Fashion & Beauty

Mermaidcore and Other Fishy Trends

September 24, 2023



By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

I WAS AT the beach in Oahu last winter with my 4-year-old granddaughter, M, who appears to be the OG [Ed. note: “original gangsta”; yes, I had to look it up] of mermaidcore, an actual adult trend consisting of Ariel-approved dripping hair, glitter galore, and the kind of dewy complexion most often found on a small child. It’s been reported that schools of mermaid types were walking the runways in fashion shows that season, trailing damp Botticelli waves and fluttering eyelids shimmering with iridescence. After a dip in the ocean, when I appeared before M with slicked-back hair and skin speckled with sea salt and sunscreen, she seemed momentarily alarmed. “Grammie,” she said, quickly recovering. “I didn’t reconnize you! You look like some other kind of . . . human.” Not mermaid material, evidently.


A recent post about thinning hair and hair loss generated a few reader questions and suggestions. The curious and appropriately skeptical Maggie Bullock of The Spread wanted to know: “What about all the ‘trichologists’ saying they want you to wash your hair a lot, scrub your scalp and ‘balance’ it, on the theory that you keep the hair follicle ‘clear’ to produce a thicker, healthier strand? I get that they’re trying to sell you 13 different products,” she said. “But is there any truth to that scalp care regimen? My hair is happier when I wash it less . . . ”

“Great question!” replied dermatologist Hadley King when I emailed her. “Probably the most accurate response is that we don’t entirely know which is better: more or less washing. There are some limited data that show that people with seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) who shampoo more often with zinc pyrithione shampoos experience improvements in both dandruff and hair growth, which is thought to be because of the effects on Malassezia yeast that causes dandruff.” But King concludes that we need more data.

Bullock, still musing over hair issues, also wondered: Since hair loss is often related to hormonal issues, do over-the-counter hair supplements work as well for men as they do for women? To which King responded: That’s why many over-the-counter hair supplements have different versions for men and women, e.g., Nutrafol Women and Nutrafol Men.

And what about brushing your hair? Is 100 strokes a night a healthy habit? Though it might strengthen your biceps, it won’t help your hair. The less brushing you do, the better—especially if you’ve seen thinning. Brush only enough to style and then . . . hands off!

A recall of certain dry shampoos last year because of a cancer-causing agent concerned another reader. From my (fully upright) beach chair, I emailed HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf, who, as always, clarified things. The problem with the recalled dry shampoos was the contaminant benzene, which is found most often in aerosols, she noted. Her solution if you’re a dry shampoo fanatic: Either avoid the specific aerosol products on the recall list (because most aerosols are still safe) or switch to a non-aerosol dry shampoo (check out Klorane, Hairstory, Crown Affair, or Ouai).

And while we’re on the subject of hair, HNTFUYF’s Maine bureau chief (who just happens to also be a wicked-good presidential biographer) sent in a fascinating story about the oldest-known sentence written in the earliest alphabet, which is inscribed on a double-edged ivory comb: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” The oldest-known sentence written in the earliest alphabet known to man (and woman)? On a comb? About hair? I feel deeply validated.



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2 thoughts on “Mermaidcore and Other Fishy Trends

  1. janet bennett says:

    Love hearing the things your granddaughter says. Makes me laugh. My younger granddaughter (12) also has a knack for funny comments.

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