July 17, 2024

5 women reveal how the pandemic changed the relationship with their hair

Who would’ve thought that freeing your hair in its natural state would fester feelings of freedom and liberation?

Staying inside for six months straight, walking around the house bumping into mirrors in every room, while spending hours on end staring at your blurry, pixelated, reflection on Zoom can affect the way you see your hair in more ways than one. Hair upkeep was a hot topic amongst my friends and I. We had come to the realisation that conforming to social beauty standards is almost like walking around with shackles on your ankles everyday.

It’s exhausting, and sometimes you don’t want to do things for the sake of everyone else, you want to do it for yourself.

The last few months have truly been the months of ‘realising things’ – in my Kylie Jenner voice. As well as having some real life internal awakenings, for many women like me, one of our biggest revelations was how inconsistent the relationship with our own hair was.

Shei Mamona

Shei, 25. I’m a journalist and during lockdown I realised that my phobia of posting a picture of my afro puffs was somewhat irrational. Quite frankly, in the midst of a pandemic, the last thing the internet is concerned about is how each of my 4c curls lay.

While many women’s biggest social media phobia is to be pictured bare faced, for me, the concept of not having my natural hair hidden under a wig or braids was absolutely terrifying. I’ve only started to grow a real love for my natural hair once I started writing about beauty. Something about telling people they’re beautiful and that products just enhance that, really does something to you. I was preaching to others and that started ringing true in my own mind. The feeling of shame had left the chat.

In times of uncertainty I thought, the hell with the status quo. For the first time in the 10+ years I’ve had social media, I’d never properly posted a picture, clear as day, of me boasting my hair in its purest and most natural state, that was until a wild pandemic hit. Not having a reason to get done-up everyday had surprisingly festered positive feelings. It got to the point that I had to look at my afro so much, I just started to fall in love with it, and quite frankly, I wanted the world to know that.

Wearing wigs and weaves had always been my comfort blanket, my mask. We’re in 2020 now and in a climate where masks are there to actually protect people from a deadly virus, I would much rather save it for that, then waste it masking my insecurities. Letting my hair free for the world to see has most importantly reminded me that I am beautiful and that I am a fruit of my heritage, simply by existing, and to me, that’s very powerful in itself.

Mariam Musa

Mariam, 26, is a content creator and tells Glamour “I shaved my head and gave myself four years to grow it properly and in the process I’m falling in love with my natural hair all over again. ”

‘Prior to lockdown I had just done my big chop, and my goal was to keep my natural hair as healthy as possible and to grow it fast – I’ve been swearing by the rice water method. I wouldn’t usually actually have it out, it would always be braided and/or hidden underneath a glamorous wig. I never had a hairstylist for my natural hair, although I did have a go-to wig lady and would never do my own wigs. In fact before the pandemic I would go from wig, to wig, to wig. However, once we went into lockdown, I started putting them on myself but only when I was filming a video and took it off straight after in order to let my natural hair grow freely and flourish.

I definitely think that my followers would love and encourage me to post with my natural hair more often. I’ve always said that if my hairline was thick I would always have my natural hair out and up. I think it’s so flattering and really complements my face and accentuates my features. I’d decided to go on youtube with my natural hair recently.

I feel that with instagram people post when they feel 10/10, and I don’t feel 10/10 without my edges being right. That wasn’t as much of a problem with youtube, as it feels more personal. I am so glad I did that because, it created conversation on afro hair health and gave me a boost of confidence. But there is still work to do.

I gave myself four years until I’m 30, to grow my hair properly and take good care of it. One day when I have kids I’d love for them to be proud of their hair and heritage and in order to do that, I need to lead by example. I don’t want to have to rely on wigs for the rest of my life. When I look in the mirror with my wig, I see a fun, glamorous woman, ready to conquer the world. That’s the business Mariam, and she is a boss, and works hard.

However, the pandemic has taught me that I need to learn to take a break from it and that you don’t need to cater to the European standards 24/7. I would tell Mariam without the wig that she’s beautiful, and to prioritise loving and embracing her natural curls, above any negative thoughts. Also, to keep the hair journey going as it will be practice for when she has a little girl. ’

Olivia Cooper

Liv, 27, works as a Community Experience Manager and she tells Glamour: “I started going grey naturally at 16. Ten years of fighting it and with an almost full head of grey now, I love it and I’m not looking back. ”

‘I started greying when I was 16. I was very paranoid about it so I would try and pluck them out one by one, but it was like that Medusa thing where you pull one and another ten grow out. This wasn’t new in my family, strangely both of my parents started greying around age 21, although my sister who is five years older had nothing. I spent the next few years guilt tripping my parents into paying for highlights to merge the grey in since they were responsible for that inherited gene. Eventually they got tired of funding those £150 a pop hairdresser trips, so then I had to take on that expense myself.

Last summer I went to Africa for a couple of months, and because I had no access to a hairdresser that would be able to do my highlights, I was forced to let it be. All the kids around me were so confused by my hair and thought I was a really old person. When I came back I decided to keep it, it cost me £nothing and at the time it was purely for convenience.

The pandemic made me realise how my hair played a part in my identity. I started to notice it more because everyone was talking about how much they were gagging for a hair date with their colourist, or about their roots growth woes and it made me think about my own hair journey. I realised that I had fallen in love with it. It’s easier to manage (because it manages itself), it’s different, it makes me feel like I am my parents daughter and it makes me feel free.

During lockdown, I did go through a phase where I wanted to dye my hair pink. I figured it would blend quite well with my white/grey hairs. That probably came from the urge to do something different during such a strange and unpredictable time, but since I was on this journey of self acceptance, I was too scared to ruin it.

When I was younger I would be mortified to post a grey haired picture on my instagram. But now seeing pictures of me, next to my dad, mum and nana, it makes me feel more connected with my family. My mum and dad never tried to dye their own hair and have just embraced it. So I started to feel like a bit of a sell out.

People now ask me all the time: ‘Is this your real hair colour’ and then they say “Sorry I didn’t want to ask’. It’s like there is a stigma behind it, almost like it’s something to be shameful of. I did realise that showing my greys at the time was an irrational fear, and when you’re that age, the last thing you want to do is stand out.

You want to be like your friends, follow the trends, have the same make-up and wear the same Jesus Rocks Belts from All Saints… If I could speak to 16 year old me, I’d tell her to not conform and copy what everyone is doing. Your insecurities are non-issues and insignificant now. I don’t think I’d force my 17 year old self to embrace her grey then, because that was something I had to do when I was ready. However, now that I am here, there is no turning back. ’

Savanna Darnell

Savanna, 24, is a professional dancer, singer and content creator and she tells Glamour: ‘Lockdown let boredom get the best of me and I made some regretful decisions with my hair. I love my curls, so I’m working on getting them back. ’

‘Prior to lockdown the relationship with my hair has been a rollercoaster. My hair has always played a big role in my life, and it has changed a lot. I went through a phase in my teenage years not knowing how to handle my curl pattern so I would just straighten it every day. I grew up in a small town called Dinnington, so the first time I went to school with it curly, I got bullied and got called names. It took time to unlearn those bad hair habits.

It got to the point where I started to get so lazy with my hair that it became super dry and in really bad shape. I ended up shaving my hair back in 2018 for Make A Wish Charity and raised over £800.

During quarantine I got very bored, so I started to watch a LOT of curly hair youtubers (Jayme Jo) and she taught me a lot! I invested a LOT of money into the correct products for my hair and I started seeing results and seeing the curls that I loved make a return. Then I got bored of being blonde, so as soon as salons reopened I went ahead and dyed it brunette and had a chop. I went from one extreme of doing nothing to the other of doing the most and now my hair is like ‘What the hell is happening’ and the curls haven’t been the same since.

What this time experimenting and over manipulating my hair through the pandemic has taught me is that if I were to speak to my 17 year old self I would tell her to learn how to style her own hair. Stop straightening it to fit in with everyone. You’re not supposed to fit in. You’re UNIQUE. You have this “CRAZY” hair for a reason. Do not let shallow small minded people make you feel insecure. You are beautiful. Although my confidence has grown tenfold, I think that I still need to take this advice and maybe I need to prioritise keeping my natural curls healthy over any boredom quarantine antics. ’

Sophie Bennett

Sophie, 24, is a Customer Service Coach and she tells Glamour: “Only took me 23 years to realise that my curls were actually just hidden behind bad box dye jobs and frizz. I started an instagram page during the pandemic to document the journey”

‘My teenage years were spent experimenting with as much colour as possible. The boldest, brightest, most niche, I had them all. That was a recipe for disaster as years of dodgy box dye jobs made my hair damaged almost beyond repair. I always knew I had big hair, but I thought it was big because it was in bad condition. I never knew I had curly hair, I just thought it was a mess and a combination of nothingness. I had been told at a young age that my hair was just frizzy, and fly away, but it did always have a slight curl. I remember going to school and being shouted at by some girl ‘Why is your hair like that? ’ and even though I was never one to care to be a sheep, when you’re that age, you do just want to fit in.

I started to notice my new hair growth coiling on the roots, so then I just thought that if my roots are curling, surely the rest of my hair should too? So while I was debating whether I should fight against the stubborn curls at my roots, upon further investigation, I discovered the curly hair community on social media and it went from there.

During quarantine I noticed that I had more time to help my hair get healthier and stronger and my curls were starting to pop more. As soon as I started noticing changes, I decided I should keep a record of what I was doing and the products I was using in a book. Then I got bored of the writing so I started an instagram page to document it. Everyone was doing something during quarantine, that was my thing. I kind of turned it into my hobby. Sometimes I would even pop a mirror by my desk so I can track progress of how the curl is developing throughout the day. Judge away!

As soon as the salons opened I was excited to get a haircut, not because my hair desperately needed one, but because I am on a real journey to give it the attention it deserves.

For me the issue was that although I always tried to embrace my curly hair, I needed to learn how to enhance it. I think that when my hair looks good, I feel good. During the pandemic I wouldn’t mind walking around the house all day, everyday with pyjamas, but something about getting my hair right would give me the boost of confidence and joy I needed to tackle another day WFH (working from home). ’

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