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Disaster-proof DIY grooming: experts on tidying your brows, hair and nails at home

·6 min read

A hacked fringe. Boxed dyes gone wrong. Bushy brows transformed into balding caterpillars. A waxing accident … down there. A lot can go wrong when you approach grooming as a DIY project. But during lockdown, some trimming and tidying may feel necessary (even to pass the time).

Guardian Australia spoke with grooming professionals to find out the easiest techniques for novices, what you can feel confident trying at home and what you should let go of until Australia’s lockdowns end.

The eyebrow tidy

Amy Jean runs five luxury brow studios across Australia, including in the Gold Coast’s Palazzo Versace hotel. Before going in with the tweezers, she suggests filling in your brows with a pencil to help map out the shape. Turning your face into a reverse colouring book means you can then tweeze the hairs outside the shape you’ve drawn, leaving “less room for error or accidentally over-tweezing”.

Tweezing is best after a hot shower, because it “opens the pores and is less painful”. Face natural light, use a hand mirror, and “be conservative” in the number of hairs you pluck.

Shelby Griffiths, a senior therapist at Miss Fox Melbourne, echoes that advice, adding that you shouldn’t try to alter your natural brow shape. Instead just keep them neat until you can visit a salon. You’ll need a good pair of tweezers (blunt tweezers make it trickier), she says. Start by grabbing the hair at the base and pluck in the direction of growth.

Both Jean and Griffiths mention lockdown as an opportunity to grow out your brows. “We witnessed a big trend towards customers chasing growth rather than maintaining with tweezers,” says Jean.

Watch an expert
Demonstration begins at 1.24 minutes.

The cut

Esstudio Galleria founder Aleks Abadia and co-director Rawinia Hati don’t recommend home haircuts, regardless of your length or style. They suggest trying a different style or an updo as a stopgap.

But if you have to trim the ends, go slow and steady on dry hair, starting with a centimetre or less and gradually cutting until you reach your desired length. And if you live with someone, enlist their help.

Watch an expert: Trimming longer hair
Demonstration begins at 6.15 minutes.

For fringes, Abadia and Hati advise: “Never cut your fringe straight across, [instead] aim at chipping into the ends. This allows for hiding mistakes.”

Jaye Edwards founded Edwards and Co, which has salons across Sydney and Melbourne. He instructs fringe trimmers to wash their hair first, and let it dry naturally. “Dry hair shrinkage is real, [and] you don’t want to be left with micro bangs.”

Work in sections, and use just the tip of your scissors to make the chipping motions.

The type of scissors you use is crucial, Edwards warns. “Put down the kitchen scissors! The dull, blunt edges could potentially give you even more split ends, plus who knows what those scissors might have been cutting before your hair.”

Watch an expert: Fringe trim

Short-haired people have a few options, Abadia and Hati say. Grow it out, shave it off – you “don’t require many skills for this” – or tidy up the sides and edges with a pair of clippers.

Start with the largest clipper guard for an even blend at the top of your head, then use the next guard down to blend, ending just below where you finished with the first guard. Finally, use one guard down again to clipper the edges.

“When going around the edges … use a smaller attachment to get all those fluffy hairs,” Abadia and Hati add.

And for the brave (or trendy)? A “good mullet works well over lockdown. Grab those clippers, buzz cut those sides. The shorter you go, the ruder it gets.”

Watch an expert: short hair
Demonstration begins at 4.54 minutes

The colour

Edwards recommends using masks to revive colour-treated hair, or touch up sprays or powders to disguise regrowth, before resorting to a supermarket box dye.

“Box dye kits may seem like a good idea, particularly in these financially uncertain times, but keep in mind they could end up costing you a lot more in the long run,” he notes. “Colours develop differently on different hair types and only a professional can determine which product you should choose … as well as how much dye to use and how long to let it process.”

Last year during lockdown, Edwards and Co began selling colour kits. Your existing hairdresser may also offer this service, so it’s worth making enquiries, both to save your hair and provide them with some much needed business while salons are shut.

Related: Rose-coloured tresses: they looked at me and said, 'Oh my god, what have you done with your hair?'

Edwards has seen “plenty of horror stories” and wants to help people stuck at home avoid varied and costly mistakes, like: not applying enough colour, resulting in “uneven, patchy hair”; using too much colour and ending up “looking way too dark and dull”; or using boxed bleach and ending up with “canary yellow, dry and damaged hair”.

Esstudio Galleria’s hairdressers also witnessed lockdown mishaps – such as botched cuts and “patchy, spotty and … chunky” bleach attempts – that were expensive to reverse, some requiring two to three visits of three to five hours each to fix.

But, they admit, lockdown may be the perfect time to “do the crazy colour you have always dreamed about”.

Watch an expert

The manicure

In addition to brows, Melbourne’s Miss Fox also specialises in manicures and waxing services. Griffiths says the easiest, and lowest-maintenance, way to perform a manicure at home is to mimic the natural shape of your nails.

“Use nail clippers to clip away any unwanted length. Then using a nail file, gently file in one direction, removing any sharp edges.” A good quality nail polish is “easier to apply and better for your nails,” she adds.

If lockdown has left you with gel or acrylic nails you want to remove (you can leave them to grow out instead), you’ll need nail clippers, a file, cotton balls, acetone, and aluminium foil.

“Clip away any extra length and lightly buff the top of the product on your nail – breaking the surface makes it easier for the acetone to penetrate the gel or acrylic.” Then, place a cotton ball soaked in acetone on your nail, and wrap a palm-sized square of aluminium foil around it.

After 15 minutes of soaking, the gel or acrylic should be dissolved. “If there is some of the product left, do not attempt to peel or pry it off … this can cause significant damage to your natural nails. Simply repeat the soak[ing] process.”

Once you’re done, “gently file any sharp edges, wash your hands” and apply cuticle oil or hand cream.

Watch an expert

Demonstration begins at 4 minutes

The bikini line trim

Miss Fox’s Griffiths recommends plucking or trimming as the safest ways to tend to your bikini area (if you opt for hair removal at all). And “always support the skin by pulling it taut”.

She strongly advises against at-home bikini or Brazilian waxes. “We had some clients hurt themselves by removing delicate skin with DIY waxing during lockdown … We may make it look easy, but waxing is definitely a fine art.”

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