Fashion & Beauty

Changing Beauty Routines in Covid Times



IN MARCH, when the global pandemic became a reality, it scared the—insert expletive here—out of us. We holed up at home, opted for grocery delivery and let our hair grow, grow out and grow gray. In the midst of the crisis, shapeless, faded hair was the least of our worries. But almost six months in, we were curious how attitudes might be changing now that many of us are going further afield than the supermarket and drug store. So we sent out an e-mail to ask. From your responses, it looks as if you’re more likely to head to the salon for haircuts and color than for groomed and polished hands and toes. Although several of you mentioned that pedicures feel less risky than manicures, where “commingling exhalations” while having your nails buffed are hard to avoid.

Some of you said you were cutting back on the frequency of your appointments, be they for hair treatments, nails, etc. One New York City reader remains a hair holdout. She has decided to wait for a vaccine to go back to her stylist, but a week or ago she got her husband to chop her long locks off.

Whatever service you decided to re-engage with, everyone emphasized they were being extremely cautious and only frequented places that made them feel safe through a combination of temperature checks, diligent disinfectant procedures and keeping the number of people at a minimum. No one, including me with wild and woolly brows, was inclined to have theirs waxed or plucked. There wasn’t a lot of chatter about makeup, except that you weren’t wearing much. From our own Kathy Legg: “I have completely forgotten how to put on makeup.” And, finally, whether it was necessity or luxury, a few of you found your way to the dermatologist’s office.

One refreshing take on beauty upkeep came from a Pittsburgh woman who said the pandemic had given her chance “to get acquainted with the natural me—reluctantly perhaps at first, but there is something to be said for embracing the process of aging…gracefully. And during a period of panic and imposed quarantine, I am so grateful to be among those still alive and aging.”

Below, some more thoughts from readers, as well as some of our staff, on their routines and how they’re evolving. Thanks to all for contributing.

—Janet Kelly

Kathy Legg: I briefly considered going gray those first months, but it wasn’t pretty and I decided I’m just not ready for that so I was one of the first customers back in the salon as soon it reopened. However, I’ve not been as brave where manicures and pedicures are concerned, and it’s been a summer of sneakers rather than sandals.

Maureen: Well, I just got my eyebrows done (waxed and colored) for the second time since March — eyebrows must grow faster than my hair since I haven’t needed another one since March…and luckily I’ve been gray for a while now!  I did get a “polish change” for my toenails though—they grow faster too!  Both shops made me feel confident—masks and face coverings by everyone inside. And I wore my own mask throughout.

Cindy TJust had this conversation with my thirty-something daughter yesterday…great timing! 

My hair…it was probably good to have that months-long lag between coloring appointments back in March until early June. That gave me a chance to assess how much gray I actually have up top. The world around me was emulating Cruella di Vil, so that look became the new norm and gave women a way to trauma bond over something other than uncomfortable shoes. Periodically I risked viral infection to dash into a drugstore, grabbing several boxes of DIY hair color at a time. My first few mistakes might have been traumatic in the past, but during Covid quarantine, they were simply entertaining home experiments, the results of which were shared during chats with friends. I think I’ve settled on a color and brand of $9 box color I like…and since it’s semi-permanent dye with no harsh chemicals, my hair looks shinier than ever. I may keep it up.

Speaking of nails, mine have never looked so natural and I don’t like it. Yet, I cannot justify sitting face to face with a nail tech for an hour at a time—my arms are too short to avoid commingling our exhalations. Interestingly enough, sans semiweekly nail polish, dips and gels, my nails are growing in stronger than I expected. Maybe it’s all the collagen powder I am stirring into my morning coffee, or maybe the lack of harsh chemicals in these beauty applications, but something good has come of it. As for pedicures though, I’d never forgo those during barefoot, or flip-flopped summer months. Stretched out in a chair at the nail salon, maintaining six feet between the nail technician and myself—both of us wearing masks and face shields—is easy.

Caren: Yes, the nail salon, with two customers only, has been giving me manis and pedis as soon as they opened in June. Just finished a second dental cleaning since they reopened. Went for a checkup, scheduled last year, with my PCP. Hair color with my stylist who has her own cubicle at Sola Salon. My sister-in-law (a professional hair dresser) cuts my hair outside on my porch. Places have been cautious, clean and careful. Wish I could have my brows shaped and get a facial, but impossible with masks and social distancing.

Nancy G: My haircut was great—I think I lost three pounds!  Very few customers.  My temperature taken as I walked in, and check-in individually on an iPad. Gown and towels in plastic bags, obviously laundered between clients. My stylist disinfected everything before I sat down. She even Purelled her hands after receiving a tip in cash from her last client before picking up the scissors again.  And everyone masked.  Felt pretty safe.

Inside a nail salon with socially distant measures in place. / Photo / Carol Lichty.

Carol: My routine has been turned upside down. I (with my husband’s help) have been trimming my hair and it’s been ok.  I have had the same hairdresser for over 30 years and tried to mimic how she cuts it! I had just had color and cut in February for a family wedding and when summer hits my hair does some sun bleaching.  But I’m now contemplating whether to let it go or color myself.

I have had a few pedicures (first one in June) but no manicures because that would mean being inside a couple hours and too close up. I feel safe getting a pedicure because they’ve created these rolling plexiglass cages around the chair and the technicians wear masks AND face shields.  I also go during off-hours so only a couple customers in there when I’m there. I have worn makeup rarely but still use an astringent and moisturizer regularly. Just made a trip to dermatologist today to get a couple items zapped off.

Jodie: I am going gray. I did go to my colorist to make the process look better. But I decided that because Covid will be sticking around for a while I might as well let the gray come in. I’ve had my haircut but much less often than normal. My stylist says that even his regular customers are not coming as often as they did. He says nobody cares what they look like anymore.

Cindy SIt took me seven months to get up the courage to have my hair cut. Done in my backyard, a cut and color. Color was interesting: Applied and then a sit in the sun on a hot day. Came out great without the roasting under a dryer. My handyman guys were around, laughing their heads off at spacewoman with the foil growing out of her head. 

I haven’t worn makeup since the disaster struck. It looking like it’s decaying in the organizer I keep it in.

Too scared to get a pedicure though my feet cry out for one. My glasses are slipping and sliding, but can’t imagine anyone that close in my face—whom I don’t know.

I did go to the dermatologist, twice. Once because I looked and felt like a massive itchy pizza and the bites were unidentifiable. I had to go in for a biopsy. All ok but told not to cancel scheduled full-body scan. I masked up, gloved up and held my breath a lot.

Nancy McKeon: It’s quite sobering to see what our friends really look like! I envy you your “woolly” eyebrows—I have, basically, little to none, and have just learned that hair loss all over the body is a downside of the thyroid meds I’ve been taking for years!

I have found a wonderful pedicurist about five (long) blocks from my home. She does a “medical pedicure,” which is more comprehensive than just cutting and then slapping some polish on (in fact, i don’t use any polish at all). It’s not a visit to the podiatrist; in some ways it’s better! (though it costs almost as much.) Marina and I are alone in the front parlor of her ground-floor spa, one client at a time.

I haven’t had a manicure, can manage that on my own. I’ve had one haircut since March, need another one very soon, as you can imagine. Also need to have my fading brown hair darkened and then streaked just a little bit, nothing too extreme.

I have a Georgian pedicurist and a Russian hairdresser. The restaurant around the corner is owned by a Romanian woman, and the ice cream shop up the street is Albanian. i should try for a Ukrainian . . . something.

Beth: Hair yes and dermatology yes.  Nails no way. 

Mary: Haven’t ventured out much. I did take my granddaughter for a pedicure a couple of weeks ago. It was all plexiglassed in. My daughter had someone come to the house for a haircut so I joined in. Other than that I’m still ordering groceries for delivery.

I do hope this will be over soon but I’m afraid we have a few more months.

Bonnie: I have gotten my hair cut and colored twice—but with more time in between than previously.  I also go very early in the morning when the shop is only running at about one-third capacity to keep distances, etc.  I did not have the keratin this summer because I did not want to sit in one place for a couple of hours.

I have had a mani and pedi—same as above —more infrequently—and check to be sure how many will be there—running at 1/3 capacity.  I have not had my eyebrows done, and hope that my hair hides the mess!

I really am not out as much as during normal times.  No makeup—I have a mask on—perhaps I should do eye makeup but have not.

Janet Kelly: My brows remain unkempt because I’m way too chicken to have an aesthetician so close to my face. My first foray into haircut and color was in June (just when salons in town got the go-ahead to open) in my friend’s gorgeous back garden with her longtime hair stylist. She even served Pinot Grigio and some canapés. It felt more like a Mediterranean vacation than a Covid-era haircut. I’ve continued with hair appointments but in a salon where the aforementioned stylist is sole proprietor and only has one customer at a time.

No professional manis or pedis and no sandals for me this summer. Sigh.
On my wish list: a new, more modern-looking pair of glasses and a visit to the dermatologist to banish brown spots and other stuff.

10 thoughts on “Changing Beauty Routines in Covid Times

  1. cynthia tilson says:

    This one WAS fun…and comforting to bond with so many over the humbling, yet hysterical aspects to pandemic grooming. Btw, the thyroid eyebrows are referred to as “Queen Anne” sign, referring to Anne Of Denmark, who was painted with truncated eyebrows and an obvious goiter – both clinical signs of an underactive thyroid. I pencil mine in, fooling no one, but at least no one will mistake me for Queen Anne.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Speaking of pandemic grooming, I liked that tip from our hairdresser. Try hiding gray roots with waterproof mascara. The problem Rudy Giuliani had was that he didn’t use the waterproof kind to hide his!

  2. Sigi says:

    Enjoyed reading this – you should follow up again later this fall to see what women are doing. The make up thing is especially interesting. No one is wearing any.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Thanks, Sigi. Good idea!

  3. Nancy G says:

    Interesting to see what everyone has done during this beauty crisis, along with trying to be smart and safe from the real crisis. Thanks everyone.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Thanks for the inspiration, Nancy!

  4. Kathy Legg says:

    I just learned something from Nancy. Didn’t know thyroid meds have that effect. Explains a lot.

  5. Carol says:

    This was interesting to see how we’re dealing these days, glad you put on FB
    I have one question… who did you get to model for the picture ?

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Ha! It’s a stock photo but it could have been any of us.

  6. cindy tilson says:

    Oh my! This one was L.O.L. fun, and strangely comforting, too…I’m with Nancy M….thyroid issues have left me virtually hairless…which one friend envies – she’s been dealing with home waxing disasters! I’ll be sharing this post widely, Janet.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *