If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a faithful creature of beauty habit. I have my favorite hairstylist and colorist, my go-to dermatologist, my eyelash extensions lady, my manicure at one specific Japanese nail salon downtown that uses a made-in-Japan gentle gel formula you can’t get anywhere else. And I like to think, after 12 years of being a beauty writer, that my favorites are the best and I waltz in there with the confidence of knowing that my services (and conversation) will be divine and the results aligned with my highly informed taste. What I hadn’t realized is how much, despite being a beauty expert, I’d completely relied on these services to keep me, well, sane. What happens when I am left to my own devices? What happens when time of day or even day of the week becomes as muddled as a mojito? What happens to memory when it’s befuddled by kids ignoring their online schooling programs and going banshee in the house? For what really happened, I had to pour myself a tall one and walk back, socially distanced 6 feet away from anyone else, down memory lane to the beginning of New York’s shelter-in-place.
Day 2: I am applauding myself for having had the good fortune of a color appointment just days ago. Not only that, but my favorite colorist, Lionel at David Mallett salon in Soho, had painted on a beautiful balayage with darker roots than usual. This one will grow out nicely, and it might be the best color I’ve ever had. Too bad there are very few people to see it!
Day 7: My gel nails are starting to look frightening. I start googling “How to remove gel nails” and go on the hunt for 100 percent acetone remover—sold out everywhere!
Day 8: My Botox is still fresh, but filler is starting to look patchy. I text my friend and dermatologist (handy!) Dr. Dendy Engelman on what to do. She basically tells me to chill—in her lovely, friendly, Southern way. “The good news is Botox lasts about four months, and hyaluronic acid fillers last up to one year (Voluma two years!). Chances are you should be fine for a few months,” she tells me. She does suggest that I try a new retinol or retinoid product to “promote collagen production” and “help with fine lines and wrinkles.” If things start to look really droopy, she suggests investing in a jade roller or even one of the fancy at-home devices like Conture or NuFace. “They are great ways to improve skin quality and address wrinkles and sagging while we have the time to devote to them,” she texted—smile emoji.
Day 9: Hair color still looking great, but I’ve stopped doing my hair altogether. Who’s going to see? Hello, trusty dry shampoo!
Day 10: My skin is starting to look drab. The culprit? Likely poor sleep and too much wine. Since the chances of either better sleep or less wine are dismal, I compensate by overexfoliating. (All that time to inspect pores now!) Dendy reminds me to chill out: “Now’s not the time to go with super-invasive peels. You don’t want to make your skin barrier vulnerable to infections or other issues.”
Day 15: Hair color still looking O.K. Gel nails out of control. Acetone is still out of stock everywhere. Who could have predicted the day that acetone and toilet paper would be the hottest beauty items around? But I’m starting to feel restless. I debate whether to cut bangs to change things up. My hairstylist David Mallett writes from Paris, where he is based. No, no, “Now is not the time to try bangs for the first time.” He also says, “Don’t pretend you’re a newly minted YouTube star and attempt a geometrical cut that requires skilled precision or do any type of cut that falls on the neck, which makes errors even more visible.”
Day 17: Starting to lose it from seeing my kids and husband too much. What can get the endorphins flowing? A whiter smile! My dentist Marc Lowenberg sends me a simple DIY recipe of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. “Baking soda is minimally abrasive but removes surface stains from your teeth, and the hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen molecules, which helps whiten teeth,” he says. (Meanwhile, I’m thinking of how great my white grill will look on Zoom calls.) “You can do the paste twice a day, like toothpaste,” he adds. “Make it like you’re cooking chicken soup. Add a little hydrogen peroxide to the powder until you like the consistency. It will dry out before the next use, so add some fresh hydrogen peroxide to get it right each time.”
Day 20: About half of my eyelash extensions have fallen out. I pretend I’m doing a spiky Liza Minnelli lash look by loading on tons of mascara. Soul Lee, the eyebrow and eyelash guru and owner of NYC studio Beautiful Soul, wouldn’t approve of my DIY job. She says there’s nothing I can do but wait to see her. I think about a prison break.
Day 24: My grays are starting to show at my roots. I haven’t used home hair color since college. I call up color maestro Reyad Fritas of Suite Reyad, and he suggests Color Wow’s Root Cover Up (sold at Ulta!). I find it weird I’m applying what looks like eyeshadow to my roots, but it’s a new normal. I shrug and drink more wine.
Day 25: I finally just cut off my gel nails, but that leaves woeful leftover gel nail polish bits. Who’s going to see?
Day 27: I attempt to meditate using Insight Timer. It doesn’t take.
Day 30: I succumb to the new bangs temptation. I cut long, Jane Birkin–style ones. They don’t look bad, but I don’t tell David.
Day 31: I realize my bangs are uneven, so I ask David for advice. He suggests finding the sharpest scissors I have at home, which end up being a scary pair of kitchen shears, and finding some “brutally clear light.”
His step-by-step: “Trim your slightly damp, combed bangs without using a comb or pulling down on the hair while you are cutting—you don’t want any tension in the hair. Always cut less than you think you need to. You have time on your side, and you can go back to shorten your work if you need to.”
If you can, avoid touching your hair at all, he says. “If you simply cannot wait and possess a steady hand and feel confident, trim the superficial layer of the hair—the very top layer, like layering around the face or bangs, or the very bottom layer of the hair, like a trim to deal with split ends.” Hint taken: I am not cutting my hair again.
Day 32: I call up Reyad again. My grays—ack! He suggests buying Inoa by L’Oreal, as it’s a permanent color but is ammonia-free, so it won’t mess with your salon color. He calms me down by saying I’m lucky I’m not blonde and dealing with roots. What should my blonde friends do? “Honestly, it’s better to wait,” he says. “It’s easier if it’s a brunette base with highlights, but if your friends are completely blonde, it’s better to deal with some roots or wait as long as you can. If you suddenly go do a home single process, it can be a disaster that will take something like nine months to a year to fix!” Blondes with short hair should buy some pomade and go for a Kristen Stewart rock ’n’ roll look. Those with long hair should do a sleek ponytail. “Better to show off the line of your roots than try to hide it,” Reyad says. Oh, and start booking your colorist stat. Reyad already has a long line of clients who say they’re going to be his first when he reopens.
Day 33: I look in the mirror and I am definitely not my former polished self. I am sure the wine is not helping. I take David’s other advice and do a hair mask.
Day 34: I attempt to meditate listening to Tara Brach. I fall asleep. That’s a win, right?
Day 35: I realize I’ve stopped caring what my nails look like. I try a jade roller routine I found on YouTube, but I stop halfway through and bake cookies with my kids instead.
Day 36: I have not given up, but I realize I’m in a totally different mindset. Don’t mistake me, I’m going to be first in line for all of my favorite services when things reopen, but taking a break has been refreshing. So I feel extra assured when the brilliant writer and comedian Jill Kargman tells me: “I basically have succumbed to the beauty dumpster fire that is my quarantined self. I do a skincare routine—weirdly, my dermis is great. The bad news is my hands look like monkeys chewed on them and stuck them in the microwave, and I have grays sprouting along my part. I say surrender to the flow; we’ll all be hiddy in June, but will look extra great for summer.” Here’s to summer!