Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyNovember 26, 2021

Lockdown attempts at home grooming, reviewed

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Over 100 salon-less days, desperate Aucklanders, horrified by their natural states, resorted to all kinds of ill-advised DIY beauty treatments. Here, a few brave Spinoff souls relive the trauma.

Haircut (1)

A month into lockdown, I’d had enough. Hair was falling into my eyes. Much of it was going grey. I blame the stress, not age. Either way, I couldn’t take it. I grabbed the clippers, and I began cutting. I started with the sides. It looked good! After four weeks of staying at home, growing unwelcome hair on my head, it felt crisp, fresh and clean. I turned to the back, and blindly started clipping. I felt something fall onto my foot. Probably just all the hair. I kept clipping. Oh the freedom! I’d never need to pay for another haircut again! Why did the back of my head feel so naked though? Yep, the No 1 blade had fallen off, and I was giving myself a full “0”, the kind of shearing that a reluctant sheep gets. My hairdresser has a hell of a job ahead of her to fix up the mess I made. I’m seeing her next week. I’m going to get a telling off, I just know it.

– Chris Schulz

Reweti’s trusty clippers and Chris’s handiwork

Haircut (2)

​​I gave my boyfriend a fade, which is an ambitious endeavour for someone who has never given anyone a haircut before. But my significant other was complaining about how unprofessional he looked and, well, I stepped up to the makeshift seat in our tiny bathroom, armed with knowledge gleaned from a YouTube explainer entitled “Perfect fade in 4 minutes | How to cut Men’s hair | Best tutorial”.

With my Wahl colour pro home clippers in one hand and his head in the other, I ploughed ahead, remembering it was his hair and not mine. My clippers have guide combs that come in different colours depending on the length you want shaved off so I started with a No 3 and then worked my way down to a No 1, swapping the blue comb for the purple one then for red as I shaved out the visible lines that marked their differing lengths. The result? An unintended bowl cut, and I had deluded myself into thinking he looked good as a monk. But I saw the sheer terror in my partner’s eyes and then got immediately defensive that he had asked me to do this to him – a mature response from someone centring his own feelings when it wasn’t even his hair on the literal chopping block.

Ten minutes later, armed with more knowledge from 20-plus years of watching hairdressers cut my hair, I had scissors in my hands and an intention to cut some thickness from the top of his head. And it looked great once I was done – less monkish, more 30-year-old young professional, except I may have cut too much from his fringe, much to his earlier warnings not to do so. Terror reappeared in his eyes and he assured me his fringe would grow back quickly. He then took globs of hair wax to style the mistake out. Two months later, the fade looks beautiful and we didn’t break up over it. But I will not be doing it again, nor will I let him touch my hair.

– Reweti Kohere

Manicure

For six years now I’ve been getting my nails done professionally. I do this for a few reasons. Practically, because of my job, I have to look at my hands a lot. If there’s something nice to look at, I’ll feel better. Emotionally, I like compliments and it’s a very easy thing for people to compliment, and because I go to the best nail artist in Auckland, I get a lot of compliments. Ritually, my mother also used to have her nails painted and it’s a way for me to feel a bit connected to her.

I had my last nail appointment a week out from lockdown. Over the next two months, I watched with horror and revulsion as my nails grew out, the art slipping further and further away from me, quite literally. When I had only one little pinky left, I took matters into my own hands. I marched myself down to Unichem, picked up some clear coat and a colour, and got to work. I have never painted my own nails. Why would I? I get them done professionally. I’ve also never flown a plane. I pay a company to hire a professional to do that. But enough was enough: I could not stand at my bareassnaked nails for any longer.

What should have been a simple, meditative, half-hour task, as it was for my much more dexterous and elegant mother, turned out to be an hour-and-a-half-long task. It took me 15 minutes to get the bottles open. I stained my bench. I stained my hands. And then, when I thought everything was dry, I went to wash my hands and saw the paint seep off like sludge. I had failed. I kept my mutated polish on as a reminder: some things are best left to professionals.

– Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks’ attempt at nail art

Lash tinting

I have very fair eyelashes, so in normal times I get them tinted by a professional every couple of months. To be honest, after the initial drama of a new tint fades, I end up using mascara anyway, but it’s still worth it because I look less like a translucent ghoul when I’m confronted with my barely awake reflection in the bathroom mirror in the morning. During the darkest days of alert level four, I all but abandoned grooming of any form, including mascara. While some people thrive when freed from the shackles of societal beauty expectations, embracing the natural look was not good for my wairua, so I returned to mascara and immediately felt just a touch better. But because staring at my tiny laptop screen for 12 hours a day (plus, of course, the existential despair brought on by lockdown), necessitated a lot of eye rubbing, mascara wasn’t a fault-free solution.

Enter 1000 Hour Enhance Beauty Lash & Brow Dye in natural black ($25.49 from Chemist Warehouse). Everything I read on the internet suggested tinting one’s own lashes was not a good idea, but I figured I could trust anything Dan and Honor Carter sold me. Plus the box said it was made from gentle plant extract – surely that won’t make me go blind? The process was simple enough and the instructions clear – first you dip the black mascara wand in the stuff from the black tube (colour cream) and whack it in your lashes like you’re applying mascara. After a couple of minutes, you wipe it off, then chuck on the stuff in the pink tube (developer gel) with the pink wand and leave that for a minute before wiping off.

All went well with my right eye and the first stage of my left, but once I got to the final hurdle (the developer gel), I got the shakes and jabbed myself right in the eyeball. It hurt heaps and I let out a yelp that gave my dog a fright, then pulled myself together and flushed it out with water for a good 30 seconds (the box says you should do it for 30 minutes, but that seemed excessive*). My eyeball recovered soon after and I can still see, so I guess silver nitrate, the main ingredient of the developer gel, isn’t as scary as it sounds. (In fact, Wikipedia tells me that in the 19th century, silver nitrate was put in newborn babies’ eyes to prevent them from contracting gonorrhoea from their mother, so at least I’ll now avoid an ocular STD, I guess.)

But while 1000 Hour Enhance Beauty Lash & Brow Dye didn’t seem to do me any lasting damage, it also did not make any discernible difference to my limpid lashes. Possibly I was too stingy with the gels, but with beauty salons mercifully reopening next week, I won’t be making use of the 11 remaining applications to find out.

– Alice Neville

*It is not advised to follow my example here

1000 hours of failure

Brow bleaching

I’ve been experimenting with makeup looks recently, and since about six months ago I’ve been regularly combing concealer through my thick-ass, coal-black eyebrows. It’d be cute for the first few hours, and then the concealer and powder would break apart, leaving clumpy bits of too-pale product mixed in with my natural oils. So, rather than spend big cash-money for some better concealer, I spent $13.99 on some Nair Face Bleach at the Chemist Warehouse. 

The face bleach came in two little containers: the bleach cream and an ammonium powder. Dutifully, I first washed my eyebrows with cold water in the sink, and then measured two spatulas of cream and one spatula of powder in the mixing cup. The product said to patch test and wait 72 hours to check for a reaction. In my lockdown-fatigued, delirious state, I did not do that. Instead, I threw my eyebrows and the skin around them into the hands of fate, using the spatula to back-comb the product through my brows to reach the root, before covering them completely. 

The product itself was thick and goopy, which is good, as you don’t want it to run. Unfortunately I have the hand-eye coordination of a fish. Even so, I managed to avoid chemical burns to my eyeballs by frantically wiping any spills with plenty of cold water and tissue. I also had to wash the bleach off with my head upturned in the sink, learning the hard way that yes, eyebrows and eyes are indeed very close together. 

The results of the first round were underwhelming – my brows had become only a few shades lighter, more a dark brown than a true black. I nervously asked my flatmates what they thought about another round, and was told that I could keep going as long as my eyebrows weren’t falling off, and the skin wasn’t too irritated. I took their advice a bit too well, and ended up bleaching my brows five times (which is certainly not recommended) to reach this beautiful coppery blonde. 

Fortunately I must have skin like a mammoth, as I’ve yet to develop an adverse reaction five days on. The only downside is that eyebrows grow much faster than you might realise, and mine are already showing roots. If you’re thinking about it, bleached brows are definitely cheap and easy to do at home (with a lot of care and patience). But maintenance and a fear of chemical burns are important factors to think about. And unlike me, you should probably think about it before putting toxic chemicals within an inch of your eyes.

– Naomii Seah

Naomii’s brow journey

Bikini wax

As the weather warmed and alert-level-three-step-whatever dragged on, the tantalising allure of beach swimming emerged as an alternative to the endless tedium of lockdown life. In preparation, I figured I’d give a minor home bikini wax a go (nothing drastic – no Brazilians here thank you very much). The first hurdle was not having a microwave to heat the tub of Nad’s Brazilian and Bikini Wax I’d bought, but I ignored the stern advice on the instructions to not under any circumstances use hot water to heat it up and used hot water to heat it up. It took ages and several kettles of boiling water, but the wax softened up eventually.

The application process was actually easier than I thought, but there were a couple of minor mishaps (not leaving a little curl of wax at the end that you can grab to rip it off, and accidentally getting wax on the part I was NOT wanting to remove, resulting in a couple of unsightly bald patches). Still, it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster, and sometimes that’s as good as you can hope for in this life. 

– Anon

Pickle: before and after Jane’s attempt at grooming

Dog grooming

When it comes to lockdown grooming, I’m a lost cause. I’ve let myself become a withered husk of split ends, flaky skin, brittle nails and a weird new dermatitis on my index finger. But just because I’ve stopped attending to my health and beauty needs doesn’t mean I should project the same level of self-don’t-care on my beloved dog, Pickle. 

Pickle is a fluff ball with a mop of fur that both grows and matts at an alarming rate. With regular professional grooming, Pickle presents as a delightful trotting cloud of candy floss. Without it, as I discovered during lockdown, he presents as a dog version of Worzel Gummidge. When Pickle’s fur started dragging on the ground and bits of Lego were getting caught in his tangles, I knew I had to take action.  

And so started the dangerous thought pattern that went: how hard can grooming a dog really be? Perhaps a home pup-cut could be this year’s sourdough? Maybe investing in the right tools will mean I can forever keep my money from the clutches of Big Grooming?

Turns out grooming a dog is really hard, I am as adept at maintaining my dog as I was at maintaining 2020’s sourdough starter, and not only will Big Grooming continue to relieve me of my cash, but now Animates has also benefited from my investment into clipper shares that will never yield a return.

Not only was the process of trying to groom Pickle entirely unenjoyable for all parties, the end result was also less than ideal. He was left with patchy fur, bald spots and random long tendrils. To top it off, the terrible idea to trim his moustache has exposed a sort of unhinged grimace that is all kinds of unflattering on a small dog. 

Never again. Well, not in this lockdown anyway.

– Jane Yee

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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