How to Style Your Overgrown Hair While You Wait for the World to Open up Again

Dear barber, I miss you more than you can imagine.

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I got a haircut in early March, and on my way out, I went ahead and booked another one. That appointment was originally scheduled for Friday — yeah, this Friday — and as you might imagine, it was cancelled due to the unforeseen appearance of a global pandemic that shutdown the entire Earth. When I can book a new appointment remains unclear.

Now, a lot of people are in the same situation. By forcing barber shops and hair salons to momentarily close their doors, the pandemic has implemented an involuntary period of hair growth among us all.

Of course, there are many, many worse things to be worried about right now than your untidy mop. But seeing as hairdressers may be closed down for quite some time, you might be compelled to make the most of what you can with your overgrown mane, if only for your periodic video conferences (or maybe because it just makes you feel a little bit better).

Unfortunately, though, without the help of a professional, getting your dense bushel of hair to look its best is a longshot. Recently, when I asked for tips on managing your hair as it grows long during quarantine, Desiree Eichelbaugh, a hairdresser in Washington, replied, “There’s nothing you can do. Shave it, wait for your hairstylist or braid it.”

There are, however, a few simple tweaks you can make to your hair care routine to slightly improve the appearance of your locks for the time being, at least until barbers open back up. If you have straight hair that falls forward as it grows out, you can start by putting your products to good use. As hairstylist Natalie Rose Dixon previously explained to us, “If your hair falls forward when in an awkward stage, use a paste or clay to slick it back — apply the product when your hair is 60 percent dry. If your hair naturally falls backward (or is really thin), lightly apply pomade or cream to keep it from looking disheveled.” The latter is primarily meant to prevent flyaways and frizziness, which can quickly make themselves known without your regular trips to the barber.

While you apply those products, make sure to also use them (preferably the heavier ones, like a paste or clay) to slick the sides of your hair behind your ears. Otherwise, that area can become extra poofy without regular trimming. Once you do that, you can have some fun styling the lengthier top of your hair (see below for some example) to create new styles that you never could have sported without longer hair.

Curly hair is a whole new ball game and typically requires a lot more maintenance than straight hair. Rather than focusing on styling products, if you have curly hair, you really want to employ products that keep your locks healthy. For starters, if you wash your hair every day, you might want to start washing it every other day, which prevents excessive damage from shampoo and stops your curls from going frizzy, since the natural oils on your scalp help weigh them down. Similarly, using a conditioner every time you wash your hair, if not more often, can keep your curls from spiraling out of control, as can using a leave-in conditioner. It can also be helpful to sleep on a satin pillowcase or wrap your head in a satin scarf before going to bed, since satin maintains the natural oils in your hair, whereas cotton can dry it out, which can result in a nasty case of bed head, especially for those with curly hair.

Of course, your hair can never be too healthy, curly or straight, so if you have straight hair, you can try implementing these curly hair techniques, too. Just know that if your hair is extra fine, you might need to keep shampooing regularly and ease up on any leave-in conditioners to prevent greasiness.

And that about does it. So hang in there and remember: Even if your hair looks like a mutated dandelion without the help of your barber, this too shall pass.