Lessons from a Pandemic Home Haircut
Yes, I did it. I cut my own hair and didn’t end up crying on the bathroom floor. With the Covid infections and death rates rising, you too might be thinking about nixing a trip to the hair salon. Before picking up a pair of scissors to clip off those split ends, take a little time to prepare mentally and physically. Then jump in! It’s doable, a little fun, and empowering.
My husband is an ICU physician dealing with Covid-19 on the front line. And according to the risk diagram of Covid, going to the Hairstylist is a level 7, moderate to high. A solo stylist in a Salon Loft type of setting might rank lower. But either way, for me, the exposure wasn’t worth it.
But I did have to do something with my hair. Whatever layers I’d had were grown out. My hair was too long, stringy, and flat. I may not have to go into an office every day, but I did have to look at myself.
For many women, hair is intertwined with identity. And we all know looking good increases self-esteem. Being ensconced at home for long periods of time, evaluating risk factors, and then processing every minute choice is stressful. The unknowable future and the bleak news add another layer of anxiety. Dealing with unruly, sad hair did help. So, I hopped on the internet, find myself a video, ordered some fresh shears from Amazon, and got ready to snip. Here’s what I gleaned from my first at-home haircut:
#1 Have the Right Tools
The number one piece of advice from hairstylists is to buy quality hair cutting shears. This can get overwhelming and expensive. According to the industry website, Scissor Mall, Japanese steel is the best choice for hair shears. “Japanese blades have [a] higher tensile strength…it maintains a finer, sharper edge that lends itself to clean, crisp cuts and advanced cutting techniques.” The post goes into greater detail on the different grades of steel, ultimately stating “You get what you pay for.” Having said that, the least expensive shears on their website are $169. Eek!
In my case, I did not do my due diligence before my initial haircut. I purchased the first pair of haircutting shears recommended on Amazon. The Equinox shears, touted as made from Japanese steel, did an okay job. The blades would catch slightly when I snipped even after I adjusted the tension screw. Post cut, I found an Allure article offering more economical recommendations.
#2 Pre-style Your Hair
A gaggle of tutorials exists on Youtube offering instruction on cutting your hair at home. Good Housekeeping curated a list that includes how-to's for curly hair, natural Afro hair, bangs, and more. I found a fun and colorful video from Brad Mondo, a New York-based hairstylist with his own line of hair products, to be easy to follow.
During the pandemic, Mondo has soared in popularity on both TikTok and Youtube with videos of him reacting to at-home dye jobs or haircuts. In the video I watched, Hairdressers Guide to Cutting Your Own Hair and Not Ruining It, Mondo stresses his instructions are intended for those with straight hair, and his first and most important point? Make sure your hair is styled--meaning washed, dried, and straighten as much as possible. The straighter the hair the more even you can make your cuts.
#3 Accept Imperfections
Unless you are a professional, you are not going to come out of a home hair cut with a perfectly stylize cut. I took a good two inches off my hair with my initial cut. The long bob came out blunter than I would like. And there was some unevenness between the front and back. If you have someone that can help you with the back, more power to you. But I wasn’t going to trust my husband to take a pair of scissors to my hair. Somethings are sacred.
A week later after my initial cut, I did a touch-up on the backside. The relief I felt from discarding the dry, stringy pieces far outweigh the imperfection in the cut. And with a little styling, no one in my online meet-ups will notice that my cut might be a little jagged.
#4 Enjoy the Glory
After I clipped my locks, I surveyed the scatter of hairs covering my sink and vanity top. It felt like I’d come through a mini-battle. I’d gathered my tools, prepped my hair, and made peace with imperfection. After it was all done, I felt a sense of elation at my brazenness and a glimmer of control.
Pre-pandemic Romy Oltuski wrote an article for Instyle Magazine entitled, The Cathartic Power of Cutting Your Own Hair. She quotes New York-based psychologist Jessica Koblenz who said, ‘The act of cutting your hair yourself can signal taking back your power or changing yourself in a way only you can design.’ And for me, that was true. Not only did I get relief from the haggard image in the mirror, but I found a more powerful sense of self and control.
Will I return to the salon at some point? Absolutely. This is a stopgap, a way to stay sane and stay healthy. But, I’ll keep cutting my hair until the pandemic numbers start to ease and vaccinations are more widespread. In the meantime, I'll be shopping for a new pair of shears.
Other tools recommended for a home haircut by Brad Mondo:
Comb preferably with a pick on one end
Small hair ties