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No more bouncy blow-dries or extensions - creative cuts will be the future of hair once salons reopen

With salons reopening soon, will we be rushing back to the stylist's chair for a blow-dry, or will lockdown cabin fever give rise to a new era of inventive dos, asks Meadhbh McGrath

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Long bobs like that seen on Jenna Dewan may prove popular. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Long bobs like that seen on Jenna Dewan may prove popular. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Long bobs like that seen on Jenna Dewan may prove popular. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

As the months passed in lockdown, we've watched once-fresh and tidy haircuts grow into a shapeless mass atop our heads. The more daring among us may have taken matters into our own hands, buying scissors, getting to grips with DIY dyes or even braving a razor. But the end is in sight: salons have been given the green light to reopen from June 29.

What now? Will we snap back to the pre-Covid norm of lush extensions, curly blow-dries and four-week touch-ups? Sean Taaffe, President of the Hairdressing Council of Ireland, believes those days are behind us, and we'll emerge from isolation into an age of experimentation.

"For the last number of years, in my opinion, everything has been very stagnant. Everyone was fitting into the same kind of boxes: super-long hair, swept to the side. I feel that this lockdown should open up a new era of creativity," says Taaffe, who owns salons in Killarney, Tralee and Killorglin. "The fact that people haven't been able to have their hair done for so long will allow people to say, 'to hell with it, I'm gonna go for that change that I thought about for so long'. I am very hopeful."

Ciaran Purcell, Head of Retail Experience at Peter Mark, echoes this view.

"I'd be surprised if people stayed with what they'd done previously. Every style people had has grown out, so now we're almost starting from a blank canvas and we can get really creative," he says. "We've been locked inside and people are getting a bit itchy - they want to try something different and this is the time to do it. You can create a new look for yourself."

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Hailey Baldwin’s relaxed ‘grunge’ look

Hailey Baldwin’s relaxed ‘grunge’ look

Hailey Baldwin’s relaxed ‘grunge’ look

What might that new look be? According to famed British hairdresser Tim Hartley, we should bring back the bob, which he claims is "the only way for the industry to emerge from lockdown".

"We have to think about maximising hygiene. The sooner the long tresses of yesterday are dispensed with, the more hygienic it will be for us all," Hartley told The Telegraph this week. "The hour-long blow dries in the salon are no longer safe for the stylist or the client."

It's unsurprising that a former director of Vidal Sassoon would recommend a bob, the salon's signature look, but Irish stylists warn that it won't suit every face shape, and in any case, so long as stylists follow strict hygiene measures, it won't make a difference how long or short the hair is.

"If you have the salon prepped the way that you should with face masks, visors, washing hands and social distancing, it doesn't matter if your hair is down to your bum," says Purcell of Peter Mark.

Where they do agree is on the fate of the big, bouncy blow-dry. There has been speculation that blow-dryers could potentially spread contaminated droplets around the room, and that salons may limit their usage. On top of the possible health risk, the time required may make lengthy blow-drys unfeasible in salons operating with reduced numbers.

"Obviously, every salon will have to make their own policy, but I do think there will be salons that will be discouraging the hour-long blow-dry and crazy amounts of styling," says Taaffe.

Plus, with summer event season called off, we have little need for getting so dolled up.

Purcell agrees: "I think it definitely will come back into play, but for now, I think people will focus on colour and style."

Amy Heffernan, Editor of IrishTatler.com, points out that while plenty of women are counting down the days until they see their stylist, others have decided they can dye their hair at home for a fraction of salon prices, or have embraced the grey and may favour a natural look going forward. Her readership reflects that dichotomy.

"The best-performing articles around hair since we went into lockdown are how to safely lighten your hair at home, how to fix all hair disasters, and when are Irish hairdressers reopening, so it seems to be a real mix of both," she says.

Heffernan adds that Irish women are known for being glamorous and well-groomed, but pre-Covid, the benchmark for beauty was set impossibly high. Quarantine has prompted many of us to reassess.

"I think the step back has made a lot of us re-evaluate what's a priority now," she says. "Some women will have realised, 'my hair naturally isn't so bad' or 'this texture that I've been trying to straighten or control or relax for so long, I'm at peace with it'. I think people have gotten used to how they look without the helping hand, and have learned what they're capable of doing themselves. I kind of hope it does herald an end to the pursuit of perfection that Irish women have preoccupied themselves with of late."

Katherine Sweeney, founder of Dublin salon Preen, thinks the Irish appetite for glamour is going nowhere.

"I think women will value their stylist even more after being without us for so long," she says. "I think most women will be eager to get back to their salon and to feel glam again."

As for future trends, Sweeney predicts lower-maintenance colour will enjoy a boost, with high demand for balayage.

For those feeling more adventurous with colour, Taaffe advises steering clear of platinum blondes to avoid "screaming roots" two weeks in, and trying beige and beach tones instead. Vibrant reds and violets can be managed well at home, he notes, and chocolate browns will enrich lockdown-faded hair.

One thing he is keen to see the back of is extensions. "I personally believe no matter how well they're done, people don't adhere to the rules and tend to leave it grow longer than it's supposed to between visits. I know no one can help it during lockdown, but that can have quite a detrimental effect on the hair, so I would love to see the extensions go out the window.

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Emma Watson’s micro fringe. Photo: Getty Images

Emma Watson’s micro fringe. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Emma Watson’s micro fringe. Photo: Getty Images

With regard to length, he anticipates "significant cuts", and shapes that won't need to be revisited every four weeks.

"I would be advising people to take enough off their hair to get it back into optimum shape and condition, but something that will last for eight weeks," says Taaffe. He suggests a long bob with slightly rounded edges, as seen on Demi Lovato and Jenna Dewan.

"This season for me is going to be about more rounded shapes. They grow out well, with or without a fringe, but it has to suit the person's face shape - somebody with a rounder face will not suit a round shape," he adds.

"Less layers - the more layered something is, the more maintenance it requires. We will be putting forward more one-length shapes, something that's easy to maintain and will accentuate shine."

According to Purcell, the micro fringe, worn by the likes of Emma Watson and Kaia Gerber, is a top contender to be a hit post-lockdown.

"That can be even really long hair, but you cut a fringe into it. It's a bit more bespoke, it's not just middle parting and all one length," says Purcell.

If you're happy to step away from the blow-dryer and try a more imperfect look, consider a stylish update on your lockdown bedhead.

"We call it the grunge look, and it's actually a root-y look, it's more tousled and messy," adds Purcell. "It doesn't have to be blow-dried straight or styled, you just put in a leave-in product to help give a bit of wave or bring out your natural texture."

Back to nature - with a little help from the professionals.

Irish Independent