How Buffy the Vampire Slayer buys shampoo. Or at least how she should.

Dear Reader, I have unlocked the secret to buying shampoo in the most efficient way possible. So grab a notebook and calculator and play along at home. You’ll also need access to the Internet and a dispassionate perspective on your cranium. Your take-aways will be (1) a budget-conscious methodology to buying shampoo and perhaps other personal hygiene products, and (2) a reduced anxiety from being in Aisle 30 of H-E-B, where the shampoo and other hair products are located. After this beginner level application of my methodology, you may learn that you can apply the process also to your purchases in the dairy section, finding the optimum size bag of Tater Tots on Aisle 15 (toward the front) and even how much brisket to allot per person if the body mass index varies more than 20% among your guest list. (I must warn you, however, that an incomplete understanding of this process regarding the last application may leave some of your guests without enough brisket and others “over-served” and asking to sleep over in the spare bedroom.)

First, to shampoo.

As Buffy The Vampire Slayer once famously said, “It’s all about the hair, and never forget it.

Not only is it all about the hair as a forest, but it’s also about the hair as individual trees in that forest. To wit: as you all know, Buffy spent most of the show’s seasons as a blonde, or close enough. According to most studies I’ve seen — which is one or maybe two if you count the one I saw 15 years ago — blondes generally have more hair follicles than brunettes or redheads or blondes-in-a-bottle. If you are reading this and you are a blonde-in-a-bottle, please adapt the instructions below by multiplying my formula by 1.04, and you should have an accurate figure to calculate your optimal shampoo purchase.

As I was saying, blondes have the most follicles, about 150,000. (True.) Redheads have only 90,000 on average (also true), so you redheads can either multiply my formula by 2.2 to get the optimum shampoo purchase, or you can die your hair blonde and multiply by 1.04. Same result.

Now, here’s the beauty of what I have to share.

The way to buy shampoo is not to look at price, nor — as H-E-B would have you do — at cost per ounce, what they call unit price. No, the way to buy shampoo most efficiently is ounce-cost per hair follicle.

You see, I thought I was doing right by getting Alberto VO5 recently, because at $0.98 for a 14oz bottle it had the lowest “unit price,” $0.07/ounce, of all the shampoos on Aisle 30. That’s cheap, right? The correct answer is “maybe.” If I was Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and had a full head of blonde hair with all 150,000 follicles intact, this $0.98 bottle of VO5 would cost her $0.00000047 per hair: that is, $0.07 per ounce divided by 150,000 follicles. (See where I’m going with this?)

But Sarah Michelle Gellar wouldn’t buy VO5, would she It’s a shit shampoo.

Sarah Michelle Gellar would probably buy Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo. (There is no “.” after B) Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo has 11 L-Amino acids, protective silk, wheat and soy proteins that repair hair “at a cellular level.” Suffice it to say, my VO5 doesn’t have the soy part. If you Google it, reviews list the number of “Pros” in favor of Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo as 9. And “Cons” against? “None.” It’s basically the perfect shampoo. Imperial. Russian. Putin bought a tub when he was 28 and needed to look good hanging around the KGB water cooler getting the skinny on western…ahem, imperialists…, and he still has some left. Not a lot, but enough to last him.


$169 per 12oz tub. That’s $14.08/oz, or $0.000094 per hair for a blonde. That calculates out to 200 times as expensive per hair than VO5!

Now here’s the fun part, H-E-B shoppers: at nearly 60 years of age (on May 17 if you want to send a present or cash), and even though I grew up as a blonde, I have far fewer hairs than Sarah Michelle Gellar. I have more than Putin, but fewer than his Slayer. My guess is that I have aboouuut 23,000 active follicles. So for me, buying Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo would be enormously cost-prohibitive on a per-follicle basis. Like pouring liquid gold on my head, which I think is actually the point. So change that simile to a metaphor. Even using my VO5 costs me $0.000003 per follicle, which is 6.475 times more than it would have cost me if I were to buy it when I was 28 and had all 150,000 follicles.

But I don’t want you to think this post is merely a sauntering through hard mathematical realities.

We’ve come to the practical ways to apply this ingenious formula. Here are some actionable take-aways I can implement starting immediately, and perhaps you’ll come up with your own:

  • WASHING MY HAIR: Instead of the high cost of VO5 (based on the number of follicles I’m actually washing), I could use a lower-priced cleanser, like whole milk. At $0.03/ounce, it would be $0.0000013/follicle, 57% less expensive than VO5. But if I wanted to give my remaining follicles a little zest while still keeping costs down, I could use Hill Country Fare Lemon Lime Zero Sports Drink, at $0.04/ounce, still 43% less expensive than VO5.
  • PURCHASING TATER TOTS: Let’s apply the general principles suggested by my formula — that it’s not about unit cost but rather about end-unit affected (ounce-cost per hair follicle, for instance) — to purchasing Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Tater Tots. According to the label on the back of the bag, there are ~99 pieces, constituting 11 servings of 9 tots each. We know we can’t eat just 9 tots along with our burger. We’re talking more like 15 or 22 tots. Therefore, my formula would be applied as (3oz serving size) divided by (an 8 out of 10 Hunger Index) x 100 = 37.5% likelihood of having more than my allotted serving size according to Ore-Ida. Actionable step: buy two bags.

Let’s move to our third application:

  • BRISKET: This requires an advanced formula, to be implemented only after practicing with shampoo, Tater Tots, at least five types of yogurt and three different brands of tortilla chips, one of them being Central Market.
    • Let say you wanted to buy an H-E-B Prime 1 Packer Style Beef Brisket like the one shown, which is about 14.5 lbs and costs $3.99 per pound. (By the way, for those of you who are doing the math in your head, this is $0.24/oz and, if you were to somehow render this even to 50% liquid, it would be much less expensive to wash your hair with it than using Imperial Shampoo. We’re talking 29 times more cost-efficient. More expensive than VO5, but if you’re Sarah Michelle Gellar…just saying.)
    • You buy a 14.5 lb brisket and are having ten people over for dinner. This is an even allotment of 1.45 lb per person. Wait…that’s a helluva lot of brisket per person. Are you serious?! No way, invite another 12 people, and you’ll be able to serve a little more than half a pound to everyone.
    • Everyone has a hunger index of between 6 and 8 out of 10.
    • The heaviest guest, your cousin Ralph, weighs 260 lbs. Big boy.
    • The lightest guest is your other cousin Jane’s newborn baby girl, who won’t be having brisket, so this changes the formula, but not enough that I care to figure it out. In fact, you might decide to tell Jane to please get a babysitter, which gets us back to our original formula.
    • So then our lightest guest becomes Aunt Ruby, 82 years old and a chain smoker, now weighing 98 pounds. (Jane is only second lightest, even after losing her baby fat.)
    • Here’s how the formula can be applied:
      • ($0.24/oz brisket unit cost) divided by (number of people = 22) = $0.011 unit-cost/person.
      • (Average weight of all guests = 185) x ($0.011 unit-cost/person) = 2.035 units of potential hunger (PH).
      • (2.035 PH) x (7.3 average hunger index) = a final 14.86 actual hunger (AH) rating.
      • You’ve reached an inflection point. An AH rating of 14.86 is not great. Ideally, at least for Texas, it should be at least a 16, if not 17. So do you increase your AH rating by buying more brisket? Or do you keep it as is, ensuring that you won’t be invited to Thanksgiving at Aunt Ruby’s? (And, just for the record, it’s not Ruby who would uninvite you. It’s her asshole son Ralph, the heavy one with a hunger index of 8, who would.)

I’ve given you the tools.

It’s your choice what to do with them.