NEW YORK – Sister love playing out in a living room hair trim. A botched home dye job with a silver lining. Stylists shipping out kits of personalized color with promises to talk their regulars through the process via FaceTime.
As the spread of the coronavirus sends more people into isolation, trips to beloved salons and barbershops for morale-boosting services and camaraderie are on hold.
While some brazenly cut themselves new bangs, turn to over-the-counter color or try picking up electric clippers and scissors to work on the heads of loved ones, others are letting nature take its course.
Memes and real-life stories are flying about cuts gone bad and the onslaught of gray hair, along with out-of-control eyebrows, sad lash extensions and overdue nail work. While such things seem frivolous in the sad and desperate crush of the pandemic, many people are reaching for rituals as emotional relief and connection to their longstanding way of life.
Mary Beth Warner in Syracuse, New York, has a lighthearted air about her as she hunkers down with her husband and 17-year-old son, but she isn't laughing on the inside.
“I remember my mom used to say during the war, as long as they could get lipstick they were happy,” she said. “That's how I feel right now about my hair.”
Warner, 63, usually travels to Manhattan for color appointments every four weeks.
She's past her regular appointment, but rather than take on the task herself, she's wearing a baseball cap to walk her dog until she can coax her stylist up for a house call, something he's doing with other clients closer to the city.
Others are more settled in letting their gray hair fly. Comedian-actor Kevin Hart puts videos on Instagram chronicling his life at home with salt-and-pepper hair and beard. Hashtag: #GreyHairDon'tCare.
“Everybody's going gray. I'm going to embrace it right now. I look like Morgan Freeman's nephew,” he told Ellen DeGeneres in one of the celebrity phone chats she's posting on Instagram from her Los Angeles home.
For others, styles are going shaggy as they rediscover ponytails, buns, and dusty stashes of headbands and hair baubles.
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, stylist Scarlett Howell voluntarily canceled all appointments for at least two weeks. She's relying in part on savings to pay her bills.
“There's a lot of salon owners and stylists who refuse to close until it's mandated, and so they're actively putting people at risk,” she said. “It's incredibly frustrating.”
Debra Hare-Bey, a braider and stylist in Brooklyn, said black hair might pose home challenges for those used to relying on specialists. Asked how her clients are feeling now that her home business is closed until the health emergency subsides, she said: “It's pandemonium. Pure and simple. They've lost their minds.”
Mylena Sutton, 43, in Haddonfield, New Jersey, isn't ready to take matters into her own hands.
“I'm an African American woman with very kinky, curly hair that tends toward being dry. I don't relax my hair, but I do color it and there's no way in the world that I'm attempting that at home,” she said.