Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Darwin's hair straighteners

Ladies beware! If you think The Only Way Is Essex, then you could be on the road to disaster, according to an alert published on the Council's website.
Trading Standards officers issued the warning after receiving concerns about counterfeit goods, some potentially dangerous, being sold at ‘ladies pamper night’ events in Essex.
These thinly-disguised marketing opportunities for peddling counterfeit goods are a shameless exploitation of a growing trend which combines entitled self-indulgence with the narcissistic Zeitgeist.

There is big money to be made these days in the 'beauty' industry; quite aside from the ridiculous price of cosmetics and the latest miracle face cream, there are the pointless electrical items. Hair straighteners, for example, range from £20 to over £100, which seems rather steep for what is essentially a very small sandwich toaster.
"We understand it can be tempting to purchase cheap deals but consumers should be aware of the wider implications and the risks to their own safety. These products are can often poor quality and potentially dangerous."
I can't help feeling that Trading Standards are shouting into the wind unless they spell it out more clearly than this: surely any woman who attends a 'pamper night' at the local pub and picks up a hair styling accessory for half the list price is hardly likely to be the sort who takes warning notices seriously.

All of which is quite worrying, since hair straighteners clearly have designs on humanity. Not only have they been implicated in a surprisingly large number of A&E admissions for serious burns; they have been linked to two house fires in London in the past two weeks alone.

In the hands of the careless, an appliance that heats up to 200 degrees is always going to be a hazard; add in the potential of electrical faults from a counterfeit product and calculate the likelihood that someone who buys a dodgy electrical item at a 'pamper night' will operate it safely and you surely have a recipe for a potential Darwin Award.


  1. "All of which is quite worrying, since hair straighteners clearly have designs on humanity. "

    Mark Wadsworth would say they aren't as single-minded in that as cows.

    And sinkholes.

  2. When looking down on ladies heads from my standing position in the theatre it is clear that these days a lot of them seem to have much thinner hair even in younger age ranges. Yet I remember Aunts and others of the long past who still had luxuriant tresses into old age. They used neither these kind of hair treatments nor for that matter any of the modern chemical soups that are now marketed as necessary. In the modern world it seems to be hair today gone tomorrow.

  3. Julia, very true; and I'd also like to add that, in the words of Bill Bryson, "Christmas tree stands are the work of the devil and they want you dead."

    Demetrius, anecdotal evidence suggests a combination of daily washing and heat-based styling aids have a noticeable impact.

    Previous generations washed their hair once a week or even less often; daily washing is, I suspect,largely the result of advertising by companies trying to sell as much shampoo as possible.

  4. There is big money to be made these days in the 'beauty' industry

    What do you mean"these days"?

  5. JH, for most of the history of Western civilization, devoting hours to one's physical appearance was, by and large, confined to the moneyed classes who had leisure and funds to do so - and the assistance of ladies' maids or valets.

    Those less privileged would not have had the time - and, in any case, any tendency that way was often restricted by sumptuary laws or religious teaching, if not by the disapproval of others. For a fictional example, think of the way Madame Bovary's obsession with her appearance is inextricably linked by her bourgeois neighbours with her moral decline.

    It was with the advent of labour-saving devices and the new-found acceptability of cosmetics (and a sun-tan) in the 1920s that it began to be viewed as respectable, and then increasingly obligatory, for ordinary women to adopt elaborate make-up and hairstyles.

    The cosmetic industry as we know it has pushed its merchandise for 100 years to the point where hair and beauty products represent a significant - and largely unnecessary - outlay for many women.