In six weeks, goes the new adage, we’ll know everyone’s real hair colour
WE HAVE seen the future, and it is dark, grey and messy. Dark roots. Grey streaks. Outgrown cuts. Not just bad hair days, but bad hair months.
Good hair, as it turns out, is not essential during a pandemic. While millions hoarded toilet paper, others beelined to their stylist for one last haircut or colour before salons closed. Now they’re staring in the mirror contemplating a crowning glory that is not so glorious.
On one level, this is truly the least of our concerns. It’s just hair. But if you’re lucky enough to be worried about it, it’s also a loss of routine, a loss of control and a loss of self-confidence. The stay-at-home order launched a thousand DIY tutorials about hair cutting, home colouring or embracing your roots. In six weeks, goes the new adage, we’ll know everyone’s real hair colour.
Some people have resigned themselves to ponytails or baseball caps. Others have resorted to illicit home visits. And a few have tackled the issue with a healthy mix of humour and humanity. Kelly Ripa, co-host of Live with Kelly and Ryan, posted a photo on Instagram showing a thin, grey streak in her honey-blonde hair: “Root watch week one.”
“This really struck a nerve with my viewers,” she says. “It’s almost like solidarity, because they’re so used to seeing people on camera looking like they’ve been done by professionals, which they have. I just feel like it’s almost liberating to have the veil lifted off.”
Ripa, 49, started going grey in her early twenties and has coloured her hair for decades. “The greyer my hair got over the years, the blonder my hair got,” she says.
Now she’s sequestered at her Manhattan home, doing the show remotely and touching up her roots with spray from a can. “It’s so user-friendly,” she says. “There’s no artistry involved.”
Fans, always quick to share their opinions at the most trivial change in her hair, have been “so forgiving, because we’re all in it together”. They’re sending her pictures of their roots. Nobody’s perfect, and now we’re all less perfect than ever.
“Can I tell you something? I think we’re all going to be better off for this,” says Ripa. “We’re all being satisfied with less.”
Well, not yet. We’re not at the acceptance phase of our hair loss. We’re still going through denial, anger and bargaining.
Hair is a kind of armour we wear into daily battle; a bad hair day tells the world we’re not at the top of our game. “I usually go to the salon every week,” says DC area life coach Shelby Tuck-Horton. “Doing my own hair is not something I like to do.”
She can hardly wait for the time it’s safe to go back to the salon: “It will be one of the first things I do when we can go out again.”
Not everyone is waiting; desperate hair requires desperate measures. So, some clients are offering their stylists three to four times what a normal appointment would cost to make home visits – despite the social distancing guidance.
However, a solution is home colouring. In addition to the high-end at-home hair products popping up on phones and tablets, there is always the inexpensive, boxed colour.
For women who have used these products for decades, the current hair panic of the Haves is – if we’re being honest – kind of funny. While hairstylists, for the most part, dismiss the claim that home colouring products can produce professional results, plenty of happy customers would argue otherwise. As Sally Altberger, a property manager in Denver, said about dyeing her own hair: “Why pay a salon colourist when I can do it myself for $10?”
At the very least, self-isolation is a great time to experiment. Men, relieved of the need to shave, are sporting beards. Some women are dyeing their hair pink or blue. And some people – men and women – are cutting it all off. YouTube vlogger Joana Ceddia gave herself a buzz cut three weeks ago and her post, titled “I finally shaved my head”, racked up 2.5 million views.
“No one is going to see me,” the 18-year-old told her followers. “If I’m going to do this, it’s going to be now.” The verdict? “I love it. I thought I was going to hate it. I love it. It’s amazing.”
A buzz cut will eventually grow out. But turning grey is a more complicated process. Some women are embracing the chance to see what hue they have and how they feel about it.
“We’re hunkering down and focusing on protecting ourselves, thereby, protecting others, and staying healthy,” Jane Larkworthy wrote in the Cut last month. “It would not be the worst idea to lay off the bleach that made its way into my scalp and nostrils for decades.”
For now, she’s watching the grey coming in as a “welcome curiosity”, but her stylist has promised to leap into action if Larkworthy decides she hates the grey. “When that day comes, I’ll likely be clinging to her knees like a toddler, screaming through uncontrollable sobs, ‘Get rid of it!’, But maybe I won’t,” she wrote. “Maybe revealing our true colours will be a catharsis. Maybe this will shift how women feel about hiding something that’s natural, if we’re newly awake to what’s important.”
And Ripa? What would her viewers think if she decided to stop colouring her hair? “Initially, if I were to let it go grey, I think there would be disgust and outrage,” she says with a laugh. “But then, eventually, people would say: ‘You know what? I love it! I’m going to do it, too’. Or, ‘It’s not for me, but you look great’. People get used to all sorts of things.”
– The Washington Post