5 Tips for Getting by Without Your Barber

Here are a few ways you can still keep your growing hairs in order.

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God bless the barbers. And the stylists. And the colorists. Like so many other professionals, the hair experts are largely unable to work in the current COVID-19 climate, and their absence is quickly noticed. If you aren’t resigned to a full-head buzz yet, you may be by the time this pandemic is all done.

Or perhaps you’re holding out, and for the time being are faced with something amorphous, mop-like, mushroomy or some other kind of unkempt. Such is the reality, and it’s not such a big problem in the grand scheme of things. But besides the alternatives — such as covering it up with a hat, falling victim to a DIY hack job or resorting to the full buzz cut — here are a few ways you can still keep your growing hairs in order. Or, as best as possible.

And next time you see your barber or stylist, tip them big. Or, contact them now and send them cash via PayPal or Venmo just because. They definitely need it these days, plus you can’t deny that they keep you looking your best in normal times.

1. To counter bulk: Wash less, condition more

Washing your hair makes it voluminous since it strips away the oils in the hair that weigh things down. These oils aren’t all bad though, in moderation, because they also condition the hair and keep it hydrated and healthy.

When used on its own, conditioner also helps flush away excess grease and grime, doing much of shampoo’s work for it. It also nourishes the scalp and leaves everything feeling soothed, soft and the perfect amount of shiny. Hopefully, you’re already using conditioner anyway — daily, or at least following any shampoo application (but never combined together, since the conditioner’s job is to restore everything the shampoo strips. If you use them together or in the wrong order, the conditioner is neutralized by shampoo).

By conditioning more than you shampoo, you can control the volume of your hair. Not only will it be softer and more healthy on the whole, but it won’t poof up, plus it’ll be easier to tame with any products you use. It’s still good to shampoo once a week or so, but give yourself an extra few minutes with the conditioner after the fact.

Check out our 10 favorite conditioners as well as our 12 favorite shampoos.

2. Mind the edges

The easiest way to extend the life of a haircut — or to clean up a mop-like hairdo — is to define the edges of the entire thing. It’s the same as trimming your neckline and cheek lines even if you’re growing a big, bushy beard. By simply defining the border and intentionally “outlining” it, everything looks immediately cleaner. This isn’t as important for longer, straighter styles, but if your short- or medium-length hair has been cut in the last couple months, you can still likely see where the barber last “drew” this outline, and can, in turn, go in with a trimmer to clean it up. (If you live alone, you may need a three-panel mirror in your bathroom or a handheld one to help.) If you aren’t going to attempt buzzing or cutting your own hair, then a standard-fare beard trimmer will work for this task.

You should also clean up any wiry, curly sideburns, and can comb the sides of your hair forward across the newly-drawn perimeter. After you do this, feel free to snip at any hairs that extend over the clean line. Ditto goes for any hairs that fall over the ears on shorter styles. These are all ways to keep the edges clean and to extend the wear of your current cut.

Check out our favorite beard trimmers.

3. Try the slick back

Whenever someone grows out their hair intentionally, they have to endure a long, awkward growing phase. Typically the hair is still trimmed, texturized and layered throughout the year or two of growth, to keep it looking presentable. With current social-distancing measures, since a proper trimming is not possible, one way to endure each day is to simply slick the hair back with a high-hold product — something applied when your clean hair is towel-dried but still a little damp.

A pomade will give you Mad Men levels of shine, while a gel can add even more grip and control. A paste will give you more “touchable” hair, plus less shine when applied to damp hair. You needn’t go all the way into a shiny slick back, though — simply combing any lightweight product into damp hair — creams, clays, putties, for example — will sort everything to the side or back, and give you some semblance of order up top.

Learn how to find the right hair product for you, based on hold and shine.

4. Use your hat — but only briefly

How your hair dries will play the biggest role in how manageable it is for the day ahead. With that in mind, here’s a lowbrow hack that actually works: After showering and applying your hair product, put a ballcap on for about 5-10 minutes. You want to do this long enough to impact the shape of the style (in that, you’re preventing it from ballooning as it dries), but short enough that you don’t end up with helmet hair.

This is best done if you’re wearing short or medium styles forward over the forehead, as opposed to slicked to the side. (It still works for those, but that style, as mentioned above, often requires higher-hold products in the first place, which also do the task.) If you want a lightweight hold that doesn’t mushroom at the sides and suppresses extra bulk, just do this hat trick every morning — paired with a hair cream, paste or clay.

5. Mind your vitamins

Your body needs nutrients, and we would never suggest cutting these out of your diet, especially in times where you need to be as strong and healthy as possible. However, some vitamins really up the ante more than others — especially anything targeted at hair growth.

If you’re taking pills that encourage hair growth, now might be the time to scale back on those. Of course, don’t cease using anything that prevents hair fall. But, if you’re taking biotin supplements (Vitamin B7, B8 or Vitamin H) specifically to grow your hair stronger and longer, you might consider scaling back on those until your barber is back in business. And if you’re currently at the crossroads of excess hair fall and aren’t sure you can make this sacrifice, then pick your battles. It’s better to have strong, unkempt hair than to have brittle (and less) hair.

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