I’ve made the dire mistake, numerous times this year alone, of using the free shampoo and conditioner provided by whatever hotel I’ve happened to be staying in. Now I hate to generalise about hotel shampoos and conditioners (especially as I’m later going to present a rare exception to the rule) but let me describe to you what might happen to your hair – particularly if it’s already dry or colour-treated – if you decide to take a chance, mid-shower, and reach for the free hotel shampoo.
We’ve all been there. You don’t need to wash your hair, but you’re ever so slightly hungover and you think it’ll make you feel better. Or you’ve stepped into the hotel shower and turned it on and the spray has emerged with such force that it has hit the ceiling, cracked three tiles, bounced back onto the top of your head and soaked your hair, leaving you smelling like a wet dog. Or you’re on a rare night away, alone, and you feel as though you have all the time in the world, so what better way to spend it than having a leisurely, pleasurable hair-washing session with perhaps a deep-conditioning treatment thrown in.
Except hair-washing in a hotel is rarely pleasurable. Not if you decide to use their free shampoo, which has seemingly been formulated by Satan’s Science Laboratory. I can just imagine Satan gleefully concocting his moisture-stripping hair wash.
“Morning Science Minions! I hope that you have all been particularly evil overnight, for it is during the night that we do our most merciless and cruel work. I, myself, have eaten eight small children and run over a pensioner on my moped, skinned a cat and culled a herd of elephants.
Now, I have a job for you today, minions – it has come in from a large cosmetic company who provide toiletries to hotel chains. They would like a shampoo, for washing hair, that very barely does any cleansing but strips all available moisture from both hair shaft and scalp. Preferably the shampoo must leave the user looking they’ve been electrocuted with a cattle prod (we all know what that looks like!) before having each and every hair doused in battery acid and finally dried off with a blow torch.
Wait, Minions of Satan, return to your stations! I know that you are eager to start, but be still. Put down the teat pipette, Darren. Switch off the bunsen burners, for there is more to this brief. The company also requires an apparently well-known product called a conditioner. Yes my pretties, I can see that you are excited by this. And you should be. There is even more opportunity to damage and disappoint with this conditioner product than there is with the shampoo. The conditioner promises nurture, it promises care – but I wish you to create me a product with the de-tangling and hair-smoothing power of a treacle-saturated brillo pad. The product must feel silky and look silky but it must not, under any circumstances, make the hair it touches feel or look silky. It must make that hair more dry than it has ever previously been – so dry that it will snap in the breeze, so dry that even a manoeuvre called “tying it back” will fail to make it look presentable.
Now go, GO, my minions. Formulate and then distribute at will; stick different brand labels (some of them incredibly premium and pricey) to the bottles and then deliver to all the hotels of the world. Including the leading ones. Off with you, and remember: stay evil.”
Honestly, the number of times I’ve stepped out from a (posh) hotel lobby looking like someone who has spent the entire stay backcombing their hair with a piece of wire wool and a can of SprayMount. And you’d think that I would learn; not even the entire bottle of matching “conditioner” will fix the damage that a bad hotel shampoo does. Not even the entire conditioner dose, the bottle of body lotion, the pot of cream from the hospitality tray and a pat of butter from the breakfast buffet will make your hair into anything resembling a normal human offering.
Now there are exceptions to the rule – some hotels stock REN, for example, and a selection of boutique places carry the excellent Bramley range (post on them upcoming) – but in general my hotel/shampoo experiences have been dire. Thank the lord I usually have a Tangle Teezer with me and have never been forced to pick through my haystack with one of the free combs that inevitably lies on the “vanity tray”.
(On that note: who decides what free stuff gets provided in a hotel room? What absolute lunatic thought that more people would need a shoe-shining sponge than ear plugs? What tends to be more of a problem when you stay away from home – noise from the downstairs bar/next door party people/constantly-moving elevator, or the fact that your leather shoes look a little bit dull? Also, loofahs! Why is there always a loofah in the bathroom but a toothbrush and toothpaste set usually requires a call to the front desk? Which do you tend to need more? “Oh balls, June! I’ve forgotten the bloody loofah again!”)
Anyway, I’m rambling. Mainly because it has taken me almost two weeks to get my hair back to normal after a particularly bad hotel shampooing session. I honestly thought, mid-lather, that I had mistakenly used some sort of paint-stripping gel or toilet disinfectant – by the time I went to rinse the skin on my hands had shrivelled and my scalp needed some kind of moisture intervention!
Comments please: best and worst hotel shampoos. All anecdotes warmly received…