This Product Has Been Discontinued (Sorry for the Inconvenience)

Tears blur my vision, and now I’m crying in the middle of an unfamiliar grocery store.” A work that exemplifies how change is trying, regardless of its breadth…

Image and Words By: Hannah Love

I stare at a wall of hair product in the cosmetics aisle. The plastic bottles are almost stoic in their stillness, arranged shoulder to shoulder like suspects in a lineup. I scan the rows diligently, left to right, focusing on each label. I move from the A’s to the B’s to the C’s. I can’t find my favorite shampoo. My throat tightens. I take a deep breath. When I get to the Z’s, I start again from the top, thinking I missed it. But it’s not there. 

I take out my phone and Google it. The first hit is an article: Neutrogena Clarifying Shampoo Discontinued Due to Formaldehyde-Producing Preservative. DMDM Hydantoin. It’s a common ingredient, evidently. Problem is it releases trace amounts of formaldehyde over time, and the FDA took issue with the living soaking their scalps in it.

The letters on my phone swirl as I try to make sense of them. I’ve been using this shampoo for ten years. There’s still a bottle in a shower two hours south of here, in the big house with the angry husband I abandoned. I just forgot to pack it. And now I find out I’ve been embalming myself for a decade? 

Tears blur my vision, and now I’m crying in the middle of an unfamiliar grocery store, faced with unfamiliar shampoos, and I have to choose one because my hair is filthy, and I need a shower. I’m a fucking adult. I take another deep breath and blink. I focus on the S’s. Now is as good a time as any to switch to Suave. I wipe my face with the back of my hand, pull a bottle down, and check the label. No formaldehyde. 


Hannah Love is a woman with a laptop from Portland, Oregon. When she is not working, she is practicing creative writing and befriending cats. Her fiction and poetry appear or are forthcoming in Crow & Cross Keys, Audience Askew Literary Journal, and the Central Oregon Writers Guild 2023 Anthology. You can follow more of her ramblings on Twitter @hanniestew and Instagram @isthathannahlove.

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