Sept. 30, 2020 -- Living in isolation, each day seems very much like the day before, and the day after. One way to measure the passage of time: our hair. It never stops growing. And people can’t seem to resist playing with it.
Ask for tales of lockdown hair escapades, and the responses flow in.
“My co-worker cut my hair into my office trash can with my desk scissors,” says Orly Strout of Hightstown, NJ. “I cut it myself at home, but the back was uneven. My co-worker couldn’t bear to see me walking around like that, so I stood in the middle of my office, holding my trash can behind my back. She then used my desk scissors to make it ‘more acceptable.’”
“I shaved off my beard of 14 years just in case I needed to wear a serious N95 mask, keeping only the mustache. My kids hated it, but I kinda liked it -- and not only did I like it, but so did my wife, Facebook friends, and even my father-in-law,” says Matt Gross of Brooklyn, NY. “I never in a million years would've thought of myself as a mustache guy, but here I am! I put on a cap and I'm an Italian cyclist. I wear a Hawaiian shirt and I'm straight out of the 1970s. It's a whole new me.”
"I sent this photo to my friend and hair guru, asking, ‘Bangs?' not realizing she was away from her desk,” says Debbie Kantro of Potomac, MD. Lockdown living left her too impatient to wait for a response. "Seconds later, with scissors from my desk, bad things happened."
On social media, humorous takes abound, under hashtags like #quarantinehair, #covidhair, and #quarantinecurls.
“Just an update on my ‘Quarantine Man’. It’s getting worse. The shorts are getting shorter, the beard is getting longer and the hair is out of control. I found this picture of @tomhanks in the movie Castaway and showed my husband. He said, ‘what’s your point?’ My point?! This was a character that was lost at sea for several months and stranded on a deserted island for years,” wrote Sara Blakely on Instagram.
“6 yr old reading Harry Potter: Mom! You’re just like Hermione. Me (blushing): Me? Brilliant, ambitious, no-nonsense thought-leader?? 6 yo: What? No. Here it says she has wild bushy hair. So that’s how #quarantinehair is going over here,” tweeted Stephanie Parks Taylor.
“I trimmed my bangs yesterday and am giving off very strong kid from the Shining vibes. So I've got that going for me. #covidhair #DIY #teacherlife,” tweeted Ms. Lane.
Stuck at Home, But Free
When salons are closed and nobody’s going to see you except the people you live with and maybe a Zoom meeting or two, it can be tempting to let your hair do what it wants.
“The most noticeable shift in how women approach their hair care during COVID is the greater freedom to choose,” says Vivian Diller, PhD, a psychologist who studies the psychology of beauty. “With this break in daily routines and infrequent in-person socialization, many women are viewing this time as an unexpected (but welcome) opportunity to think about what actually matters to them.”
For Jeanne Sager of Callicoon Center, NY, that sense of freedom led to a drastic change: She shaved her head. Sager had done it in the past to raise money for children’s cancer research. “This year, all the shaving events were canceled, but after a while my hair started to annoy me so much that I just went ahead and shaved it one day,” she says. “I’ve done it another time since, and plan to do it again.”
Others have embraced letting go. “I have reached the hair down to my ass stage. It’s glorious and ridiculous and I love it,” says Darcy Nardi of Kenosha, WI.
For Black women, not having access to a salon can be stressful -- but also refreshing. “Many of us were wearing relaxers and chemicals to straighten our hair,” says Tracie Radford, a certified trichologist in Riverside, CA. Most of her relaxer clients had to go months without a touchup. “I started helping them transition [virtually] with their natural texture, doing more twisting or braiding or coiling of their natural hair.”
Some of those clients have since said they plan to keep their natural hair. Embracing our natural texture and heritage, in light of all the injustice going on, is a way of saying, ‘We’re going back to our roots, even with our hair,’” Radford says.
Fun for the Whole Family
Having children at home adds a whole other layer to hair amid isolation. Just like with adults, kids’ hair keeps growing. And just like with adults, different kids have different desires. Jen Simon of South Orange, NJ, says her 7-year old is loving his shaggy mop. “People keep telling him how much they love the curls,” she says. “He said he wanted to grow his hair until he could chew on it. Now that he’s reached that milestone, he says he wants it down his back!”
Older kids have equally strong ideas about their hair, and the ability to make something happen. Daphne Youree of Brooklyn, NY, got a big surprise from her 15-year-old son, Sascha. “I found him in the front of the apartment with a razor,” she says. By the time he was done, he was virtually bald. Ultimately, “he wished he hadn’t shaved it all the way,” she says. “He liked the funky first look with just the tip shaved. He wore a hat for all the Zooming after that!”
And then there are the lucky moms and dads whose kids are willing (and skilled) enough to style their parents’ hair. One woman’s 14-year-old daughter gave her highlights. “My hairdresser was impressed,” says Laura Timme of Port Jervis, NY. “I guess putting up with [my daughter] dyeing her own hair every couple months has paid off!”
Celebrities Without Stylists
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have affected celebrities, too. Some have had fun with it, like actor Armie Hammer. He posted a shot of himself on Instagram with a newly shaved mohawk and handlebar mustache, with the caption “Killing the game.” Talk show host Kelly Ripa Instagrammed a photo collage showing the monthly progression of her gray roots. And actor Hilary Duff dyed her hair bright blue. So many stars have died their hair pink, Refinery29 declared it a trend.
Other celebs have used their lockdown hair to make a statement. For the socially distanced Emmy Awards, actor Sandra Oh turned her locks into a look that paid homage to the Korean folklore she remembered from childhood. “My hair is really long now -- I have COVID hair -- so I’m going to try and copy some of the long braids and really elaborate hairdos from pictures,” she told British Vogue. And after U.S. Rep. John Lewis died, writer and political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, long known for her braids, cut them off. On Instagram, she wrote, “Rep Lewis makes me want to be courageous again. So I started with something small but scary for me. I got rid of my hair.”
Yearning for Normal
Not everyone has welcomed the opportunity for change. Some women “realize that keeping up their beauty routines just makes them feel good,” says Diller. “Keeping beauty routines in place is one way women gain a sense of control at a time when so much else is out of their control.”
Even those who’ve enjoyed trying out new looks may be ready for their hair to go back to the way it was. “When this all started, people felt it would be over soon -- that’s what we were being told. They were wanting to know about what shampoo to use for a week or two, until they could get in to see me,” says Radford. “Then it went to ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t going away. Can you do some training for us, give us information on what we can do at home?’ Now we’re 8 months into it, people are wanting to get back to normal, get back in the salon.”
That was the case for Mark McCauslin of New York City. “I let it grow until I couldn’t take it anymore,” he says. “I went to a barber the day they were allowed to reopen.”