Should You Cut and Dye Your Own Hair While You’re Stuck at Home?

Two local experts weigh in.

cut your own hair

Photo via Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

With several weeks at home under your belt, you’re probably beginning to wonder what to do about the platinum dye job or the bangs you’re trying to maintain. So we asked two local experts—Jessica Thornton, owner of Green Room salon on Beacon Hill, and Sal Malafronte, artistic director at Back Bay- and Seaport-based Salon Mario Russo—for their thoughts on taking care of your hair during the pandemic. Read on for their advice.

Point-blank, can and should people attempt to cut or dye their hair at home right now?

Thornton: It’s totally possible. I’ve walked lots of people that are not hairdressers through cutting hair. It’s just a series of body movements. My suggestion is to contact your hairdresser and see if you can do a Zoom call so they can help walk you through it. I’m doing that for my neighbors and my clients. I wouldn’t suggest looking at a YouTube video and trying to do it because everyone is different, and you need that live feedback and direction. You don’t really want to use paper-cutting scissors because those bend the hair, but you could order special scissors or use nail clippers or sewing scissors. Any type of super-sharp small scissors would work really well.

Malafronte: I do not recommend cutting or coloring your hair when you are at home. If you do not have the proper salon scissors, you’re going to get yourself in a jam, and you’re better off having a haircut or bangs that are a bit overgrown than having a haircut you gave yourself. There are so many things that you can do with styling to make your hair look really good and get through the hump until you can get back to your salon. You can do a topknot, you can do a ponytail, you can tuck your hair behind your ears, move the bangs to the side. There’s no reason to be getting out scissors.

There’s so much that goes into getting a good hair color, too. If something goes wrong with any of the steps, it could put you in an even worse mood than having some visible roots. And it can take a while to get your hair back to where it was before. If you wait it out, when you get back to the salon, [your stylist] can get you right back to where you were before. People go to hair school and do advanced training and education throughout their careers for a reason. This is not just something where you can say, “Oh, I’m going to cut my own hair. I’m going to color my own hair.” We work and educate ourselves for years and years and years to know how to do this.

How do you recommend people hide their grown-in roots at home?

Malafronte: The number one thing you can do is order a root spray online. My two favorites are the root spray from Oribe and from R+Co. Those are temporary color sprays that will wash out when you wash your hair, but they’re really effective. It can cover grays, but it can also help if your hair is naturally brown and you’ve dyed it blond. I always recommend matching your hair color and then maybe going one shade lighter because it can look artificial if [the spray] is too dark. It’s a safe, quick, and easy way to get rid of roots and not screw up your hair. And it looks really natural: If you’re doing a Zoom call or FaceTime, there’s no way that anybody would be able to tell.

Thornton: I’m making touch-up kits for my clients to use at home, and so are lots of other hairdressers. Ask your hairdresser for a recommendation. I would definitely recommend using a demi-permanent color two shades lighter than your natural hair color on clean, dry hair, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. [I’d endorse] anything by L’Oreal. The truth is that’s almost the exact same product [we use in salons]. A lot of hairstylists would disagree with me on that, but we’ve all been brainwashed to [say] it’s different. You can coat the skin around your hairline with Chapstick, too, which will prevent the color from staining your skin. Don’t use anything permanent that will be hard for hairdressers (or you!) to fix.

How else can people take care of their hair while they’re stuck at home?

Malafronte: Take the time and opportunity to get your hair to a really healthy place. Nobody should be washing their hair all the time. There are masks you can use to keep hair moisturized and strong during this time, but there isn’t really anything you can do to preserve the color beyond using a color-support shampoo, conditioner, and mask.

Thornton: I’d say don’t use a lot of hair masks and don’t leave them on too long. It’s tempting to just sit in your house with a hair mask on, and you think, “Oh it’s better, because my hair is so soft.” But the mask can pull the hair color out, so I wouldn’t do that. My number one tip is rinse [all hair products thoroughly], but not with super-hot water—that’s going to give it the best texture, volume, and shape. When hair starts to look flat and frizzy, it’s usually because it’s not rinsed enough, and the product creates a sticky layer on the hair.

How can people support their hairdressers right now?

Thornton: The “business” answer is to buy a gift certificate. It’s a very kind thing that helps keep us afloat now, but I do think that’s going to create a problem down the line because we’re not going to be making any money. It would also be very kind to give your hairdresser an Amazon gift certificate, or a CSA share, or something small that helps them meet their basic needs because what’s going on is really hard for us right now. And if you’re going to order products, do it through your hairdresser. They can dropship it, so it ships straight from the manufacturer, but they’ll get a commission on it.

Malafronte: Let’s get you back on track and booked for your haircut appointments and color appointments for the rest of the year. [Our salon] has a plan in place so that when we go back, we will be fired up on all cylinders, doing whatever we can to get our clients into the salon and feeling good about themselves. When we have a date that we’re going to be open again, we’ll have our call center on the line taking calls three days before so you can start booking appointments. We’re going to be working around the clock and doing it happily because we cannot wait to get back to work and see our clients.

Green Room, 40 River St., 617-720-2121, Salon Mario Russo, 9 Newbury St., 617-424-6676; 22 Liberty Drive, 857-350-3139,