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Hair today, gone tomorrow: Tips from pros on how to avoid ‘quarantine hair’ missteps

Mike Lester, owner of Tom’s Barber Shop in the Spokane Valley, says the place’s phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking how to do cuts at home in the interim. “I think a lot of people are trying different ways to deal with this, like going down to Walmart and buying the Wahl clippers with the plastic blades,” he said. “They’re into buzzing their hair off, pretty much, by the time they’re done.” (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Shaggy locks. Overgrown bangs. Wild hair everywhere.

Six weeks or more into quarantine we’ve either executed hair carnage or thought about it. Salons and barber shops have stayed closed so far because of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s uncertain when “quarantine hair” will end.

For do-it-yourself trims, use caution. Just look online to find quarantine haircut fails. Cutting hair – especially with style – gets complicated, which is why we pay professionals. But sometimes desperation wins, and you find scissors or clippers in hand.

Some local pros are offering tips to help in the gap. Mostly they suggest to use styling tricks to tame unruly hair – or trim a tiny bit – as you wait it out.

For men and boys, it can be tricky if there’s close encounters with clippers. For women, perhaps it’s time to try growing out bangs or to let the gray win.

“I would recommend mostly to hold off if you can – there are always fashionable hair clips or tucking hair behind your ear,” said Tammy Brewer, stylist at Creative Hair Design in Spokane Valley.

“Of course, were you to try cutting your hair, I’d recommend only cutting your bangs and only cutting them dry. There is a little trick where you grab bangs and twist them up together, then trim off a little bit. It makes it look more layered, not cut straight across.”

That avoids bangs in a straight line – the bowl cut of youth – unless you want a blunt look. For the whole mop, messy buns or a ponytail can work. There’s always a baseball cap.

“Try styling techniques first, like if you have bangs try to push them over to the side and use different styling products or techniques,” said Terri Brazil, stylist and owner of Salon Nouveau in Spokane.

Some local salons have posted tips on social media, including Salon Nouveau, with a recent Facebook series for styling bangs while growing them out.

Learning to cut hair is visual, so search for videos by styling professionals. Take off a little if necessary, Brazil said. “A lot of hair can be very forgiving, especially hair that’s thicker or kind of has a curl to it. Fine hair, not so much.”

Trimming Tools

Consider your hair’s texture and length. Is your hair wavy or fine?

Then go slow. If you can, get help from a quarantine mate. Gather up salon-style scissors or clippers, a comb and towel to wrap around shoulders. You can use hair clips to separate manageable sections.

“Maybe get the old Flowbee out,” joked barber Mike Lester. He’s taking over operations at Tom’s Barber Shop in Spokane Valley and self-remodeling until it can reopen.

Flowbee, a 1980s hybrid of vacuum with hair clippers, has enjoyed a resurgence. People also are buying clippers or finding ones in storage.

“They’re into buzzing their hair off pretty much by the time they’re done,” Lester said.

“The phone has been ringing all day long at the barbershop. They’re saying, ‘What do I do with the clippers? Do I need a size 2 or 3?’ ”

He knows it’s been challenging to keep shorter trims for men. Some firefighters, law enforcement officers and military members seek “flat top” haircuts every two weeks for a style that’s tight on the sides and faded up into a “landing strip,” Lester said.

The challenge is in the blend, clipping too far in near the crown. That’s when “shave it all” happens.

“I say, ‘Just have the wife use the clippers. Fade it up with a 2 and be sure to go straight up and not too far into the top where it’s rounded.’ ”

For better use with clippers, hair can be a little drier. After trimming sides, use a flat-top comb and carefully go across the top with a smaller blade to quarter inch, or half inch on top, he said. Some people leave the top hair fuller toward the front.

For longer trims, use a No. 2 with a light touch straight up on sides, too, then maybe scissors for the top and corners to blend. To avoid nicks to the ear, “Hold the ear down and carefully go around the ear,” Lester said.

Jennifer Turner cuts hair for women and men at Tom’s Barber Shop. She’s fielded calls about home haircuts, and it’s more complicated than people realize, she said.

“I tell them there is a YouTube video that shows you how to buzz cut your hair.”

Hairstyles and bangs

Turner tries to convince her female customers to let hair grow out for now.

“When someone tries to cut long hair, it turns out uneven,” she said. If a trim is a must, find videos.

“On YouTube, it will show you how to comb the hair as straight as you can, stop the comb on the back where you want to cut it and then use the scissors to cut just beneath the comb to make the straight line.”

Layers are complex. “I wouldn’t recommend people cutting layers, until they can get to a beautician.”

Inexperienced cuts can get uneven fast, said Stephanie Tullos with New Beginnings Hair Salon.

“You’ll have a lot of layers you don’t want,” she said.

“I cut women and children’s hair, and there are so many nationalities and different textures of hair. With curly hair you have to be super careful, because curly hair is just naturally in different layers.”

Back to the bangs, try just a quarter-inch trim to avoid overdoing. Those fringes can shrink up or get jagged fast. If you use a comb to cut, be careful not to stretch bangs.

A cowlick might require leaving a section slightly longer to blend.

Avoid too short with wavy hair, Lester said. “You might get Mamie Eisenhower bangs.”

Brazil still supports styling products and techniques first for bangs but to use tricks if you must cut.

“One thing is try to look straight ahead and not look up at your hair, because you’ll end up with way shorter bangs. I’d definitely cut it dry.

“Do little tiny increments. Start in the middle and work out to the sides.”

For kids, it’s better to wet hair down so you can get a good line on the back for the length and around the ears, Lester said. It’s fine to use scissors.

Brewer said guys and little boys might just need a trim at sideburns and around the ears. But children move a lot, she said. With summer coming, let it grow, “as long as it’s clean and brushed.”

Those roots

Some of Brewer’s customers get hair color every three weeks. She’s had the desperate calls.

She said root touch-up products can help, versus hair color kits.

“No highlight home kits,” Brewer said. “Those are always the best to fix.”

“We use the professional mix with the correct hues, so you can have a natural look. Many of the box blondes are touchy. They can go orange.”

Brazil also suggested root sprays. “You can even use eye shadow to touch it up.”

Hair condition

Stay-home time offers hair self-care time. “Once a week, do a conditioning treatment,” Tullos said.

“You also can do a protein treatment, which is right in your refrigerator – eggs or mayonnaise. I’d do that once a month, put on a plastic cap, leave that on for 30 or 40 minutes, then wash it out and your hair will have a really healthy sheen.”

Take care of your hair and hold on, Brewer said. “Just don’t get crazy; we’ll be back to work soon.”