When lockdown forced beauty salons to close, many panicked. Not these women, though, who learnt how to do professional hair treatments themselves

To put it extremely lightly, the pandemic was – and continues to be – a stressful time for everyone. Within minutes of lockdown being announced, life altered drastically. Restaurant bookings and holidays were cancelled. Socialising became something you could only really do through a screen. Leaving the house more than once a day was frowned upon.

What we would have really appreciated at this time, of course, would have been a trip to a beauty salon. After all, there are certain beauty treatments that restore our sense of self quite unlike anything else. For many women, the most important of these are centred on one thing: hair. Whether it’s the hair on our heads or the hair on our bodies, and whether we want to restore it to health or remove it completely, it makes up a large part of our self-care. Before Covid-19, anything hair-related was generally left to the professionals. After all, how could we be expected to master something as tricky as threading or waxing? Or learn how to do what we usually pay a hairdresser to? Well, these women did, and here’s how they did it.

Years of watching women thread my face had fascinated me

Stephanie is the founder and creative director of sustainable fashion label Megosa

“Before the pandemic, I would religiously have my eyebrows and upper lip threaded not too far from my home in Tooting Broadway. Like any form of facial hair removal or shaping, it really brings out the best of your features. When lockdown was announced, I had just been to a threading appointment and was beginning to work from home. However, as the months passed, I wanted to tidy my brows and needed to find a solution besides plucking, which doesn’t give me the same satisfaction or slick finish, not to mention that you always hear horror stories about overplucking. Waxing wasn’t something I wanted to do either, so I decided to learn how to thread. Years of watching women thread my face had fascinated me and left me with some understanding as to how it can be done at home. 

So, I started watching YouTube videos and tried it on myself (and willing others). It took about three months to get the thread twisting action right and to break through the pain threshold of doing my upper lip, as that area is very sensitive. Now, I do threading for my mum and sister whenever they need it. While I would still get my eyebrows threaded professionally for a special occasion, I will always do my upper lip myself as the pain is more manageable when I do it.”

Tips for threading at home, according to Stephanie

1. “You can do anything if you practice. It’s OK for it to not be perfect at first!”

2. “Watch YouTube videos and start off in small areas where hair removal doesn’t need shaping, such as the upper lip or chin, so it isn’t obvious if it goes ‘wrong.’”

3. “Always start with a clean, makeup- and cream-free face. I like to thread after washing my face in the morning or evening. I like to use black soap to wash my face and NIVEA MicellAIR Water to remove makeup.”

4. “Wear gloves while threading yourself or others because the thread can dig into your skin near your fingers and be a bit uncomfortable after a while.”

5. “Always use a new thread each time of about 30cm long, then tie a knot. Twist through the middle a good few times, this section is where the hair will get trapped, caught and pulled. Videos will show you how to do this!”

6. “You can't stretch your own skin when threading yourself, so you need to raise your brows or push your tongue under your lip. If threading others, they can do all the stretching of the skin themselves. This is so you don't catch skin while doing it.”

7. “Leave a little time after threading before applying makeup or heading out to give the skin time to calm down. If you have sensitive skin use aloe vera gel on the areas after.”

I enjoy the process of waxing a lot, it is cathartic

Ella is an artist

“Getting my legs and bikini line professionally waxed was a monthly occurrence in my life before the pandemic. My bikini line, particularly, was somewhere that I didn’t want to shave or use hair removal cream. My first reaction when lockdown was announced and I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get waxing done professionally was panic, then acceptance. And then I went online. I knew that I definitely didn’t want to use strip wax, so I did some research and started to use Veet Oriental Wax, which I’ve found to be really good. I am now satisfied with my technique and enjoy the process of waxing a lot – it is cathartic. I will continue to do it myself most of the time, although I would like to support my former waxer’s business on occasion, too – to treat myself, I guess! Generally, however, lockdown has made me realise that I would only get my hair done professionally. I tried cutting it myself and it looked very weird.”

Tips for waxing at home, according to Ella

1. “Wash, exfoliate and dry your skin.”

2. “Definitely test areas so you understand what it feels like, both in terms of the sensation and the motion of removing the wax.”

3. “Use enough wax so that it becomes hard enough to remove. If you don’t, your skin will just be sticky!”

4. “Do not wax on a carpet in case it spills.”

5. “You will need a mirror for the bikini line.”

6. “Use cold water to get any remnants of wax off your skin.”

When the salons shut and my appointment got cancelled, my first reaction was ‘learn how to do it'

Jamila-Lee is a fashion PR

“I was getting a weave or braids every four-six weeks before the pandemic. Both were low maintenance hairstyles that I had been getting done religiously for seven years. The regularity was to keep the style looking fresh as it grows out and gets frizzy after a while. I would also invest in getting a deep cleanse and treatment to try and keep my hair healthy in between styles. At the time of the pandemic, I had braids and had booked an appointment to get them redone. When the salons shut and my appointment got cancelled, my first reaction was ‘learn how to do it’. I got all the products I needed (I copied the ones I had seen in salons and read good reviews about online), did a home conditioning treatment (Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner is my go-to) and then focused on learning how to do braids via YouTube. It was so much easier than I thought and I actually really enjoyed doing it. It felt like such a mastered skill, as well as better financially and – as I soon discovered – better for my hair. Jamila-Lee (@girlfreethefro on Instagram)

It took me about a month to perfect my braiding technique to a level that I was satisfied with. That’s when I started @girlfreethefro on Instagram, a hair page featuring everything I had learnt during this time, so I could share it with others and encourage them to do the same. I have noticed so many benefits from doing my hair myself and taking the time to understand what it likes and doesn’t like, instead of putting the responsibility in somebody else’s hands. I would still like to go to the salon to get a treatment and a trim every so often, but I think in terms of style I will carry on doing it myself. However, I think I benefit from getting facials done professionally, attempting these at home tends to be worse for my skin as I just use a cocktail of products.”

Tips for braiding Afro hair at home, according to Jamila-Lee

1. “When watching YouTube videos, you don’t just have to stick with one. Find the best way for yourself and just keep practising. It’s damaging for your hair if you’re not patient.”

2. “Make sure your hair has been washed and conditioned well and is totally dry. You probably want to have had your wash day one-two days before. It is important not to braid on wet hair as this is when your hair is at its weakest and you can cause damage while you are practising.”

3. “Make sure you have everything laid out and prepared in front of you, such as styling gel, a fish tail comb and a smoothing brush.”

4. “Part your hair first and make sure the rest is out of the way, start at the front or middle.”

5. “Once you have finished, tie your hair down with a scarf to hold everything in place for about 10-20 minutes.”

Liked this? Then you may like How to Pluck Your Brows at Home and How to Dye Your Hair at Home by Josh Wood.