Shear temptations: Hair dos…and don’ts 

Fernando Garay, a master barber, instructor, and owner of House of Cuts Barber Studio, stands outside of his shop, which is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cutting hair isn’t just about style, he says. It’s about taking care of people. Photo by Eric Kelley Fernando Garay, a master barber, instructor, and owner of House of Cuts Barber Studio, stands outside of his shop, which is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cutting hair isn’t just about style, he says. It’s about taking care of people. Photo by Eric Kelley

You’ve thought about it. Looked in the bathroom mirror and considered the scissors in the drawer. Caught your reflection in a car window and wondered if you still have those clippers. Picked up a bowl and contemplated whether those ’90s cuts were all that bad.

Per Governor Ralph Northam’s orders, barber shops and salons are closed as part of social distancing measures, and barbers and stylists are out of work.  You trust them with shears, razors, and all manner of chemicals close to your face (not to mention your personal secrets), so trust them when they advise against cutting your own hair.

Hair says a lot about a person. “If you look good, you feel good,” says Sarah Hatch, master stylist, educator, and owner of Ederra Salon. “And when people are feeling less than good,” like many are right now, “they want instant gratification, to have it done, to feel better.” She understands why people might be tempted to do their own hair, especially if they’re attending work meetings via Zoom.

But Hatch says there are risks to playing salon, particularly in regards to chemical treatments like perms, straighteners, and dyes. One wrong move and you could have a lot less hair to care for.

And when it comes to the cut, well, that’s complicated, too. “Hair cutting is geometry,” says Hatch. No two people have the same head of hair, and so stylists and barbers spend years learning that craft. “Face shapes and other shapes come into play, and if you have any kind of whorls or cowlicks or spins in your hair, you could think you’re cutting half an inch off, but next thing you know, it’s two inches shorter. There’s such a small margin for error, I wouldn’t recommend it.” 

“I can only imagine there will be hair horror stories from people trying to DIY stuff,” agrees Destinee Wright, a stylist specializing in black hair care who runs Luxie Hair Services. “It’s a pandemic. You don’t gotta be cute for a pandemic!”

Destinee Wright of Luxie Hair Services is offering online tutorials for her clients so that they can learn to braid and take care of their own hair during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of subject

But if you must, there are ways to do it, like watching YouTube tutorials for up-dos, or using bobby pins, headbands, and wraps to mix things up. “Get it poppin’ with cute little hair clips. Maybe order some from a small business,” says Wright. “For a lot of natural folks, some of us have dreams of having these big, luxurious afros. [Maybe] now’s the time to let it grow. Just do your research first.”

Wright agrees that hairstyle is tied into self-care, so she’s hosting online braiding tutorials—complete with counseling on technique, products, and tools—for existing clients and anyone else who wants to tune in. 

Fernando Garay, master barber, licensed instructor, and owner of House of Cuts Barber Studio, misses his shop and his people. He’s created a space where his clients, many of whom are young black and Latinx men, can gather and relax, be themselves, and either choose to shoot the shit or have deeper conversations about life’s ups and downs. 

Cutting hair is about more than “keeping the community fresh,” says Garay. It’s about taking care of people, and he’s found that “people take care of you if you take care of them.” One of Garay’s clients has continued to pay for his weekly cuts, even though the shop’s closed. 

“I’ve been there for people’s funerals, I’ve been there for people’s weddings, graduations, all kinds of stuff, even just the everyday ‘need to get clean,’” says Garay. And he’s as committed as ever to supporting his clients: “If I’m not cutting hair, I’m not getting my hair cut,” he says, laughing. “We’re in this together.”

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