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Why so Many People Want to Drastically Change Their Hair in the Midst of COVID-19

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Photo: Stocksy/Lucas Ottone

Moga Moodley had been thinking about shaving her head for a while, but it was a few weeks into quarantine that she actually did it. “I finally got the courage after doing some research on the pros and cons—and honestly, for me, the pros way outweighed the cons,” says Moodley, a paralegal in Wiltshire, UK who previously had long, dark hair. “I figured if I didn’t like it, I could just wear a wig and no one would need to know.”

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. “This is the most confident I have ever felt in my entire life,” she says. And she’s not alone in making a dramatic change in her haircut or color during this time of social isolation, during which many are home with scissors and a good imagination. Instead of settling for basic bang trims and root touch-ups, some people are choosing to give themselves an entirely new look—think buzz cuts, bold hair color, and even layers. “Let’s call it the quarantine makeover,” says Nunzio Saviano, hairstylist and owner of the eponymous salon in New York City.

It’s a good way to break up the boredom—since, for many people, there’s not much else to do. Timing is also a factor. “Some view it as a good time to experiment, since there’s little to lose should a new style not turn out so well,” says New York City-based psychologist Vivian Diller, PhD. “Others view it as a way to make a statement about this unusual time: ‘This is my COVID look.’ Some just view it as a way to be creative.”

“Having the chance to experiment with beauty options with no major consequences may give some women the courage to continue to be more playful with their appearances.” —Vivian Diller, PhD.

For Jenn Lower, a fitness coach in Santa Monica, CA, she figured she had nothing at stake when she colored her from blonde to a rich, vibrant red. “Worse-case scenario, my hairstylist will have work when we’re able to get our hair done again,” she explains. Like Moodley, she’d had the idea in mind for a while, but had always worried about the maintenance. “I figured, if not now, then when?” says Lower. “Why not have a little fun and play with my look?”

There are big perks to what at first glance seems like a superficial change. “Having the chance to experiment with beauty options with no major consequences may give some women the courage to continue to be more playful with their appearances,” says Dr. Diller. That’s also what Saviano predicts. During times of normalcy, it’s easy to stick with your comfort zone, whether that’s a go-to bob or your usual highlights. But the combo of limited access to pros, a more forgiving WFH situation, and sheer monotony can spark a much-needed change.

That can benefit your stylist in the long run, too, as even chopping a few inches off your hair or giving yourself bangs can open up a world of experimentation. “When a client cuts their own hair, it gives the stylist an opportunity to change their hair,” says Saviano. “[For] some people, I’ve been trying to change their hair forever—and they’re finally going to come in with something different.”

It can also feel empowering, restoring some sense of control in a time when life feels so uncontrollable. Sure, guidelines and advice are coming from every which way, but changing your hair is a decision all your own. “[I was] going through a lot internally during the beginning of this pandemic,” recounts Lower. “Once I dyed my hair red, I felt like I emerged from a cocoon that I’d been hiding inside of.” It can also just make you feel good, pandemic or not. “I feel like a badass bitch,” says Moodley. “I can express myself more through makeup and clothes without my hair getting in the way.”

It may have an impact on a larger scale, too. “In general, this unusual time seems to have broadened the expectations of what beauty means,” says Dr. Diller. “Having been forced to adjust to many limitations during this pandemic, we may come to expect less when it comes to a ‘perfect’ appearance, which would be a positive outcome from a difficult time.”

To that point, your quarantine makeover doesn’t have to end when things return to (relatively) normal, nor should it. “My work colleagues have all seen it and are very supportive—and so are my friends and family—so I don’t see why I shouldn’t keep it,” says Moodley of her buzz cut. As for Lower, she’s found a hair color that makes her feel like herself; not surprisingly, “my red hair is here to stay,” she says. It proves that a silver lining can take any shape—or color.

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