Fashion & Beauty

Bad Hair Days’ Defenses

HAIR, GLORIOUS hair. No?  Instead, many of us are looking at ourselves in the mirror with Cruella de Vil white streaks, faded-out color, overgrown bangs and straggly, sad locks. Except in a few states whose governors are daring to reopen beauty salons (among other businesses), hopes for groomed hair seem a distant prayer.  But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped trying. My conversations (Zoom and e-mail) with friends usually include what hair-color products (L’Oreal, Madison Reed, etc.) we’re using, which shades we like and what results we’re getting. And then there are friends who are using nail scissors, kitchen knives, etc., to trim their too-long, out-of-shape cuts. Some are going to, er, greater lengths: A Chevy Chase, Maryland, woman said one of her neighbors had arranged for someone from a local salon to do $65 haircuts in her backyard. He couldn’t do shampoos, so people had to come with clean hair. In DC, according to Jeremy Buchanan from Salon One80, some salons are acting like speak-easies; you have to arrange covert visits.

Failing extreme measures, here’s what two pros had to say.

My hairdresser, Lu Marcus, who both colors and cuts my tresses at Pittsburgh’s Capristo Salon, called me last week to check in. I reported that I was using temporary, wash-out products to cover my growing gray roots and that my bangs were verging on unmanageable. Stay the course, she advised, with temporary, wash-out products like L’Oreal’s spray or with a powder you brush on.  When you buy color in a box from a drugstore, she said, you don’t know how long it has been sitting there and if or how the ingredients have degraded. You may get something that says the color is light, golden brown and then end up with red or magenta hair. Marcus’s rule of thumb: Do no harm. She notes: “We’re expecting lots of problems when we’re faced with fixing hair dye jobs gone wrong.”  She also told me not to touch my bangs.

Buchanan, my former colorist, who is selling customized color kits for clients, offers similar advice. “Just coloring gray is one thing, but to make it look like real hair, you have to apply at least two colors.” If you look at the head of a 12-year-old, for example, you’d see that hair is a myriad of shades. These over-the-counter color solutions can’t compete with the hundreds of shades available at a salon. “Hair looks very artificial when the color around the face is the same as it is on the ends.”

Almost two-inch roots and shapeless hair be damned. I’m leaving my distressed waves to their own devices except for spritzing the roots. As for some ways to camouflage the damage when I leave the house for a walk or participate in a Zoom or FaceTime event, I’m experimenting with headbands and hair wraps, jaunty caps, sun hats and sunglasses. Below are some I’m liking.

—Janet Kelly

LEFT: Forget baseball caps. I can’t think of a more fetching way to take attention away from your hair than wearing this Fiddler Fisherman Cap ($45, Nordstrom) with attitude. It’s made of a mix of linen and cotton with a rope trim around the crown. RIGHT: You’re already walking around the house (and outside) in your workout leggings, T-shirts and sneakers, so complete the picture with this lightweight, reversible Fringe Fighter Headband ($18, Lululemon, also available in pink, silver and white.). As well as helping doctors and nurses on the frontlines, headbands prevent you from constantly touching your face to sweep back bangs and keep sweat beads out of your eyes.


LEFT: Last summer I remember admiring the sun hat of a friend and thinking how good she looked. Her hair? What hair? On closer inspection it came to me—her hat was by Australian Helen Kaminski, whose flattering designs I’ve coveted for years. Definitely on the splurgey side. But think of all the money I’m saving from not getting my hair colored or cut. The  Kalola Foldable Raffia Hat is $200 at Nordstrom.  RIGHT: More like a head wrap, the Tasha Knot Pleat Headband ($24, Nordstrom) offers a solution for when you’re growing out your hair in a pandemic and can’t get a haircut. Available in several other colors and patterns, the knotted style gives a turban effect without the weight.



LEFT: I’m hoping isolation doesn’t last long enough for me to grow a pony tail. But if it does, I’d go for these lush, luxe Scrunchies ($39 for a pack of three, Violet Grey). They’re made from high-quality silk that won’t do damage to delicate hair. RIGHT: Wear J. Crew’s Palma Oversized Sunglasses ($69.50, also available in caramel, aqua and black) alone or with your mask, and no one will notice your hair.  These big, retro sunnies come with UV-protective lenses in a color that complements the frame.


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5 thoughts on “Bad Hair Days’ Defenses

  1. Nancy G says:

    Make sure you send pictures!

  2. Nancy G says:

    Went gray about 3 years ago. Best thing I ever did beauty-wise, other than IPL. However, my hair hasn’t been touched by a flat iron in at least 6 weeks. Miss the more finished look, but not the effort. Go scrunchies!!

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Your hair looks great speckled salt and pepper. Soon mine will be long enough for a very short ponytail!

  3. Lu says:

    Thank you for the great article about “bad hair day defenses.” Awesome ideas about how to fashionably enjoy hairbands, hair wraps, sun hats and always sunglasses. I look forward to reading Stay healthy, stay safe.

  4. Carol says:

    Love the Fiddler Hat! may have to get me one! Thanks for the hint to spray my roots. I have trimmed my bangs for some time now between haircuts, the key is to be very very careful! 🙂

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