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Tampa Bay hairstylists offer advice on what to do with your hair while staying at home

Should you buy boxed hair dye? Cut your own bangs? We’ve got tips for handling your hair during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shari Ellis waits for her hair color to set.
Shari Ellis waits for her hair color to set. [ KATHY SAUNDERS | Larry Ellis ]
Published Apr. 7, 2020|Updated Apr. 7, 2020

Julia Louis-Dreyfus tweeted this weekend about the new chic fashion look: “mousy” hair. One of her followers described her own gray roots as “skunk lines,” declaring they are the new highlights. Someone confessed to using a bingo dabber on her grays.

We’re right there with them.

Admittedly, it may be a minor problem right now, but women and men are wondering what will become of their tresses during weeks spent at home. Will they cover their gray hair? Should they use over-the-counter products in a pinch? Should they cut their own hair or bangs?

Is this the time to let it all go and stop fighting the inevitable?

Local hairstylists may be temporarily out of business, but they are still here to help answer some of those questions.

Lin-Z Robertson, who has rented a space at Salon Lofts in the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg for the past 10 years, said she is telling clients “don’t cut your hair and don’t ask your friends to cut your hair. Just go with it.”

Robertson, 42, said she absolutely doesn’t want clients to buy drugstore hair color kits to cover their gray.

“Please don’t get some random box color, because it’s going to be a lot harder and more expensive for your hairdresser to fix when this is done,” she said, adding that the chemicals in the boxed kits are harsher than salon products and can damage hair.

Her message? Just relax.

“We really don’t have anywhere to go, and hair shouldn’t be that high on anyone’s priority list,” she said. “It’s not going to kill you to go a month without getting your hair done. Then, when all the hairdressers have been out of work for six weeks, go support your hairdresser.”

For her clients who can’t handle the stress, Robertson has recommended they use spray color to just cover the gray strands. It washes out in a day or two.

She is also willing to drop off a root touchup kit to customers’ front doors.

“I know their exact color and formula,” she said.

Related: Tips for cutting your own hair (or your partner's hair) at home

Many stylists are making such house calls.

Cayla Orns, a 31-year-old stylist at Salty Roots Salon and Boutique on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, said she has been selling personalized color kits to her clients since the shutdown began. So far, she has delivered nearly 40 of her $45 bags containing gloves, color and combs.

Several hairdressers said they are also warning clients who insist on over-the-counter color kits to be sure they buy semipermanent products.

“People definitely should talk to their stylist before doing anything rash or crazy color-wise, just so you don’t end up paying thousands because you have destroyed your hair,” said Kristen Graham, a stylist at Auracle Salon in St. Petersburg.

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Graham, 42 and a stylist for the past 16 years, said she, too, will drop off personalized coloring formulas to her clients in need. But, she said, “I am encouraging them to let their hair have a break during this time. They should condition it and leave it alone, away from hot dryers and styling tools.”

Frankly, she said, “No one cares.”

Graham’s client Jan Fazio said she has taken that advice to heart.

“We have just been taking this virus very seriously from the beginning. I have missed one hair appointment now and I am just going to go cold turkey and see how it goes,” she said. At 67, Fazio said her blondish hair is a bit more coarse, and hiding the roots isn’t a huge deal.

Graham said she has six male clients who have already shaved their heads since she stopped working.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Austin Meadows posted pictures of his newly shaven head this weekend. Meadows said neither he nor his wife, Alexis, knew how to cut hair, so shaving it was the best option until he can get a professional cut. His brother, Parker, a minor league player for the Detroit Tigers, did the same.

“He’s not as bald as me, but pretty shaved,” he said.

For many black women, ignoring their hair for a month isn’t an option.

“My clients really need to condition their hair at least twice during the 30 days," said Latoyer Norfleet, 39, of Pure Urban Styling House on First Avenue N in St. Petersburg. "There is so much salt in the air and it makes the hair sticky, and once it dries out it just dries and sucks all of the moisture out of the hair. Their hair becomes brittle, especially if they wear a relaxer.”

Norfleet said she started handing out samples of her conditioning products to clients when she saw the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns looming. Clients who color their hair need protein treatments as well, she said.

“I have put in a lot of work to grow some of my clients’ hair extra healthy, so I will go the extra mile for them," she said.

She is advising some of her clients to condition their hair by shampooing with conditioner and leaving it on for 30 minutes. If they don’t have a plastic cap to wear over it for 30 minutes, she said, a plastic shopping bag will do.

Norfleet said she had a weave in her hair before the pandemic but heard the virus could linger in hair.

“So I took the weave out and went shorter and added color to it to give it a little sex appeal, and that’s what I have been rolling with since this started,” she said.

Fazio said she is continuing to pay Graham even though she isn’t getting her hair done.

“I am fortunate enough to be able to do that, and I want Kristen to continue on after this,” she said.

Another client who paid Graham in advance is Shari Ellis of St. Pete Beach. She considered ordering some products from Graham but didn’t want to risk even a dropoff delivery because she is concerned about exposing her 80-year-old father to the virus. So she broke down and bought a boxed kit at a local store.

Larry Ellis prepares to color his wife Shari's hair in their kitchen.
Larry Ellis prepares to color his wife Shari's hair in their kitchen. [ Shari Ellis ]

“Yesterday my husband Larry donned an apron and some gloves and he did my hair," said Ellis, 59. "It was super easy and it really lifted my spirits.”

Ellis said it hasn’t bothered her to stop wearing makeup or jewelry for weeks, but her gray roots were getting her down.

“It was definitely good for my state of mind, and I have a pretty good attitude most of the time. I just needed that.”

Shari Ellis shows off her newly colored hair.
Shari Ellis shows off her newly colored hair. [ Larry Ellis ]

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