A Tale of Two Blowouts


J'ai peur des coiffeurs. The dentist? Pas de problème. No iatrophobia here, either. In my lifetime I went to the hairdresser, at most, once every two years. My mom cut my hair and tweezed my eyebrows until middle school; I was out of college before anybody touched my head again, each style more traumatic than the last. There was a period when the only haircut anyone in Cleveland did was Flock of Seagulls. Another stylist gave me what is perhaps best described as "pre-pubescent Golden Girls." Mixed-race locks are tricky. "Don't take this the wrong way, but... are you black?" one stylist asked me, confused. "Your texture is like mine, only, not soft." She wasn't wrong. If I'm not careful, my hair easily veers into Louis XIV territory.

It's been awhile since my last water-only update, and instead of boring cross-cultural comparisons, I decided to be your anthropological test bunny, examining the coiffures endemic to each country. There is, after all, no more faithful representation of humanity than its hair salons. "Brushing" in France is what a blowout is to Americans. Whereas blow-dry bars exist even in my Kraft Ranch-dipping, LeBron-loving birthplace, Paris has nothing of the kind. Rather, many women I know have standing appointments- a fact learned when my friend announced she found a new, cheaper salon than the one she visited for years, and the money saved on weekly styling could buy a bottle of whiskey.

Pre-blowout natural texture

In Cleveland, I did a banana hair mask and asked for water-only at the shampoo bowl. The stylist complied. "Probably ten years ago, someone would fuss about it. Today, we all know there's bad stuff in products," she said, pointing to her ponytail. "I wash my hair every two weeks- that's why it's up now." 

There's no denying she did a good job. She didn't flinch when chunks of banana flew out of my hair. She even complimented the cut, which I did with a safety razor in the bathtub. Still, I couldn't help but think I looked like My Pretty Pony. It was sleek and neat, but it didn't look touchable. I felt that, at any moment, I could be kidnapped and carried to Midnight Castle.

Blowout #1: Test-driving an Asian version of "The Rachel"

Finding a stylist in Paris was... intimidating. Maybe I'm overreacting, but some seemed like bullies. One pulled a grey hair from my scalp. "Your face is too fat for long hair," another pronounced. Finally, I found Saravy, one of four Paris salons carrying Aveda products (if you prefer a Korean salon, Dupleix Coiffure is amazing! I had a great blowout there for an amazing price- and my scalp felt squeaky clean). The interior was serene and calming. I arrived ten minutes early for my appointment, and Saravy, the eponymous owner, offered me a pot of mint green tea with fresh fruit.

French coiffeurs take pride in their consultations. They look at your clothes, face shape, and lifestyle before attempting a cut. I slipped into a robe and went to the sink, where Sandra, my stylist, elevated the footrest via remote control. Images of sunrise above a seaside mountain played on the wall. She massaged my scalp with water and started brushing. "I've never seen an Asian with curly hair!" she exclaimed.

I told her I lived in France three years, and that my French should be better by now. Sandra agreed. "I love the show Orange is the New Black," she said, curling my hair around a brush, shaping it with her fingers. "If I went to America, and asked for a wavy blowout, could they do it?"

"I don't think so. They only iron my hair. I prefer this. It's more natural!"

Blowout #2

I love the result! I feel like I'm finally in on the secret for perfect French girl hair. It's age-appropriate and matches my outfits. Best of all, Sandra didn't try to make me buy stuff or pressure me into unwanted treatments. For her, straightening was unthinkable. I made another appointment right away.

I like the French blowout better because Americans are always trying to make me look like someone else. They're always saying, "Why don't we do Victoria's Secret hair?" or "Why don't we try a Taylor Swift bob?" French stylists, in general, seem to prefer the natural texture and color of hair, which may be why Parisian highlights are barely perceptible. French women cut their hair more often, I'm told, so they can air-dry or wear their hair messy, and it still looks nice. P.S. Yes, that's a new t-shirt, $3 at Volunteers of America. Somebody poured bleach on my old ones, resulting in gaping holes, so I went to the thrift store and replaced them in seven minutes... I'll explain later.


29, Rue Saint Sauveur
75002 Paris

Paris to Go

Zero Waste, Plastic Free Alternatives Master List

Below are DIY projects, recipes, and plastic-free recommendations for common household items. This is meant as a reference, not to encourage shopping. Most plastic-free items today seem tailored to the sort of customer who drinks from a mason jar, attends "flower potlucks," and pays $250 for decorative twigs to festoon their reclaimed wood farmhouse table. If you already have plastic versions of these items, by all means, use them first, then make your own or hit the thrift store. Online shops like Buy Me Once or upcycled / reused marketplaces such as Kuttlefish are also good resources.

Arts, Crafts, Office Supplies

I save packing materials and reuse them, but when shipping things to the US or packing fragile items, clothes and sheets always keep glass and liquids safe. This last trip, my husband brought back a suitcase full of beer wrapped in socks and underwear and nothing broke! Vintage papers, notebooks, stationery, and arts and crafts supplies can be purchased at Au Grand Magasin in Paris 11ème.


People make fun of parents that buy wooden blocks and handcrafted toys for their children, but I always enjoyed them (if I'd gotten the metal pedal or wooden soapbox car I always wanted, I'd be a better driver today). Perhaps the problem is the kids are boring, not the toys. My friends buy plastic-free thrift store toys for their children, who are happy, creative, and well-adjusted. You might also consider joining a toy library or organizing a toy swap.

This goes for everything on the list, but borrow or buy household items, including electronics and appliances, used where possible. For example, when he met me, my husband took one look at my seven-year-old flip phone and gave me his old smartphone. You can even buy secondhand building materials from Habitat for Humanity (in Cleveland, i like salvaged materials from Metro Hardwoods). If buying secondhand isn't realistic, maintain and repair items instead of buying new, which is something I think everybody does anyway. I re-use a crate to hold recyclables, and a large glass jar for compost scraps. Lastly, there are plenty of post consumer recycled options, or high quality, low emissions products (like Evolve or Vermont Natural Coatings paints).

Personal care 

  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Beauty
  • Birth kit
  • Birth control: Not that I'm advocating or detracting from any form of birth control, it's a personal decision whether you use plastic of not, but some use a fertility monitor or practice natural birth control instead of hormonal options, others opt for a copper IUD
  • Bug repellent
  • Breath mints / gum
  • Breath spray
  • Blush / Bronzer: Elate or Zao cosmetics in seed paper and refillable palettes, beetroot powder (make your own, or buy a lead-free version) or cocoa powder
  • Concealer
  • Cough medicine: My doctor always said dark chocolate was the most effective cough medicine, and he's right! He graduated from Oxford and Cambridge with honors so it's not like he's some quack or anything. Elderberry syrup works wonders too, I take it with oregano oil. For homemade cough drops, click here.
  • Curlers: Rag or pin curls
  • Deodorant- baking soda, alum stone, or coconut oil. Meow Meow Tweet, Schmidt's, Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve, Noosa Basics, and Primal Paste are popular brands.
  • Dry shampoo- cocoa powder, cornstarch, Fat and the Moon
  • Eyeliner: Kohl / kajal (not Middle Eastern or Asian, which can contain lead), cobalt ultramarine powder, Fat and the Moon eye coal
  • Eye shadow: Turmeric powder, spirulina, clays, sage powder, or cocoa works; Elate Cosmetics, or click here for DIY
  • Hairbrush: Tek, rubber and wooden pin brush, bamboo, agave brushes
  • Hair dye: Nettle leaf, black walnut hull, sage, and henna color brown tones. Beet powder, hibiscus, rosehips, and saffron give a red tinge. Lemon, quassia chips, turmeric, and chamomile dye blond hair or highlights. Click here for instructions.
  • Hairspray- lemon / lime juice or sugar water
  • Hair ties
  • Heating pad: Fill a cotton bag with rice and warm it up.
  • Feminine hygiene- switch to a cup, natural sponges, or washable pads (for DIY instructions click here) and, though tampons are not ideal, reusable hemp tampons. Period panties are intriguing, but so far I could only find ones made of plastic.
  • Floss- Dental Lace, Noosa Basics, Vomel, Radius, neem or siwak
  • First aid / medicine
  • Hairbrush- wood and natural rubber
  • Lotion or lubrication- DIY mango butter, bulk oil (if not using latex), aloe vera gel, Sustain, Good Clean Love, and BabeLube. Note: If your doctor or veterinarian recommended KY Jelly for thermometers, do not substitute.
  • Mascara
  • Nail clippers / file: Stainless steel, bamboo, or glass
  • Nail polish remover: Best to skip nailpolish, but some soybean oil removers come packaged in glass
  • Perfume: DIY or refill your Le Labo bottles in-store (no longer cruelty free), Call of the Vialed
  • Q-tips / cotton pads- I've never used Q-Tips- don't your ears get clean every time you take a shower? You're not really supposed to be sticking things in your ears. Try a washcloth to remove makeup, or reusable cotton rounds. 
  • Razor / shaving cream- safety razor and unpackaged soap
  • Shampoo: water only, soap, clay, rye flour (for fine hair), gram flour (thick hair), bulk, Plaine Products
  • Straightener: 6 ways to straighten your hair naturally
  • Sunless tanner: Hennacocoa powder self tanning lotion
  • Sunscreen : Cocoon Apothecary, MyChelle, Josie Maran, Raw Elements
  • Tissues: handkerchiefs, cut up old t-shirts / scrap fabric / rags, or Hankybook
  • Toilet paper: Tushy bidet, soap and water, recycled / bamboo (packed in paper), or family cloth
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste- siwak, bamboo, and baking soda, or castile soap in myrrh extract and distilled water, or remineralizing tooth powder
  • Tooth whitener: Turmeric
Ellis Faas, Fat and the Moon, Elate Cosmetics, Ilia Beauty, W3LL People, and Kjaer Weis seem to be the favorite makeup brands in the zero waste community right now. Jane Iredale is the closest thing to a zw lash primer I can think of though. Origins, Mac, Burt's Bees, and Aveda have takeback programs for their packaging as well (Origins is brand agnostic). 


  • Boro mending
  • Clothes freshener- Combine equal parts distilled water and vodka in a spray bottle for zero-waste Febreze (safe on upholstery and bedding)
  • Darning
  • Dress shields
  • Dry-cleaning- hand-washing, brushing, spot-cleaning and steaming. Use a garment bag instead of dry cleaning bags, which contain plasticizers that yellow and mold clothing, and bring your own safety pins
  • Dryer sheets- skip the dryer and line-dry, use wool dryer balls, or add vinegar to cycle as fabric softener.
  • Flip flops- natural rubber
  • Hand-sewing- seam tutorial; basic stitches here or here
  • Laundry soap- bar soap, soap nuts, or baking soda and washing soda. Click here for a zero-waste stain removal chart.
  • Lingerie- I have no qualms about buying secondhand. Base Range, Pansy, Anek Dot, Azura Bay, Luva Huva, Harlow and Fox, and Only Hearts are some good options. If you prefer a DIY route, this diy bralette was cute and here are general making your own tips
  • Lint rollers- rubber brush (vegan) or clothing/upholstery brush
  • Lint shaver- Combsweater or pumice stone, safety razor
  • Natural dye bath recipe and chart
  • Rain boots: natural rubber
  • Shoe care
  • Shoe horn- I never use these, but you could use a wooden or metal version
  • Stockings / tights: Swedish Stockings, Pact, secondhand, organic cotton, or wool
  • Umbrella: Mine is recycled from London Undercover. Nalata and a handful of luxury retailers still carry waxed cotton umbrellas which are my preference... I don't really like the cork umbrella, it doesn't do much for a real downpour
  • Workout clothes (see above for yoga mats): Use what you already have first; if secondhand isn't an option, try Alternative ApparelNau tencel or merino wool, Pact organic cotton, Prana recycled activewear, Patagonia, Threads 4 Thought, Teeki 
  • Wooden or DIY hangers


  • Almond milk
  • Bean sprouts
  • Blender- plastic-free, or eat whole fruits and vegetables
  • Baby bottle: glass (that's what my mom used for all of us!) or stainless steel
  • Cling wrap- cloth towels, jars, or covered glass and stainless steel containers
  • Coffee filters- French press
  • Dish rack- I just use a cloth towel, but choose metal drying racks if necessary
  • Dish soap- bar soap or castile
  • Fish sauce
  • Flour
  • Food processor- mortar and pestle, ricer, plastic-free or secondhand food processor
  • Homemade food coloring
  • Ice cube tray
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Meat grinder- have butcher grind meat, then place directly into jars, or use at home grinder
  • Mustard
  • Nut milks
  • Noodle cups: DIY in a mason jar
  • Olive oil
  • Paneer
  • Paper towels- flour sack towels
  • Parchment paper / muffin liners- generally compostable, although I don't use aluminum foil or parchment when recipes call for them. Food turns out fine. My mom uses silicone muffin pans and macaron mats; silicone behaves as a plastic, but can be fully recycled. 
  • Pasta- buy in bulk, or, if celiac, make it fresh. When I have leftover mashed potatoes I make gnocchi out of it- add rice, almond, or coconut flour and one egg or vegan egg replacement (I like chia gel), then form with your hands.
  • Pickles
  • Popsicle mold
  • Quark
  • Refrigerator- click here to store food without the refrigerator, here for a DIY zeer pot.
  • Rice flour
  • Salad spinner- use cloth or plastic-free
  • Slow cooker- bring double-handled pot to temperature, then wrap in wool blanket and place in covered basket
  • Soy sauce- here or here, for soy-free sauce. Vegans can substitute vegetable broth for beef/chicken, or just use coconut aminos.
  • Sparkling water- seltzer bottle
  • Straws- DIY, skip, or buy stainless steel / bamboo
  • Starch
  • Tapioca pearls
  • Tea bags- teapot with glass or ceramic filter, tea ball
  • Tortillas
  • Vinegar
  • Water bottles- secondhand canteen, jar (wrap a cloth or sock around it to prevent breaking / heat transfer) or Klean Kanteen
  • Whipped cream- charger (I use this for coconut milk whipped cream), shake cream and sugar in a jar
  • Ziploc bags- glass or stainless steel containers (good for freezing), drawstring cloth bags. Click here for zero-waste food storage suggestions.

As for exercise equipment like weights, medicine balls, and yoga mats, I have a friend who is doing the Kayla Itsines BBG and she uses a towel and a big potted plant or big jugs of water instead. I walk eight miles a day and up / down seven flights of stairs carrying groceries so I hate working out, but I like plyometric routines and using a chair or table for tricep dips. For basic zero-waste food tips, click here. For everything I own, click here.

Paris to Go


I like Berthillon. I like getting a scoop in coffee, or basil en pot to enjoy at the side of the river, my legs dangling off the bridge. My idea of a perfect Saturday evening is walking to l'Institut du monde arabe, forcing a stranger to photograph me on the panoramic terrace, then heading to Berthillon and queuing thirty minutes for chilled delicacies. It's not my favorite ice cream place in Paris, though. My absolute favorite is Scaramouche.


Named for the stock clown character from commedia dell'arte, it's the kind of ice cream Thomas Jefferson might tweet about, and King Charles I would pay to keep secret. There is no Superman, no cloyingly sweet artificial strawberry, or fake vanilla in sight. Dubbed the best glacier in the Luberon, Scaramouche captures the biodiversity of the region, with flavors like rosemary, olive oil, and 1001 Nuits, a Raz El hanout-spiked ice cream.

This time, I tried basil, which has ribbons of herbs in every scoop. My favorite is geranium, an Iranian recipe containing pistachios. The Luberon truffle is surprisingly sweet, with actual chunks of ectomichorrhizal fungi throughout. Each flavor is all-natural, no artificial colors or added sweeteners. The lavender is delicate and appealingly white, like a Rodin sculpture. The mint green tea is milky and bronze. 

Down the street from Abbesses, Scaramouche looks like it sprang straight from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's imagination, and you are its' bookish, misunderstood heroine with Stockholm syndrome and a predilection for anthropomorphized household goods. In the time it takes me to finish a bowl of ice cream (like, five minutes), no less than seven neighbors came by to chat with the man behind the counter. At first, he asked if I wanted two boule, and politely concealed disgust when I announced, "No, I'll take four." The scoops are consistently generous; they'd sate any American worth his weight in everything bagels.

D'habitude, the line extends down the street. Yesterday, though, two women from Staten Island sat in empty chairs next to me. "I don't want any ice cream, but if I don't sit somewhere right now, I'll die," one said, huffing and puffing after exploring Montmartre. The Scaramouche team smiled and let them rest, asking about their visit, offering advice on what to see and do in Paris. The owner's wife is from New York, they explained, so the ladies could stay as long as they'd like (they were talking about Elizabeth Bard, author of Picnic in Provence). The Americans asked where I was from, and we talked twenty minutes before I went down the street to Le mur des je t'aime


22 Rue la Vieuville
75018 Paris
Open T-W-Th-Sunday, 14h-20h30
Friday-Saturday, 14h-23h

Paris to Go