We’re in the middle of our third week of staying at home and social distancing.
Feels a lot longer. Kind of like your hair.
The COVID-19 pandemic is as serious as a crisis gets.
But your hair. It likely hasn’t been touched by a licensed professional in at least two weeks, since salons and barbershops were among the first businesses that New York state ordered temporarily closed.
If your hair is straight, it may be getting in your eyes. If it’s wavy or curly, it might be looking voluminous, and not in a good way.
Who’s cutting their own hair?
Some people already are taking matters — and scissors and clippers — into their own hands.
Like CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
“It’s at that point,” he tweeted Saturday with a selfie that showed him holding a pair of shears perilously close to his head. “Last time I cut my own hair was when I was in west quad at (the University of Michigan)”
And Irondequoit Town Supervisor Dave Seeley. Actually, Seeley’s wife, Adrienne Sopinski, did the honors and tweeted about the results on Sunday.
Seeley is a longtime customer of the O K Barber Shop at 706 E. Ridge Road. “So I felt a little ambivalent ‘cheating’ on them with my wife,” he said. However, maintaining his fade-style haircut involves visiting the shop every four weeks, and it had been six. “It was time.”
After watching a couple YouTube tutorials, Sopinski got to work.
“She did a very nice job,” Seeley said, “but I look forward to resuming the normality of life post-COVID and going back to the barber.”
He is far from alone in a world where a lot of us are alone and cut off from regular routines.
“People just want normalcy,” said hair stylist Kathryn Mercury of Haven Hair Salon, 1 Lockwood Drive in Bushnell’s Basin.
Normalcy, as in being able to recognize the person staring back at you from the bathroom mirror. Not some frazzled stranger with crazy, shaggy, big, out-of-control hair.
Mercury has been trying to guide her clients through this uneasy period of personal grooming by posting tutorials about various DIY hair-cutting and styling techniques to her Instagram account. The salon’s colorists have been custom-formulating and sending hair color to clients, then showing them on FaceTime how to do it themselves.
But she also has more general tips for people who want to keep their hair looking presentable in the near term.
Cutting your bangs
If you have bangs and they need trimming, you might be inclined to wet them down first — but don’t.
“I prefer people to do them dry,” Mercury said, because when your hair is dry you can see its true length. If you cut your bangs wet, you might cut them too short because of “the shrink factor,” she said.
In addition, when trimming bangs horizontally, cutting them in small sections and cutting each section to a slightly different length will create a more natural look and add movement, versus cutting them straight across, which will result in a blunt, heavy line.
Finally, “I always encourage people to chip into them vertically to create a softer edge,” she said.
If you don’t own hair-cutting shears, they are readily available online. Mercury noted that smaller pairs are easier to handle, especially for those not used to cutting hair. Don’t, under any circumstances, cut your hair with other types of scissors — they’re not sharp enough to do a good job. “You definitely don’t want to use kitchen shears,” she said.
Cutting a full head of hair
And really, we’re talking about a situation like Seeley’s, which involved trimming a simple, very short cut using hair clippers. Mercury doesn’t recommend taking on something more complicated than that at home.
Clippers — again, widely available online if you don’t own them — come with detachable guards. The lower the guard number, the more hair that gets trimmed.
People should probably start with a higher guard number, Mercury said, “so you have a little more room for error.”
Also, and this is key: When cutting hair with clippers, “make sure you’re not following head shape,” Mercury said. “You want to kind of draw (the clippers) up the side of the head first. Follow that straight line up to the ceiling,” perhaps using a guard setting of 3.
Then trim the hair on top of the head. You can use clippers for this, too, with a guard setting of, say, 5. But you’re probably better off using scissors. As with bangs, trim the hair horizontally in small sections and “chip into the hair vertically to create texture,” Mercury said.
Cutting thick, curly or wavy hair
Just trimming hair with a lot of texture — it’s tricky.
“It’s definitely more challenging,” Mercury said. So challenging that instead of attempting it, “I would encourage people to use products to collapse the curl a little bit,” so the hair, even if longer, appears less bushy and closer to the head.
“R+Co has a lot of really great products to control your hair and give you hold,” she said. From style paste to styling cream, “They add a little bit of weight to the hair without making it look wet.”
Giving your hair a rest
Mercury also pointed out that at this time of mostly staying at home and not having to worry about appearances, it might be best to ease up on your hair, especially if you’re someone who typically subjects it to daily styling and frequent processing.
“It’s a great time to give your hair a break and start retreating it by doing some masks and maybe wearing it more natural,” she said.
Giving your hairdresser a call
However, if you’re inclined to fuss and are under-confident about your skills, “Don’t hesitate to call your hairdresser,” Mercury said. “I would much rather talk clients through something than have them do something and hate it.”