What's Your Quarantine Beauty Horror Story?


It’s probably safe to say that nobody’s finest moment happened within the past 14 months. Dig back into those memory archives and you’re much more likely to find moments like the time you tried disinfecting a banana, or realized you could easily watch an entire series in one sitting. Or maybe your not-so-finest moment had to do with your look. Specifically, changing it—big beauty decisions sit in the dangerous intersection between pure boredom and sheer desperation, which is also coincidentally where many of us pitched our tents to ride out the pandemic. As lockdowns start to loosen we’re looking back. What DIY jobs went awry? What hasty makeovers did you instantly regret? Three ITG readers share their horror stories below—add yours to the comments.

The Way-Too-Red Alert

Oops Level: Wine stain on a red rug

“I had naturally blonde hair in childhood, and when it started to naturally darken when I was 16, I started highlighting it to make it bright blonde again. When the first Covid-19 lockdown went into effect in Florida, I desperately needed to get my roots touched up. At that point, we all figured it couldn't possibly last more than a few weeks.

Once two months had passed with no end in sight, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I'd previously used both pink and lavender Overtone coloring conditioners on my very blonde hair, and both shades completely washed out in ten days or so. So I decided to try to soften the edge between my natural base and highlighted blonde by using Overtone in Golden Brown mixed with a dollop of Ginger. What could go wrong? I slathered on the mixture, set the timer for 15 minutes… and came out looking like Poison Ivy. My poor toddler son didn't recognize me and started crying!

I tried EVERYTHING to fade it out: powdered vitamin C tablets applied like a mask, clarifying shampoo, many days at the beach. But this stuff was stubborn, and when it did lift a little my hair turned neon yellow. Finally, I took my half grayish brown, half yellow hair to my stylist, who also tried everything in her arsenal. The only thing left to do was to dye the yellow to match my natural hair color. I will now be a graying brunette until the last bit of yellow has grown out enough to be cut off. Then it's back to blonde. I will never touch a colored conditioner again!”

—Kate Losee

The Poorly Influenced Chop

Oops Level: Telling your big-mouthed friend about a surprise

“After barely leaving my apartment in 10 months, looking at an Instagram feed full of chic French influencers like Jeanne Damas and Camille Yolaine began to take its toll on my psyche. You could say I became more than a little fixated on my hair. Their elegant photos slowly brainwashed me into thinking the only thing standing between me and that level of effortlessness was a lob. My hair was nearly waist-length, and like Rapunzel I felt its length symbolized my captivity in the limited square footage of my apartment. A lob conjured dreams of strolling the banks of the Seine in a floral dress and casual red lipstick as the wind swept through my perfectly tousled locks. I was convinced that if I just got a lob, I would finally be free.

Over the years my hair has endured a number of DIY disasters. (I tried to bleach it all with only Frost & Glow highlight kits, accidentally dyed it purple, gave my boyfriend an uneven bowl cut… you get the gist.) So when restrictions in our city loosened slightly, I decided to be responsible and see a professional.

Buoyed by the age-old fallacy of ‘change your hair, change your life,’ I believed my new life was only an hour and 12 inches away. And then the blow drying began. I held down my rising panic, gushed over my new cut, and by the time I arrived home I looked like a watered-down Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding. (Minus the pearl necklace and demure sweater set.) Hair that was supposed to rest just above my collarbone flipped out above my shoulders. Usually the flippy-out stage is the midpoint of an awkward grow out, but in this case it’s where my hair journey began. Three months later, I have finally accepted that short hair makes me look more like a 90s WASP than a cool French girl. At this point I’m just praying I make it out of lockdown without bangs.”

—Madeline Baldrey

The Downward Spiral For Perfect Spirals

Oops Level: Shrimp cocktail when allergic to shellfish

“For most of my life I styled my hair the exact same way: a buzz cut. If I had a big occasion or was feeling myself maybe, just maybe, I would spike my hair up in the front. When I got to college, it was time for a change. I grew my stick-straight hair out to be long enough that with a little product, it would lay perfectly. It fell exactly in the right places. It was great! Downloading TikTok at my low point mid-quarantine changed that feeling in minutes. Every TikToker had perfect bouncing curls, something I had always envied. As soon as salons reopened over the summer, I made an appointment for a perm. And I couldn’t have been happier with my new hair. A bonus: the mixture of perm, sun, and saltwater somehow turned my already blonde hair a bright white. I truly had the bleached hair every gay man in crisis dreams of.

But without any knowledge of how to take care of curly hair, the curls began to fall. Six weeks later I felt ready for a refresh. Another six weeks after that, I went back in ready for even tighter curls—that time, it did not work. So less than a week later I returned to the salon to try again. If you know anything about processed hair, which I did not, none of this was a good idea. But I just thought: Clearly the chemicals were washed out too early! At the same time… Remember how my hair had turned platinum? Well, naturally, I decided that dyeing blonde hair dark was a power move. I hated myself with brown hair instantly and had the stylist bleach it back to my natural shade. Three months, four perms, one single process, and one double process later, I was finally done. Not only was my hair fried, but I also had chemically burned my scalp, giving the illusion of a premature balding.

Nine months after the fatal day of my first perm, my hair and scalp are still recovering. I take Finasteride daily, I hose down my head with Minoxidil, and I have gone through two bottles of Olaplex No. 3. A word to the wise? Be careful on TikTok.”

—Henry Kline

Photo via ITG