Goodness knows I adore these simple metal grips (and the beautiful packages vintage examples often came complete with), however, I fear the relationship is not one of mutual adoration.
The issue lies deeper than with bobby pins themselves, it rests in a particular metal by the name of nickel. Yes, like many amongst us, I am allergic to nickel. And by allergic I mean ridiculously, insanely, have to avoid nickel like the plague lest I develop a horrid case of contact dermatitis within a matter of minutes (of coming in contact with a nickel containing product) allergic.
Nickel, sadly (for myself and others with a sensitivity to it), appears in countless metal items. It is readily available, relatively inexpensive, and easy to blend into alloys with other metals. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing when and where to avoid coming in contact with nickel, and I’ve developed ways to get around using a lot of nickel based items (or finding nickel-free alternatives to them). However there are a few nickel items that don’t seem to have a ready alternatives, one of them being bobby pins.
Though the skin on my scalp is a bit tougher than say that on my neck or arms, if I wear metal bobby pins for even just an hour, I almost always start to develop a red itchy rash(thankfully my hair hides this though!). Yet in order to achieve many different hairstyles, bobby pins really are a key element, and so I’m steadfastly determined to find a either a metal-free alternative or a metal based one that does not contain nickel. I’ve been on this hunt for a number of years and in that time I have only ever found one product that fit the bill.
One delightful day while browsing etsy I chanced upon a seller (Vintage Goodies) who had a package of plastic bobby pins for sale! Once I picked my stunned jaw up off the floor and realized that for the first time ever my keyword search for “plastic bobby pins” had actually yielded a true match, I couldn’t purchase the pins fast enough. (Since finding these pins, shown below, I’ve searched up and down for info on vintage “Magic Grip” pins, but haven’t found anything out. Have you ever heard of this brand before?)
I got them for a song (making the find all the more fantastic!) and though they are clearly a few decades old, I can happily report they work well. I use them with kid gloves (so to speak); the plastic they’re made of has held up well, but you can clearly feel that that it doesn’t have the strength or resiliency of metal. As such I’ve taken to using only a few of my dearly prized Magic Grip bobby pins at a time – and only on days when it’s imperative that I sport a hairdo requiring the use of bobby pins.
I know that chances are that no matter how careful I am with these precious plastic pins, over time they’ll break, the cat might somehow steal one, I might lose a few...you know, just like with regular metal bobby pins. Finding this one package of pins was truly awesome, but the simple truth is that I need a viable alternative to pins containing nickel that I can use without having to treat them like they’re my last bottle of water in the middle of an arid desert.
Internet searches, real world searches (malls, craft stores, beauty and hairdressing supply shops, drugstores, etc) and asking every hairdresser I’ve come in contact with since I was a child have all left me empty handed (save of course for the one pack of Magic Grips). Yet, I have this distinct feeling that plastic bobby pins must exist...somewhere.
My dear readers, in my ongoing search I am turning to you. Have you ever encountered – or do you know of a modern day source for – plastic bobby pins?
By this I mean a plastic version of the standard metal type. Not decorative clips (pretty or fun as they may be), oversized plastic hair pins such as the type sometimes used to achieve a French roll, heavy-duty Scunci brand grips (which are a bit big to be discretely used for some styles, though they are probably the closest thing to a solution thus far), or enamel coated metal pins. Alternatively, a brand of metal bobby pins that is guaranteed to be completely nickel-free would be A-OK, too! (I live in Canada, but have no qualms with buying online if such an item happens to hail from a US or international source.)
This quest to find plastic pins is extra important to me because I happen to have ludicrously sensitive skin in general. As a result there are literally only two or three brands of (organic, sulphate-free, dye-free, perfume-free, etc) hair care products that I can use without, again, breaking out in an unpleasant and very itchy rash. I don’t say this to sound negative, but only because it means that as a result I have very few styling products at my ready (Cliniderm hairspray has proven to be the "safest" solution for my ultra sensitive skin I’ve found so far), making most hairdos even trickier for my bone-straight, ultra fine hair to achieve. Finding a nickel-free alternative to bobby pins would be like opening up a whole new realm of hair styling possibilities to me.
I thank you each for reading this post; I hope I didn’t bore you to tears! I would be greatly appreciate for any light you could help me shed on the search for plastic or nickel-free metal bobby pins, and am in turn more than happy to help any of you hunt down items that may be alluding you.
Humongous heartfelt thanks in advance, everybody!