Quarantine is one heck of a drug. After bingeing everything on Netflix, baking countless ill-advised confections, organizing my closet and deep-cleaning my bathroom, there is only one frontier left: attempting an at-home hair cut.
While my roommate was eager to shave her head out of boredom, I decided to take a more measured approach and call on an expert. Mariah Shinners is a long-time hairstylist and owner of Hair By Mariah, working out of The Collage salon in Belltown. Though she's not giving any hair cuts in person these days, she's happy to advise any would-be clients on the finer points of hair care in isolation.
For Shinners, the main thing to remember is that we're all in this together.
"I want everyone to know that we are all in the same boat, even stylists! Don't fret about your hair as it gets longer and shaggier than normal, or you see that extra bit of grow-out," she said.
However, Shinners also advises against taking measures into your own hands. Despite the plethora of videos posted daily of desperate social-distancers shaving their heads (sometimes to disastrous results), it's strangely difficult to resist the temptation to shave it all off and start fresh.
"I'm all for shaving your head! It's really fun and freeing to do that at least once in your life," she said. "That being said, if you wouldn't shave your head on a normal day, don't let frustration be the thing that talks you into it. A chin-length bob will be a solid year of growth from a shaved head, and that is a lot more frustration than a couple weeks of looking a bit shaggy or misshapen. For those who are having a hard time with their hair but aren't prepared to shave it off, hats and headbands will be sanity-savers during this time."
And the number one thing Shinners advises against doing yourself? Bobs.
"There is no good way to cut the back of your hair evenly, and the self-cutting techniques I see online often end up with choppy and bulky results. The thicker your hair, the higher the likelihood that your bob will need major fixing when this quarantine ends," she said.
Shinners also says you should play it safe — don't try a fade with electric clippers, as the cut is harder than it looks and is easy to get wrong.
But even worse than the prospect of a bowl cut-esque cut gone wrong is the potential to seriously damage your hair without access to a stylist's expertise. According to Shinners, coloring and bleaching your hair is the riskiest.
"Just don't. Especially bleach. All the evidence you need can be found with a simple search on YouTube — hair bleaching fails," she says. "Coloring hair at home is risky. Even putting permanent color over previously bleached hair can end in irreversible damage if it's not done by a professional."
With so many don'ts, is there anything you actually can do to treat yourself and keep your hair looking good?
Well, lazy quarantiners, rejoice! One of Shinners' top tips is making sure you don't overwash your hair — meaning you can definitely skip that shower today with no shame. If you're feeling a little more lively, you can always throw on a hair mask and luxuriate in all the extra time you have these days. For the latter, Shinners recommends a stylist-brand hair mask. While you can throw together a DIY mask from ingredients in your kitchen, they generally aren't very effective, and you should avoid coconut oil; it can cause a buildup that can fry your hair when you apply heat (think hairdryers and straighteners).
And if you really, truly, simply must cut your own bangs during this insanity, Shinners has a few tips to offer.
"This is one of those things that I preface with the plea to wait for your stylist because it is very risky. That being said, for those who can't wait, I have two tips. Use sharp shears. Dull blades push hair more than they cut it, which creates an uneven line," she says.
"Start much longer than you mean to achieve as your end result. Chances are, cutting at your nose will shrink up more than you anticipate, and, while you can always cut more off, I don't have any great tips for reattaching cut hair."
As long as we're stuck inside, it seems that the best course of action for your hair is — as with quarantine in general — to simply wait it out. If you find yourself getting twitchy and you reach for the scissors, Shinners also offers some words of comfort from your stylist: "I am certainly not going to judge you! I'll be here to fix it when this is all over."