Should men cut their hair during the pandemic?

I was staring at myself in front of the bathroom mirror with a pair of sheering scissors in my hand. It had been more than a month since my last haircut, a simple bi-weekly occurrence that makes me feel good and keep my somewhat longer hair looking presentable.

But then coronavirus started to spread around the country, closing down all non-essential businesses in most areas, including New York. There went most of my take-out options and my barber in my neighborhood.

As my hair grew thicker and more out-of-control, I took matters into my own hands. I rested a laptop on top of the bathroom toilet streaming YouTube videos on how to properly thin my hair and how to get a neat buzz around the sides. So I started chopping. And chopping and chopping and a huge mass of hair fell to my shoulders.

I balked, but I kept going. Bit-by-bit fell off my head and down to my shoulders and onto the floor. I took a buzzer and whizzed the sides down, buzzing away stray longer hairs like a mower to a garden. What I thought would be liberating turned out to be stressful. I looked up and saw uneven edges and what resembled elementary school picture day photos — a bowl cut.

Avoiding the dreaded bowl cut or any bad haircut during the COVID-19 pandemic is in your own hands. For some, it’s either to control and maintain your style during social distancing and quarantine, while for others, it’s a chance to embrace what your hair can do when there’s no one to impress around you.

Esquire and Men’s Health grooming editor Garrett Munce told Ladders that just because your hair is growing doesn’t mean you have to take matters into your own hands. The author of the forthcoming men’s grooming guide “Self-Care for Men: How to Look Good and Feel Great” shared tips on how to embrace your wild side and why now is the best time to experiment.

5 products to check out, according to Garrett Munce.

To grow or not to grow

Depending on your personal tolerance, there might not be a better time to see what your hair can do. While some will want more control and maintain shorter looks, Munce said if you’re nervous about cutting your own hair or don’t have the proper equipment, it might be the time to let your hair grow and see what happens. He recently spoke to a barber who said now is a great time to avoid using hair products and to let your hair reset itself.

“If you try to do it yourself and you’re not happy with how it looks, you’re going to get stressed out,” Munce said. “You’re going to be self-conscious, you’re going to be stressed, and you’re going to be impatient for it to grow back out. It’s just going to add a lot of anxiety to an already anxious situation.”

Coronavirus anxiety is very real. With people forced to abandon their day-to-day, it’s created stressful situations that could affect how you eat, sleep, and think, according to researchers. As people search for some type of control in a controlless situation, it might seem like the time to do something drastic, like shaving your head. But there are other ways to help maintain hair growth while making yourself feel like you’ve received a fresh cut, even if you’re not sitting on a barber stool.

Munce advised at looking to cleaning the neck and sides of your head to give yourself a new feel. If you’re alone in your apartment, he said to look elsewhere but if someone is quarantined with you, a razor or a clipper to the neck can give you some solace and make grooming a lot easier.

“That’s where the grow-out really looks messy when your hairline starts to get all messy and long and weird,” he said.

If you’re still not satisfied with a neck clean up and want to go all-in on a personal haircut, be mindful that it’s not going to look perfect. The essentials for a DIY-haircut include a hand mirror, clippers or buzzer, and scissors depending on how wild you want to get. If you think your beard trimmer is going to buzz through your hair, think again. Munce said most facial hair buzzers are not designed to cut through head hair, which is a different texture than facial hair. He said using a professional-grade hair clipper would be the first move if you wanted to give yourself a proper haircut, or even using trimmers, which work well for guys with shorter hair that want to clean up the edges and necklines.

“Most guys that are going to be doing their own hair at home are going to go for super basic styles like buzz cuts or a crew cut which are all clipper cuts,” he said. “A lot of them don’t need scissors. If you’re going to be doing your own hair cut, you’re going to be using clippers – you might have to adjust your style. Clippers offer uniformity while scissors have a lot of error that goes into there. Clippers are a little bit easier to use than a scissor situation.”

Change your products – or try something new

With time being plentiful and not much going on beyond your home, it could be the best time to change things up a bit. If your hair is growing long, Munce said to try looking to switching up your pomade or clay. Those two products typically work well when hair is shorter, but switching to a cream-based styling product could make a huge difference how your hair feels when it gets longer.

When it comes to washing your hair, you may have noticed that your morning and nightly routines have changed since working remotely or social distancing. Perhaps you aren’t working out every single day and now you’re showering less. Munce said it could be a good time to slow down and come up with a hair routine like washing your hair every other or three days to see how it interacts differently from your normal routine. He also said to use conditioner every time you wash your hair, or even on days when you don’t wash it because it keeps hair soft and cuts down on the frizz.

Men could also use this time to address other issues like dry scalp, where they apply product once or twice a week that helps clear the way for natural oils to reach your hair. That can help with dandruff or itchiness.

“If your scalp is like a garden and your hair is like the plants, doing some type of scalp treatment is going to help the plants grow better because the soil is healthier,” Munce said.

Other products like hair masques could be of use with time on our hands. Munce explained that hair masques typically work best for men with thicker and textured hair, where the deep conditioning treatment helps the longer you leave it in. His personal routine happened once a week where he’ll do his normal shower wash before applying the masque and leaving the shower for 20-30 minutes. Once the time is up, he goes back in to rinse out the masque, which leaves him with hydrating benefits and more conditioning.

Self-care right now

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mental health is becoming increasingly worrisome during the coronavirus outbreak. By mid-March, the poll found that 32% of respondents said worry and stress during COVID-19 had a negative role on their mental health. That number skyrocketed to 45% just two weeks later.

Munce’s book, “Self-Care for Men”, dives into specific examples of how to take care of yourself, with stress being one of the main focuses.

“Self-care can be anything. What we think of self-care is like through these very gender ways of marketing,” he said. “When you say self-care, people often say baths or crazy meditation practices. But realistically, it can literally be anything that makes you feel better with the intention to make yourself feel better.”

Whether it’s working out or going to a concert with friends, those are practices of self-care. But with our lives paused right now, it’s a time to reframe how we think of self-care whether it’s simply starting skincare or haircare routine or finding other ways to better ourselves.

“If men — or anyone — can take this chance to start doing things and exploring different ways to make yourself feel better, I think this current time is a really great time for that,” Munch said.