Recently over 50 cent raw oysters at Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar on St. Charles Avenue, a new-to-New Orleans colleague mentioned her quest to find a good body powder. Having moved here in May from New York, she was getting a crash course in how to maintain some level of style, comfort and dignity during the oppressive Big Easy summer. Body powder is of course at the top of the list of must-use products for anyone who lives in a humid climate. Lately, I told her, I’ve been employing Caldesene Baby Cornstarch Powder with Zinc Oxide. I spotted it in the baby products aisle at the drugstore and was sold on it after the first use. The cornstarch absorbs moisture, zinc oxide — which most people are familiar with from sunscreen — soothes and heals chafed or chapped skin and the aloe and chamomile soften and just feel divine on your skin. A few days later, a high school friend who moved from Northern Kentucky to Birmingham, Alabama last week appealed to her curly-haired friends on Facebook how she might tame her mane in the Alabama heat. With these two exchanges on my mind, I thought it was time to offer up a few of my tried-and-true tips for looking and feeling as good as you can when Mother Nature is determined to melt your skin, wreck your hair and beat down your spirit.
‘The bigger the hair, the closer to God’
During the first few days we lived in Austin, Texas, it became painfully clear if I was to ever go out in public, major changes in my hair care regime were in order. My hairdresser at the time told me that, as counterintuitive as it seems, it’s important to add moisture into your hair. She suggested introducing a leave-in conditioner (I like Rusk) into my routine of ultra-moisturizing shampoo and conditioner (I currently switch off between Oribe and Redken Extreme) and a weekly mask (again, Oribe and also Nexxus Humectress Replenishing System Masque are both lovely).
Once we moved to Houston, I had to amp it up a little more and added a serum into the repertoire. A friend passed along a bottle of Aveda Light Elements Smoothing Fluid. I put two or three drops it on the ends of my wet hair after applying the leave-in conditioner and then about two drops on the ends once my hair is dried and styled. Note that if you have very thin hair, you may not need the leave-in and, or the finishing serum, so experiment and figure out what works for you. Also, I limit hair washing to every other day to allow natural oils to work their magic. Another technique that has worked for me is keeping layers to a minimum. One or two very long layers at most will add enough weight to my hair to keep it from getting too big and frizzy.
Admittedly, there will be days when no amount of moisture or lack of layers will save you and your hair will look like Rosanne Rosannadanna. On those days, a lovely braid, messy bun or a hat are all great alternatives.
The words “dusting powder,” likely conjure images of a round, floral printed cardboard container housing rosewater-scented powder and a fluffy puff sitting on your grandmother’s vanity. As with many, if not all things, Grandma was onto something. The best dusting powders create a silky smooth feeling on your skin, making it easier to slide into your clothing, lightly scenting your skin and simultaneously moisturizing and absorbing moisture though scientific ingredient combinations or magic, I’m really not sure. It is not easy finding a container of dusting powder with a sifter and puff in New Orleans, but I managed to track down Thymes Goldleaf Dusting Powder with Puff at Lovejoy Day Spa and Shop in Metairie. It is talc-based, contains aloe vera and honey and has a light fragrance combination of jasmine, hyacinth, lily of the valley, oak moss and musk. Since it lacks cornstarch, I plan to cut the Thymes powder in half with Caldesene in hopes of creating a custom mega-powder. If that’s a bust, I’ll use the dusting powder all over and the Caldesene in the privy areas.
On a side note to the gentlemen readers, my husband Mark recommends Zeasorb Excess Moisture “prevention” powder. It has been a lifesaver when he’s working on a film in 100-degree and up temps and has to run around non-stop for 14 or more hours. We’ve had luck finding it at Rite-Aid and CVS. Trust me, you will thank him.
An ounce of prevention
Wear sunscreen every, single day. Kiehl’s makes one that doesn’t feel like you have grown fur. That is all.
Natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen are your friends. Airy, breathable, absorbent and light, clothing made with these materials will feel comfortable and look stylish. My linen pants collection has grown exponentially since moving to New Orleans from Houston. I now have four pairs in various colors. The number of cotton shirts in my closet also seems to bump up each season. Consequently, your ironing game will have to get on point if you plan to make linen a regular part of your summer wardrobe. As much as I detest ironing, it’s worth the trouble for that fresh, crisp linen look.
Blot it out
I don't usually wear a lot of makeup, especially when it's hot. My theory is that it will likely sweat off anyhow, so I work to get my skin looking as good as possible, so I have less to cover up. Typically, I wear a powder foundation, blush and lipgloss. Instead of piling on more powder throughout the day, I'll use blotting sheets to absorb oil and persperation and reduce shine. Years ago, I splurged on Bobbi Brown sheets in a handy little leather case for $20 (refills are $10 at Saks Fifth Avenue in Austin. I still use the case, but I refill it with Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, which are usually about $4 at Target or a drugstore.
At the risk of coming off like a character from “Gone With The Wind,” I recently acquired a hand fan. For $5 at the French Market, I scored a lovely burgundy and pink bamboo and silk number with painted flowers. It lives in my purse and is a handy way to create a breeze when Mother Nature refuses to offer up one. Now that I have one, I’ve noticed just how many of my fellow New Orleanians utilize this old school cooling method. Again, Granny knew what she was doing. When in doubt, emulate your grandmother.
When all else fails …
A friend on the Facebook thread about hair strategies jokingly suggested that when all else fails, start drinking. In New Orleans, we are keen on any reason to tipple, so I chimed in that this method is aggressively employed down here. Heat and humidity are sometimes no match for us mere mortals, so powder those neither regions, throw on some fresh linen and cotton, pop a hat on that pretty little head, mix up a batch of cold, effervescent libations, kick back on the porch and fan your face like Scarlett O’hara. With God as my witness, you’ll never care about your hair again.