Quarantine Beauty: Bad Hair is Just the Beginning

Feeling ungroomed, unkempt, and completely undone? Meh, you’re hardly alone.

By Judith Matloff


Lil Pump and I have something in common. But not on purpose. And I don’t look as cool as the Florida rapper. 

Last week, I sliced off half an eyebrow during a “trim.” I never knew there was such a thing as a “facial razor” before going into lockdown. During a rare foray to Rite Aid to buy medicine, I happened upon this allegedly slip-free blade. The face needed a good tweezing, so why not? Well, it slipped. 

I’ve had other mishaps with quarantine beauty. I maimed a toe during nail cutting. Wanting to avoid Covid-19 — the 19 pounds gained sitting around the house — I tried a yoga video. Now I can’t move my left shoulder. 

Then I fried my split ends with Mongongo oil. You’re supposed to apply it warm, rubbing it in the palms of the hands to apply it with heat so that it absorbs. I didn’t. 

A scientific survey of leading experts — i.e. my friends — reveals countless misfortunes in the name of home care as lockdown drags on. Go on Twitter to see widespread awfulness. Mullet haircuts. Half-shaved heads. Ragged manicures.

“Leave haircutting to your hairdresser,” cautions celebrity hairstylist Anthony Dickey, the founder of the Hair Rules product line. This is the man who fixes the tresses of Rihanna and Sarah Jessica Parker. He has the same advice for all Zoomsters: “Pull it up in a top knot.” 

Hairdresser Mirsada Lajqui of the Ouidad salon says she’s been flooded with calls. “Oh my God, I’ve heard the worst disasters,” she says. “Someone got color off Amazon for a touch up. She ended up with jet-black roots. The bottom is blonde. Another client cut her bangs. Now they’re up to her hairline.”

Don’t get her started on oil “treatments” like mine. “I get so many calls like this,” Lajqui sighs. “I lose track of who is who.” 

It’s not just her customers. The luxurious curls of artist Jane Fine once graced the streets of Williamsburg. Now she’s grateful she’s not going out anytime soon.  

Things were getting pretty rough after her cut and dye appointment was canceled for March 18th. So, she put some newspaper over the sink, grabbed a pair of paint-covered scissors from the studio and hacked away. 

“I came out of shower and realized how cockeyed it was,” she recounts. A couple of days later, she repeated the procedure with some attempt at layering. “I emerged from the shower and decided it wasn't too bad as long as no one saw the back of me, which they wouldn't for a few months.”

Two days later she couldn’t stand the “weird bits” that peaked out from behind her neck and she went ahead with a third chop.

Still not right. She’s trying again. 


A scientific survey of leading experts — i.e. my friends — reveals countless misfortunes in the name of home care as lockdown drags on.

Abby Claire, a 50-something stunner from Manhattan, has given corrective action some serious thought. “If I could self-inject Botox I would,” she says. “I look at myself in the mirror and wonder, ‘When did my grandmother move in?’ I did manage to remove my nail polish and even file my nails, but that’s the extent of my efforts. I am terrified to color my hair at home for fear I’ll end up looking like a skunk. If I wax any part of my body, I'll surely incur third-degree burns. So, it's safe to say I'm not at my most attractive.”

She also worries about mask-related tan lines on her cheeks. “It’s possible,” she says. "I always slather on sunblock under my mask, but the sun could still do its thing. And then I would need to do an at-home spray tan and, with my expertise, I'm sure I would end up resembling a certain orange president." 

Those who try, and fail, to home beautify head to Bliss Beauty on Broadway (not to be confused with the spa). The wig-and-cosmetics shop is one of the few stores open in my neighborhood, offering an essential service alongside bodegas and drugstores. 

I went by the other day to seek repairs for the mutilated eyebrow. The line of six-feet-apart customers snaked around the block, longer than at the busiest Trader Joe’s. One woman wore a surgical mask … to hide bleeding from a botched home facial. Another had injured her scalp while removing braids. Another asked to cut in line. I let her; this was clearly an emergency. It looked like a hedge shears chopped off half her ‘fro. 

When it came to my turn, about an hour later, the saleswoman behind the plastic shield shot me a knowing look. She’d seen this before. Without exchanging a word, she fished out a brown pencil. It wasn’t my shade. But when you’re missing an eyebrow right before a Zoom call, you act decisively. I grabbed it with my gloved hand, handed over $2 and dashed out.

Back at the homestead, I put in calls to sources around the world. They all recounted similar horror stories. Except in Paris. Of course not. It’s Paris. The French look soigné even with dirty hair. They survived wartime in turbans. They don’t need salons in a pandemic.

Paris resident Alain Zaugg, who works in the fashion industry, says he hasn’t spotted any catastrophes when he goes out jogging. In fact, “you can see that everything is perfect.”

Except, that is, for his partner, author Michel Arseneault’s, beard. The brunet writer was dismayed when his facial hair grew in white. 

“I didn’t expect such a contrast,” Arseneault laments. “My face looks split in half like a two-tone dancing shoe.”

At least it’s not technically his fault.


Judith Matloff is the author of the forthcoming How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope to Never NeedShe considers grooming a safety issue.


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