Adding color to a pandemic, women experiment with bolder hairstyles

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East Lansing hair stylist Bella Belknap Belknap says she’s noticed more clients experimenting with non-traditional colors during the pandemic. (From left to right) Belknap used highlights and randomly placed pastel colors to give an oil slick effect to the previously light brown hair; Belknap bleached parts of this already-black here before applying colors to give it a rainbow effect; this client’s hair started as a brown before Belknap colored half orange and and half purple; and Valeria Guerrero shows off her vibrant purple hair in photo she shared to Instagram page. Photos courtesy of Bella Belknap and Valeria Guerrero

Bella Belknap has seen a clear trend this year among the clients to her one-person salon: Brightly colored hair. And she thinks it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

“It’s just like tattoos,” said Belknap, who runs Color Palette Hair Studio in East Lansing. “Tattoos were frowned upon for such a long time and now you can go and see CEOs of Fortune 500 companies with tattoos displayed. So I do think fashion colors are becoming more acceptable, more natural, things like that.

“And more people are getting more adventurous just because they are at home, and then people see them and they’re getting more confident in themself to wear it as well.”

Belknap says changing their hair is allowing women to feel in control during a time when everything else feels so out of control. For many, working from home has given them a low-risk opportunity to try something new.

Belknap estimates half of her normal root touchup clients that normally just do brown or blonde have begun trying out some more vibrant colors in their hair. Some just add highlights of color while others opt for a full head of brightly colored hair.

Color Palette Hair Studio owner Bella Belknap says more of her clients are using bright, non-traditional colors in their hair during the pandemic. Belknap is the sole stylist at her salon and has seen her clients being more experimental with their hairstyles while they work from home.

Belknap works alone and has been following cosmetology guidelines by meeting just one client at a time in her salon. She uses text messages to track when someone arrives. 

Luckily, Belknap said she didn’t have any clients come in with botched attempts at cutting their own hair or doing their own color. She said she sold personalized kits for clients to do their own touch-ups and made videos with step-by-step instructions 

“I merely did it for my clients because I didn’t want them to go buy a kit from Meijer and then it’s like a disaster,” Belknap said. “Because A) more money for them for me to fix it, and B) they have to walk around looking like that because it’s hard to color correct via video and telling them what to do because they’re not a professional.”

Belknap said she expects a few hair trends will continue after the pandemic, including men cutting their own hair and an increase in bright-colored hair in the workplace.

Belknap said she’s also seen an increase in hair extensions,  which could be due to stress-induced hair loss or as part of a recovery program for girls whose hair has been neglected while salons were closed.

Western Michigan University student and Battle Creek resident Valeria Guerrero colored her hair to bright purple.

 “I love it,” she said via Instagram message. “It’s something bright during a gloomy time.”

Guerrero started with a blonde-silver-like color, but she said it was too normal for her. After doing a pastel purple and then a semi-temporary dark purple, she decided to go to Foil, a hair salon in Grand Rapids that specializes in hair colors.

“Some advice for people who want to do something with their hair is to just do it,” Guerrero said. “Nothing is promised or forever so you might as well do something fun.”

In the metro Detroit area, Maniah Akram, 18, experimented with different extension hairstyles and tried out orange hair during quarantine. 

Akram, a metro Detroit native, said she was stuck in the house all day with nothing better to do and not being able to get her nails and feet done made her change her hair to feel pretty again.

“Experimenting with my hair made me feel more confident than ever,” Akram said via email. “I’ve always been insecure about my head shape … not having to leave the house allowed me to test out hairstyles I wouldn’t have dared to attempt before. The best part about experimenting with new hairstyles while during quarantine was that if I didn’t like the way the style looked, no one saw it but my family.”

Michigan State University student Janki Devdhara also changed up her style. Devhdhara said she has never really experimented with the way she does her hair.

“I decided to give myself the complete makeover and I wanted to come out with a bang,” Devdhara said. “I got curtain bangs, which I would have never (done) on a good day, because I hate feeling hairs in my eyes but here I am with bangs. I also always had layers in my hair but I got one straight cut all around.”