hot bod

When I Go Back to the Gym, I’m Taking This With Me

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

“Hot Bod” is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.

I love symbiotic relationships. When I learn about a tiny swamp bird who utterly thrives by snacking on whatever bugs bother some huge quadruped, I want to cry because nature can be so sweet and symmetrical! Anyway, I’ve found some charcoal hair-blotting papers from RECESS that live to absorb all my sweaty, oily hair gunk. They leave me feeling lighter, cleaner, and generous to give them a little job. Mostly, they please me with their willingness to come along with me, like a weightless bird on my shoulder. These blotters are the slimmest, most compact helper I could imagine. They’re simply a sheet of thick paper! They’re all silhouette. And if you’re returning to your gym or fitness studio — and no longer sweating it out on a stationary bicycle 40 feet from your shower and your entire library of hair emoluments — consider bringing along a helpful stowaway.

Hair-blotting papers achieve the same ends as a dry shampoo (faking a shower), but rather than emit a spray or powder, the paper functions more like the towel part of the cleaning process. You apply it directly and rub. Now, if you know me, you’re surely shocked and crying out, “Maggie! Certainly you, of all people, are far too frightened of compromising your curls to RUB a stiff paper on your head!” Well, yes, I was completely apprehensive that the buffing motion would damage my curls — and it did rustle up some new frizz at the roots, but nothing significant. These are three-day-old curls, four-day-old curls: They know the score, they expect a little disrespect. Now, the blotting instructions recommend you wait until sweat has fully dried, which I have never done because I only just read the instructions, but they seemed to work fine anyway. The first time I tried them, early this year, my hair looked so decent that I felt it was wasted on my privacy, as I journeyed two feet from the free-weight pile under the bookshelf over to the desk chair.

The best thing about the charcoal blotting paper — besides the way it sops up oil like an evil pipeline — is that it visually transforms. Each sheet goes translucent as it starts to soak up gunk, helpfully informing you of its capacity. (I mostly need one or two papers, rarely three.) And it’s so disgustingly satisfying to see the sheets go clear with all this abject evidence of yourself, which you can then disavow right into the trash can.

I also like that they’re entirely subtractive. They don’t add anything to the mess, there’s no extra powder or spray mist; they simply exist to remove. RECESS’s blotters are made from hemp pulp, softwood pump, calcium carbonate, and bamboo charcoal, naturally. I really am so pleased for charcoal: It’s bloomed from a punitive Christmas prank into a purifying panacea. This is a metamorphic triumph, unseen since like vegan leather.

In terms of oil-absorption efficacy … look, a good dry shampoo mops up the scene better. I’ve liked Swair shampoo spray for hair feel, Living Proof dry shampoo for scent, and Ouai dry shampoo for general gunk removal. But I’ve still never isolated a perfect dry shampoo — at least not one I liked enough to carry as a try-hard travel-size version in my bag all day to use after one cardio-boxing session. Even if the blotter doesn’t leave my curls quite as clean-seeming, for the portability and waste minimization alone, I’m all aboard.

I love the blotters’ modesty. They’re self-effacing. They don’t need an enormous vessel or any loud whooshing spray. They are quiet, they are discreet, they are so physically small as to be practically theoretical. It’s like going from a pile of gold coins into a credit card! They are but a hair’s breadth of a whisper of a slip of a thing! You could fold one up and put it in your wallet! I’m going to right now!

The blotting papers have not accompanied me out of the house yet. I’ve only gotten to the opening-tabs stage for eyeing in-person classes — but maybe I’ll go next week. Or maybe the next. I’ve been thoroughly vaccinated and buzzing with back-to-school energy for a month now, planning my little supplies — and this is the one I’m most optimistic about, and that optimism alone is another thing this little weightless paper gives me.

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When I Go Back to the Gym, I’m Taking This With Me