Before smartphones I would read shampoo bottles in the bath. I suppose books existed back then but shampoo bottles are waterproof in a way that paper just isn’t. And sometimes, when I need a phone-break, I still pick up a bottle and scour its instructions, its ingredients, its fancy promises. I like everything about the back of a shampoo bottle. Or shower gel. Or face wash. I’m not fussy.
The text is comforting in it’s familiarity. I know what I do and don’t want from its contents, without necessarily knowing what it means. I don’t want oil, I don’t want sulphates, I don’t want parabens. I do want dermatologist-tested, I do want hyaluronic acid, I do want Pro-V.
The reassurance that a product is allergy-tested, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic is like your favourite song coming on the radio. Like reading a childhood bedtime story. Like a strawberry shower gel from The Body Shop with a picture of a happy tiger on the front. Like the glitter bath pearls that were too precious to use. Like the Lush bath bomb you got from your best friend at Christmas.
Packaging copy is ostentation versus quotidian: the cynicism of trademarked spiel alongside simplistic instructions for use. Only this product has Hydro Boost. Only this product has Barrier Care. Only this product has an Innovative Progressive Release System. And yet, they all tell you how to use it (lather on, rinse off) and they all tell you how to store it (not hot, not cold) and they all tell you what to do if it gets in your eyes (wash it out).
Their Progressive Release System might be Innovative, but their care for your sight and bathroom temperature is reliably unchanging, unfading. Their care for you is a port in the storm of life. Their care for you is eternal, like the sun.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 12th August 2018 as part of Internet Care Package.
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