Have "Quarantine Roots"? Here's How to Safely Return to the Salon and Get Your Color Back

We asked a celebrity colorist exactly what to expect.

quarantine roots


There are many, many things that probably won't go back to our definition of normal for quite a while, despite the massive strides we've made in 2021 already. I can write off concerts, packed movie openings, and even dancing to Charli XCX in the club for many more months—that's fine. I get it. But with increased safety protocol and CDC-backed statistics to support it, a return to the hair salon can be a safe way to feel like your old self without engaging in a high-risk activity.

If you're like me, though, this return to the chair is a long time coming. An entire year without color or cuts left me with seven inches of dark brown root attached to a golden, frayed ponytail which leads me to believe my upcoming color appointment will be a bit different than usual—as will be the case with most people back in the salon for the first time in a while. To help us all prepare, we consulted with celebrity colorist Matt Rez, whose clients include Ashley Benson, Eiza González, and Lili Reinhart, who gave us an inside look at exactly how to bounce back after a significant break from color.

red hair color in bowls with chart

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Is It Safe?

It certainly can be, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control. Protective equipment and a strict adherence to protocol is crucial. Even if you have an existing relationship with your colorist, checking out the salon's stance on safety is the most important part of the entire experience. No matter how unflattering you feel your grown-out roots are, nothing's worth putting yourself, your colorist, or other patrons at risk. Ideally, you're the only appointment of the day to mitigate spread and everyone in the salon (including you) is decked out in appropriate PPE.

According to a CDC study published July 2020, two symptomatic, COVID-19-positive hair dressers performed services on 139 clients. Everyone wore face masks and not a single person contracted the virus, emphasizing how crucial robust face-coverings are during your entire appointment. Location should be factored in to your decision making, too. Check out your state's case rates, government recommendations, and individual salon policy before booking your appointment.

Prepping For Your Appointment

Like any hair appointment, the first step is figuring out precisely what you want. Are you after your exact color, dimension, and cut from before the pandemic? Did quarantine (and some very convincing TikToks) make you realize you need something completely different? Nail that down before you come in with the help of some searches on Pinterest or Byrdie's many hair color inspiration guides.

From there, Rez recommends you select just one photo to show your colorist in advance of your appointment. Bringing in multiple, especially if you're not super well-versed identifying facets of hair color, might be accidental mixed-messaging. With a single, well-lit (and unfiltered) photo, "your colorist can determine if that is achievable and if so, how many visits to catch you up," Rez tells us. "If it's not something your hair can handle getting to based on starting point and or condition, you guys can search for more options."

Ideally, you would consult your colorist before your appointment so they're up-to-speed with the current state of your hair without eating into their limited schedule and capacity. "I highly recommend a pre-service consult with your colorist either via photos/FaceTime/or most preferably in person prior to booking the actual appointment date," Rez urges, especially during the pandemic. "With limited capacity in salons, everything needs to be accounted for time purposes. Unless you are okay with showing up and needing unexpected additional service time requiring an additional future appointment to get you to ultimate goal, I highly recommend the consult."

In terms of readying your hair for color, Rez says conditioner is key. "Get your hair as strong and as moisture enriched as possible pre-appointment," he explains, meaning a break from heat styling, string-snapping elastics, and stripping products is best. The weeks leading up to your session are perfect for deep-conditioning treatments and trying your hand at no-heat styling.

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The Day Of

It's a long-standing beauty myth that color adheres better to dirty or unwashed hair—and actually, according to Rez, showing up with dirty hair can be counterproductive. "Please come in with freshly washed and dried hair," he instructs. "Oil buildup makes our jobs harder when having to weave hair for foiling techniques."

Hopefully, you were able to connect with your colorist ahead of your appointment to hone in on your exact needs but taking a minute to go over the game plan again never hurts. Once you're in the chair, expect to be there a while. While the exact duration of your appointment will of course vary by needs, length, desired color, etc., any significant time off from coloring means you should allot for few extra hours at the salon.

If your hair needs significant coloring or some repair, it might even take more than one appointment, according to Rez. "If a base change needs to happen in cases of deepening, lightening, and/or fixing of failed at home hair color, more time needs to be factored into a lightening process," he says. The amount of grow-out that needs to be lightened (per the provided photo here) may need more than one round of highlighting."

Naturally, a longer appointment, more color and equipment, and the possibility of multiple sessions mean you can expect to pay more than usual to get your hair back where you want it. Think of it as starting from scratch rather than your usual touch-up and budget accordingly.

The process might seem like a long (and expensive) one but when done safely and carefully, it can be physically and emotionally transformative. There's nothing better than looking and feeling like yourself.

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