The Rockwood Files: Confessions of a beauty product junkie

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Early one morning as I was brushing my teeth, I heard clattering coming from the shower followed by my husband’s not-so-chipper morning voice. “Honey! Why are there so many bottles in the shower? I’m tripping all over them. Who needs this many bottles of shampoo?”

Silly question. Silly man. I replied with a non-answer that usually ends this type of discussion: “It’s a girl thing, honey. Just push them aside.”

I heard an aggravated groan followed by shampoo bottles falling over and that was the end of that.

I don’t expect him to understand. His entire grooming regime consists of two things – soap and shampoo. On a trip, he can fit both into a sandwich bag, and he can’t imagine why anyone would need more than that.

But there are countless women who suffer from the same costly addiction I do. We’re product junkies. We’ve never met a moisturizer, lip gloss or facial cleanser we didn’t want to try. At least once.

Shopping for beauty products is like dating. A woman can’t scan the shelves and instantly know which product is the one for her. She has to take it down, handle the bottle, smell it, buy it, take it home and try it.

In a perfect world, that product would be “the one” and she’d never look at another one again. But sometimes the eye cream we had such high hopes for doesn’t live up to our expectations. We wonder if there might be something better out there.

Before we know it, we’re scanning the shelves for another product to fall in love with. Sometimes we go through this trial and error process several times before we find products that live up to their marketing claims and make us feel like a natural woman.

Because we have a complex grooming ritual, women go through this selection process for everything from shampoo to foot cream. We need options. Sometimes we need a hydrating shampoo. Sometimes we need an extra deep conditioner. Sometimes we need a clarifying shampoo when the deep conditioner has left us with “product build-up”. Sometimes we need body wash with exfoliating beads. Sometimes we just want the creamy stuff that smells like peach mango.

Sometimes we need leg shaving gel and foot scrub. And sometimes, when we’re pressed for time, we need the two-in-one shampoo plus conditioner.

Most ladies play the field until they find the ideal products. Some of us – the hard core product junkies – do research. When I spot a magazine article titled “Beauty editors reveal their top product picks,” I can’t flip to that page fast enough. I tear out the page, stick it in my purse and I’m ready for the next trip down the health and beauty aisle.

But what happens to products that just don’t work out? We can’t throw them out because they’re not empty. We can’t give them to a friend because she’d know we didn’t like them. And we certainly can’t let them take up valuable bathroom counter space. So they migrate to the far reaches of the cabinet under the sink – where beauty products go to die. They languish in this product purgatory until we run out of storage space, and then they meet their fate at the bottom of a trash bag.

We know it doesn’t make any sense to men. It’s not supposed to. There are plenty of things we don’t understand about them. So when he trips over shampoo bottles or discovers the product graveyard under the sink, just toss your deeply conditioned hair to the side, smile and say, “It’s a girl thing, honey.”

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.