After spending five long years growing out my hair, only sporadically snipping off a few inches here and there, I finally chopped it all off. That was just one week before stay-at-home orders spread like wildfire across the country, forcing barbers and hairstylists to put their scissors down for an unspecified amount of time.
Now, like just about everyone else, I know not when my next haircut will come, nor where it will come from. It could be weeks, months, or god forbid, years away. Evidently, the coronavirus has imposed a period of unenthusiastic hair growth upon us all.
Some of us have already decided to take matters into our own hands, haphazardly trimming our own locks, or taking advantage of our now-reclusive lifestyles to experiment with something new, like a bit of crisis-bleaching. But most of us are at a complete loss, scared and apprehensive as the length of our hair enters into uncharted territory. We simply have nowhere to go.
Over the past five years, I learned a lot about dealing with hair as it grows out. I also learned a lot each time I attempted to grow out my hair before then, always eventually succumbing to the draw of a fresh, clean cut. And while I wish I could provide some secret technique — some method of keeping your hair looking clean and attractive as it grows long — the truth is, growing your hair out is a long, bumpy road, peppered with potholes and perils, none of which are avoidable. It requires patience, a strong willingness to let your hair down (so to speak) and the resignation to just see where things go.
You can see then, why, when I asked for tips on managing your hair as it grows long during quarantine, Desiree Eichelbaugh, a hairdresser in Washington, replied, “There’s nothing you can do. Shave it, wait for your hairstylist or braid it.”
If hairdressers were available, you could have your hair thinned out. “Thinning the hair allows it more room to move and to be styled properly, rather than constantly looking like one giant helmet of hair,” says hairstylist Natalie Rose Dixon. But if hairdressers were available, few of you would be growing your hair out, anyway. Moreover, if you really want to grow out your hair, visiting your barber for a trim is a slippery slope to cutting everything off and never achieving the length you desire, as I learned many times.
None of this means you can do nothing at all, though. In the early stages of hair growth, which many of us are in right now, you can at least use some kind of cream or pomade to slick it out of your face, or battle against unsightly flyaways and frizziness. You can also rely on a trusty elastic headband for the same purpose, but in many cases, that’s an ease-over-appearance option, similar to wearing a hat.
More than anything, though, the longer your hair becomes, the better you need to care for it. Most guys can get away with using shitty products and rarely, if ever, conditioning their hair, because even if they do ravage their strands, they inevitably cut them off every few weeks, anyway. But now, if you shampoo the hell out of your hair, stripping it of its natural, healthy oils, you have to live with the outcome. So remember, condition frequently — more frequently than you shampoo, even. Hell, maybe even invest in a leave-in conditioner, too, one that really keeps things smooth and can help weigh down your hair if it starts growing bulky.
Other than that, just let it grow.
Yes, it will be annoying at times. And yes, it will look better some days than others. But if you can wait it out before having a Britney Spears head-shaving moment, hey, you may even find that you like the way your long hair looks. In which case, when all of this is done and we can go outside again, you can be proud that you had the patience and determination to join the long-hair club, whipping it around gracefully while everyone else sports a mediocre buzz cut.