Covid-19, thanks for the bad hair year

Hairdressers work with customers seated inside for the first time in months in September at Angelo's Barber Shop in downtown Los Angeles.

(CNN)This hasn't just been a bad hair day, it has been a bad hair year.

Some people have gone months (or what looks like decades) without a haircut. But as autumn rolls around, many are finally seeking professional help, especially considering that many salons and barbershops have strict Covid-19 prevention measures and safety protocols in place.
Across the country, people seem to be divided in their current approach to hair care. Overcoming pandemic hair care requires embracing it, learning to cut it yourself or seeking urgent intervention.

    Lean into the lockdown look

      For Louis Cintron, a systems engineer based in San Antonio hair was never simple. He was constantly buzzing off his curly, coarse hair or trying to straighten it into submission.
        "The evolution of my hair is pretty much like anybody who comes from a mixed family. You're always constantly trying to fit in to the social norms growing up your entire life," Cintron said, adding that he felt pressure to conform because his natural hair was demonized in pop culture.
        "Most of my friends who know me now have just always assumed my hair was straight."
          He made a decision to grow his hair out at the beginning of the year -- not knowing that it would still be growing 10 months later. He has avoided going to get a haircut (or really going anywhere) in an effort to be extra-cautious and help to stop the virus from spreading.
          "We've been extremely vigilant to make sure we do not break protocol and don't take any chances," Cintron said. "A lot of our friends are near 50 (years old) and getting older, and we just want to show that we're trying to do our best."
          For Los Angeles-based artist and designer Jeanetta Gonzales, the pandemic made her take stock of how much time and energy she was putting into dyeing her hair. She has now embraced going gray, and on her most recent trip to the hair braider, she asked to weave in more salt and pepper strands of hair.
          "I'm glad I did it, it's been very freeing," Gonzales said. "It's been a good time to embrace who you are, and not with any outside pressure to look a certain way. That has been the biggest lesson for me -- to just kind of be who I am and enjoy the aging process a little more."
          The response to her gray hair from friends, family and clients has been incredibly positive, she said, but even more so, it has prompted a shift in the way she sees herself.
          "You don't have to hold on to who you think you're supposed to be or what you're supposed to look like, or even just be stuck in the look that you see yourself as and the habits around keeping it going," Gonzales said. "It's also given me time back, and that time I think has shifted into me being able to take care of myself in a different way."
          Hairstylist Shayla Klinger, based in Leawood, Kansas, said now that her salon has reopened, she has seen men opting to keep their hair longer and women grow out their hair color.
          "A lot of times people want to have a little bit longer hair or go gray, but they can't push through that awkward phase, or that grow-out," Klinger said. "I have a few clients who thought, Well, I've already come this far, might as well."

          Courageous customers and at-home haircuts

          But just as some people are embracing more natural, maintenance-free looks, others are daring to go bolder.
          Edward Logan, CEO of Sport Clips, said that the company's 1,800 locations across the United States and Canada have seen a resurgence of an iconic '80s hairdo.
          "The mullet is coming back!" Logan said, adding that his company did a national training class on mullets to help stylists with the flood of requests. "People have longer hair than they've had in a very long time because they haven't gotten a haircut, and when you have longer hair you can do more creative things that you wouldn't be able to do otherwise."
          There has been an increase in people going for drastic chops so they can donate their hair to organizations like Locks of Love, Logan also said.
          "We've seen a lot of people uplifting each other," he said, adding that tipping also hit a record high once salons were able to reopen. "It's so important in times of difficulty and stress for people to come together."