To all the products I’ve loved before…

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Thirty-four. That’s the number I counted while standing in the shower. As hot water rained down on my hair, I scanned the corner-mounted shower shelves and counted 34 bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face scrub and other various potions – not counting the bar of soap.

How many of these products do I use on a normal day? Four. Knowing it has likely been months since the other 30 have been touched, they looked like forlorn rejects from past relationships staring back at me with one pressing question: “Why didn’t it work out?”

plastic shampoo bottles

It’s a hard question to answer, which is why – even in real-life relationships – some people don’t answer it. In modern slang, when someone (without warning) cuts off communication with you, it means you’ve been “ghosted.” My shower is now haunted by the ghosts of products past.

Over our 20-year marriage, Tom has confronted me with this issue a few times. It mostly happens when he accidentally knocks over one of the shower bottles, triggering a domino effect that sends four or five bottles crashing down around his feet. He tries, in vain, to use up shampoo that’s left behind but still, the products proliferate.

To be honest, I fall in love easily. I shouldn’t. Having worked in advertising, I know the tricks and the money-grubbing motives behind product messaging. But sometimes I see a pretty package across a crowded beauty aisle, and I’m drawn to it. I pick up a bottle, and – what can I say – sometimes we just click.

New products woo me with their words. It wants to moisturize and soften? Yes, I’d like that. You say you’ve got “majestic moisture with shea butter and sandalwood”? Oh, that sounds royal! Let’s see if this fairytale romance works out.

You say I need “advanced anti-aging with a detoxifying pore scrub”? I didn’t even know my face might be toxic, but if it is, then yes! Let’s detoxify.

A hair conditioner bottle says it can give me vitality, shine and “renewed fibers” with its amazing mix of “protein plus ceramide.” (I have no idea what a ceramide is, but now that I’m in my 40s, I probably need it. I don’t’ want to walk around with saggy ceramides.)

coconut shower product“Body wash mousse with coconut oil”? Yep. You had me at coconut. Or how about a body butter scrub? (Can a product be buttery and scrubby at the same time? Let’s find out!)

Sometimes I even fall in love with products that aren’t even for me. One of those 34 bottles in the shower is a body wash for men that says it’s a fortifying shampoo and conditioner that’s “thick and strong… with caffeine and calcium…that strengthens and recharges hair vigor.” (Wait a second. Is this for hair or for national security? How much can this shampoo bench press, I wonder.)

So, to the more than two dozen bath and beauty products I’ve loved and abandoned, I want you to know it’s not you, it’s me. I’m a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em kind of shower girl. It’s not that you stopped being awesome. It’s just that something new came along and lured me away with the promise of bamboo extracts with orange blossom scent. Who could say no to that?

When I realized how many past loves are cluttering the shower, I wondered if I should toss them. But the guilt is too much. And who knows? Sometimes a girl finds her way back to a product she once loved. One day I might get in the shower, spot that bottle of coconut butter scrub peeking out behind the shampoo and decide to give things another try. Then I’ll cue up the shower music and realize I was crazy to think I could ever live without it. Reunited, and it feels so good.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at Her book is available on Amazon.

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