol hair sprays started up in the 1940's, and were a mixture of "alcohol, lacquer and other ingredients." By the 1950's and 1960's, so much hairspray was being used that floors around the styling chairs in salons became tacky with residue. Some stylists reacted to this by returning to sugar and water (one 1/2 cup water and 2 tsp sugar, boiled, then cooled and put into a fine misting bottle. Let dry between applications).

While many DIY and home-remedy sites recommend this concoction, others complain it's a bunch of hooey. Apparently, in addition to flies, the sugar and water method has another draw back. Rain. Maybe not the best technique for the Pacific Northwest?