Thursday, January 24, 2008

Product Review: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

When my beloved Costco-sized bottle of Paul Mitchell's Shampoo Two ran out last month, I kept my fingers crossed that CVS would have the product in stock. I'm far too lazy to drive to my hair salon every time I want to pick up a fancy-schmancy hair product, so I take my chances with what's on the shelf at my local drugstore or grocery store. Of course, the selection varies greatly month to month (salon brands only show up in regular stores because a salon owner has decided to sell off extra merchandise to Target or Rite Aid, not because these stores order directly from Paul Mitchell, Redken or any other salon brand). I'm such a creature of habit that I would buy the same product forever if it was available, so the narrow selection often ends up leading me to try new products.

CVS didn't have my Shampoo Two, but since I've become quite loyal to Paul Mitchell (high quality products, nice scents, cool minimalist packaging), I looked around for an appropriate shampoo for my hair type that I hadn't tried yet. The strangely shaped bottle of Tea Tree Shampoo caught my eye, and I picked it up to take a whiff. I have to admit that I'm a sucker for anything with the words "minty," "tingly" and "invigorating" on the bottle, but I was particularly impressed by the shampoo's scent, which was more warmer and more complex than your typical peppermint patty-scented product. I haven't had the best experiences in the past with scented beauty products, since brands often attach a strong scent to a worthless product, hoping consumers will like the smell enough to ignore the fact that the cleanser/lotion/conditioner does nothing. But I decided to give it a try (I saved my receipt just in case).

The true test of the shampoo was whether it could leave my naturally oily hair and scalp feeling squeaky clean after a long workout, as the Shampoo Two did. I poured a quarter-sized dollop of shampoo into my hands and worked it into a lather. Right away my shower filled with the minty tea tree scent, while my head felt tingly and refreshed. When I washed the product out, I was glad to see that there was no need for a second shampoo, and even after putting in conditioner, my scalp was still tingling. It still felt nice and cool after I got out of the shower, and my hair looked great once I blowdryed and styled it.

My boyfriend, who's usually oblivious to subtle changes in my beauty routine, complimented me right away on how good I smelled, the scent still present a few hours after I'd washed my hair. But the true sign of how great this shampoo is came when I flew home to Michigan for the holidays and did something totally out of character. Instead of threatening my younger sister with a slow, painful death if she used my beauty products, I told her she should try my new shampoo next time she took a shower. She looked a little dumbstruck at the news, but eager to take advantage of my curious generosity, she went to take a shower. She came out raving about how nice her head felt, asking me where she could pick up the shampoo (for a girl who usually buys whatever is on clearance at the drug store, this was quite a step).

In reading reviews online, it seems that a lot of people with both oily and dry, dandruff-prone scalps have had positive experiences with this shampoo, though I would be careful if your hair is chemically processed, since it is a very strong cleanser. Like any strong scent, not everyone will love this one, and you might want to stay away if you wear certain perfumes or scented products, as it could compete. But more than a month later, I'm still in love with this product, and plan on ordering my next bottle online, just in case CVS is out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reader Question: Appropriate Outfits For A New Teacher

Hi Meg!

I am in the education program at my school, and this past semester involved my first practicum, as an assistant to a high school English class. I really struggled with what to wear on these days--how low is too low? How conservative am I supposed to be? Taking cues from the teachers at the building didn't really help, because they featured a wide varieties of styles. I have a hard time finding advice for this, because while teachers are conservative, they do not, by any means, dress professionally in the sense of a lawyer or businessperson. I was wondering if you could offer some tips on being fashionable while staying within the boundaries of what is appropriate for a high school teacher.



The topic of appropriate attire for a teacher is certainly contentious, as I found out after this post where a reader asked if a sheer blouse (with a tank under it) was acceptable for a high school teacher to wear to work. I can understand your frustration in deciding what to wear, since teachers are put in the difficult position of trying to look stylish and age-appropriate while still appearing professional and polished.

As my of my friends in your position have told me, it's especially challenging when you're young and working in a high school, since the age difference between you and your students is not very large. Your first priority in dressing should be to make sure your clothes convey a sense of professionalism to your students, their parents and other teachers, so that you will be treated with the respect shown toward older and more experienced teachers. That said, you don't need to ditch your fashionable wardrobe for dowdy separates from Chico's. Here are a few guidelines for dressing appropriately at school that I've developed with the assistance of my teacher friends:

1. If you have any thoughts that a specific article of clothing is too sexy, don't wear it. You can get into some really hot water if you show up to school in an outfit that a parent or administrator deems sexually suggestive, and you risk losing some of the respect of your students. That means no cleavage, bare shoulders, exposed bra straps, tight clothing or short skirts.

2. You're in a position of power, so avoid wearing anything that you'd lounge around in. Anything made of velour or fleece should be left at home. No sweatpants, sweatshirts, baggy t-shirts, workout gear, Uggs, Crocs, or clothing that's ripped, stained or wrinkled.

3. If you wear jeans on a casual day, they should be fairly formal looking and in near-perfect condition. Avoid jeans that are too baggy and skinny styles, and go for a dark wash with no sandblasting or kitschy details like jewels or embroidery. A trouser style or a bootcut is acceptable in my book. If you do wear jeans, make sure you compensate for the casualness by pairing them with dressier shoes and a more formal layer, like a blazer over a blouse.

Okay, so now that I've gone over the don'ts, here are a few examples of looks that I think would be perfect:

This is a very cute, young look, but your body is totally covered and the structured jacket over a button-down makes it professional enough for a school setting. From Ann Taylor Loft.

Okay, I have no idea why this Banana Republic model is dancing and footless, but I think her outfit is a good example of a basic work outfit of a bright blouse and belted trousers. You could add a cardigan or a blazer, or throw on a sweater over it if it's cold.

A printed jersey dress is another great staple to have (I'm a huge fan of wrap styles in particular). Another plus is that they can be worn in any season and they're very comfortable and forgiving. This outfit is from Ann Taylor.

Those are my tips, though I know my readers will have many more to add on. Anyone else have suggestions for Catherine?