While the tempting urge to do something drastic with your hair — to give yourself bangs or dye only the front two pieces of your hair green — likely always lingers in you somewhere, you’re not alone if that urge has felt a liiiiiiiittle stronger since self-quarantine began. In fact, since mid-March, around the time when social distancing guidelines were first implemented in the U.S., hundreds of videos have surfaced on TikTok featuring people doing all sorts of drastic things to their hair. But have you started to think, why now? Why, now, have so many of us collectively decided, "Yep, now, when I am alone with my thoughts and unable to have a professional fix what could be a disastrous hair change, is a good time to go buck-wild"?
If you search "quarantine hair" or any variation of the phrase on TikTok, you’ll be scrolling for hours through video after video of someone with a plop of hair dye atop their head or a few inches of hair twisted between scissor blades, ready to be chopped into a fringe. The captions are a mix of "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" and "oops." Most, though, are some variation of rhetorically asking, "What else is there to do right now?" indicating that, for some, the decision to follow this trend may have simply been born out of boredom or having more time on your hands.
The hoards of TikTok users aren’t the only ones succumbing to hair transformation temptation — a growing number of celebrities are doing the same thing. Jennifer Love Hewitt recently dyed her hair bright pink, which I don’t think anyone saw coming. Hilary Duff debuted a super short, bright blue bob out of nowhere. Bachelor couple Arie and Lauren Luyendyk dyed each other’s hair icy silver and pink, respectively. Hell, Kylie Jenner rid herself of all her wigs and is letting her natural short hair breathe, which is the opposite of dyeing your hair, but a huge transformation for her nonetheless. But with most of us scared of trimming more than an inch off our hair on any other day, why the sudden chutzpah during a global pandemic?
You’ve likely seen this same hair scenario played out in small doses before, whether for someone else or yourself, during trying times like after a breakup or some other huge life change. According to experts, the psychology in those scenarios is similar to the current situation, though the trend seems even more widespread now. This is largely because the current coronavirus pandemic, an astoundingly distressing life event, is something the entire world is experiencing together. Constantly evolving almost minute by minute, this global pandemic lacks predictability, thus making certain aspects of life seem a bit out of our control. This can, naturally, give way to people making drastic decisions in an effort to take some of that control back.
"In a nutshell, people may be more excited than ever to find ways of feeling in control over their bodies, and changing our hair is a way to do this," says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York.
According to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, an NYC neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, the novel coronavirus is "a unique storm that we are all navigating," with the possibility of bringing about several mental health concerns, such as "isolation, depression, anxiety, fear of death, fear of the unknown, and economic uncertainty."
However, don’t assume your friend who just dyed their hair bright green and gave themselves baby bangs did it because they’re dealing with something deeper internally. Essentially, being inundated with such dire news about COVID-19 constantly can make some people say, "YOLO!!!!!" like it’s 2011 all over again and push them to do something they’ve been putting off. "While it is possible that a mental breakdown could prompt someone to shave their hair or change their appearance, it can just as easily be a fun and liberating experience to try something you have been pondering for a long time," says Dr. Hafeez.
Such is the case for 18-year-old TikTok user Zoë Ponce, who posted her own quarantine hair dyeing video, in which she dyed her bangs and the front two pieces of her golden blonde hair bright pink. "Dyeing my hair is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I guess I just never had the time or a good reason to do it," she tells Elite Daily. "Quarantine kinda just gave me the best excuse."
Quarantine also offers a bit of a unique post-hair transformation situation, namely that if you or someone else absolutely hates it, no one ever has to see it or judge it because, well, you’re not really seeing anyone. "It is possible that the stress and isolation caused by this outbreak could result in people trying things they wouldn’t have before, because now they have time alone at home, away from any judgment or pressure to look a certain way," says Dr. Hafeez.
The fact that none of us are interacting with many people, if anyone, IRL actually presents another possible reason for so many hair changes, according to Dr. Carmichael. When posted to social media, these quarantine hair videos and photos have garnered an unbelievable amount of engagement. On TikTok, some videos have racked up likes in the hundreds of thousands and views in the millions. In a time where people are craving interaction of some kind, that must feel like the next best thing to a hug at happy hour. "Changing our hair and posting pics on social media also invites more social media interaction, which may feel helpful to us right now, since quarantine decreases our natural habits of connection with others," says Dr. Carmichael.
All in all, the aftermath of a bad haircut or dye job just may not seem that bad to people either, given everything going on. "A crisis like this puts things in perspective. Whereas a bad manicure or haircut might have sent some [people] into a frenzy pre-COVID, I think most people realize that these types of cosmetic changes are temporary, and they are willing to take a ‘gamble’ at this time," says Dr. Hafeez. "The wrong nail polish color is pretty low on the list of things to freak out about these days!" In some cases, Dr. Hafeez says taking the gamble on their hair might even help them relieve some stress or worry.
Though Ponce says she ended up having to dye her hair twice because the first result wasn’t quite what she had in mind, she doesn’t regret her own gamble one bit. "I am very happy that I did it. It’s made me feel more myself, and it’s allowed me to express myself in a more creative way."
Regardless of the end result, I think it’s safe to say you’ll see a lot of fantasy-colored heads popping out post-quarantine. As for the hairstylists of the world? Expect lots of cut- and color-correction appointments.
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