Tangled, greasy, bushy, overgrown, and unkempt.
As New Mexico’s quarantine restrictions continue to grow tighter, University of New Mexico students are forced to take matters into their own hands to tame their unruly hairs.
Since Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close last month, New Mexico salons and barbershops have been out of commission. As a result, students who have grown accustomed to their regular trim, fade, shave and wax are having to get creative about how they maintain their favorite style at home.
Jade Gabaldon, a marketing major at UNM, might not attempt a do-it-yourself haircut since she only gets a cut every four to six months. But her brother Dylan has a more high maintenance routine and will have to ask his family for help sooner rather than later.
“My brother keeps his hair short and faded, so he would get his haircut (and eyebrows threaded) every two to three weeks, so now even though he doesn't want my dad to cut his hair he’s going to have to cut his hair again. And either me or my mom are going to have to do his eyebrows because he gets super bushy eyebrows and he doesn’t shape them.” Gabaldon said.
Despite being unable to give her brother his usual eyebrow threading service, Gabaldon said that the process is going fairly well. Using her headlamp (a gag gift from her Dad last Christmas) and some precision tweezers, she works away at the hairs one by one.
“It’s kind of a bonding moment...we’ll be sitting there with headlights on and mirrors saying ‘Does this hair need to come out or not?’ It’s funny, because sometimes you’ll pull a painful hair, and a tear will come out of his eye and he’ll say ‘Stop it hurts!’” Gabaldon said, laughing. “And I’ll just smack his head or his hand when he reaches for his eyebrow, like ‘Get away I’m working!’”
Gabaldon said that keeping up with her own grooming rituals is making her feel better about herself and being stuck at home. Before the quarantine, she would shave her legs regularly, and so when she stopped it felt uncomfortable.
“Not shaving my legs, it’s not a big deal...but it started bothering me because it didn’t feel normal,” Gabaldon said. “Taking care of yourself in that way doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but I feel like when things are so chaotic right now, just that one little thing makes you feel like things are gonna be okay.”
William Jennings, a UNM multimedia journalism major, was fortunate enough to have downstairs neighbors who had dyed their hair at home before. So once Jennings was laid off from his job at the Sunshine Theater, he felt the urge to transform his look.
“Where I work, you can’t have unnatural colored hair. So I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to have a job for a few months at least - time to go silver and purple,’” Jennings said. “Bleaching and dying my hair was a totally new experience for me, so it was really weird, but my downstairs neighbors had done it before...so it wasn’t a total hack job.”
Jennings said that dying his hair made him feel good about himself, and provided a change of pace from his life on lockdown. In addition, he felt less cautious about trying out a new color because if it turned out badly no one would be able to see it in person.
“I definitely feel better changing my appearance, just because it’s introducing something new, which is nice when everything is so routine right now,” Jennings said. “Another big reason I decided to do it was there’s no risk...if it’s horrible then I just go outside even less then I do right now. The other side of that though is that now that I really like it, I can’t go show it off.”
Grace Drew, an English major, had been growing out her hair before the quarantine began, leading to a buildup of split ends. She wasn’t originally planning on doing anything about it, but when her cousin offered up her services, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I recently had my cousin come over, and she helped me cut my hair. She’s a licensed cosmetologist, and was looking for work...she was almost hired by a salon, but then the coronavirus happened,” Drew said. “She had still been needing to practice and keep up her skills, so she told me she would come and cut anyone’s hair that I wanted.”
Although the cut was relatively minor, it had a large impact on Drew’s emotional state. She said that ever since the quarantine began she had been letting things fall to the wayside.
“(The cut) did make me feel better since I had been feeling very down about my appearance since the quarantine,” Drew said. “When you wake up every day and you don’t even want to put a bra on, it almost pushes you into a depression. And I don’t want to feel depressed, I want to feel good about myself.”
The most important part of the experience was the human connection it provided. Drew said that she had been missing everyday conversations, and the sense that her life wouldn’t be on hold forever.
“It definitely helped me feel a bit more normal, being sat down in the chair and having the salon conversations. I haven’t seen my cousin in a few weeks so I was talking to her about everything that was going on,” Drew said. “It sort of gave me the sense that life is still happening, people are still doing things. Life didn’t just stop. I can still get my hair cut.”
Alex McCausland is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alexkmccausland