Hair-dye kit sales soar as at-home workers cut off from salons

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Sales of Madison Reed’s at-home hair coloring kits have soared 750% in recent days, while demand for Color Wow’s root cover-up product is also through the roof. And a colorist at a Manhattan salon said a dozen clients have called for advice on how to color their hair at home while most businesses — including hair salons — are closed so people don’t spread the coronavirus.

Heightened consumer interest in such hair products reflects a concern for many women, and some men, amid the pandemic: How do I cover up my roots when I can’t go to the hair salon? That question might be even more pressing given the vast number of employees who are now working from home and communicating with colleagues and clients via online teleconferencing video services like Zoom and Skype. 

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People who have their hair professionally dyed typically visit the salon every four to eight weeks. Yet public health officials have warned that stay-at-home orders could extend into the summer, leaving many salon regulars anxious about how to maintain their preferred color in front of the boss or their direct reports.

“I absolutely could not have seen this coming, but I did know that with or without coronavirus, you either had to buy a terrible box of color from the drugstore or go get your hair done somewhere for $200 for three hours,” said Amy Errett, co-founder and CEO of Madison Reed, which sells salon-quality hair coloring kits online. “It was designed for modern women who don’t have the time — or money — to go to the salon, and right now it just so happens that people are staying home.” 

Hair products that help conceal gray or dark roots are in particular demand now, industry experts say.

“For women, it’s the bane of their existence when their roots come through. No one wants to see them, and there is this horrible situation that everyone is facing overnight. Everyone is panicking about their roots,” said Giles Robinson, director of training and education for Color Wow. 

Americans adjust to life amid coronavirus pandemic

Sales of the company’s products, particularly in medium and dark brown shades, are up sharply, he added. “They do the best because everyone is on Zoom meetings, and if you’ve got dark hair and three or four streaks of white at the front, it’s like a beacon flashing — and with high definition cameras it’s scary.”

Scary roots are a concern for some men, too, especially those who conceal their hair-dye habits. “Some men who don’t want people to know they color their hair are, at this point, getting concerned,” Robinson said. 

Celebrity hairstylist Brian Magallones, who bleaches his own dark hair blonde, put the collective freakout in context. 

“I’m seeing and hearing about it everywhere, and it’s definitely something people are going through. Many people might think the whole beauty thing is irrelevant, and compared to people dying, it is. But we still have to look in the mirror and try to feel good about ourselves a little bit when everyone is feeling down.”

For people considering touching up their own hair, professional colorists and stylists share some do’s and don’ts: 

DO

  • Use temporary products first — especially root touch-up products that wash out and are available online so you don’t need to leave your home to purchase them. 
  • Reach out to your colorist for advice on the best color match. “I am telling my clients which packaged consumer products are best suited for them and most similar to the formulas I use,” said Titi Chimenti, a colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City.
  • Ask someone with whom you are self-isolating to help with application. “If a person is locked in with someone else and could have them apply the color, that can be very helpful. If possible, only apply it to the roots and section it off. Use YouTube tutorials too,” Magallones said. 

DON’T

  • Use any products intended for professional use — even if they are available. “Those products require a very specific kind of application that a non-professional would not know how to do,” Chimenti said. 
  • Use drugstore-bought box color products, if possible. “You can put too much on your head. It’s hard to get rid of and you need color correction, which can be costly,” Robinson said. 
  • Seek out your hair colorist for an in-person visit during a lockdown period. And do remember to stay at home. 
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