Coronavirus: the hidden personal grooming crisis

Paris (AFP) –


It's not pretty but it's true. The first victim of the coronavirus has been personal grooming.

With hairdressers, nail bars and beauty therapists shuttered by lockdowns, many people around the world are in danger of letting themselves go.

That is the fear of stylists and colourists worried about having to salvage something from the havoc wreaked on eyebrows and hair by DIY plucking, waxing, dyeing and cutting.

"Don't touch your eyebrows above all," pleaded Olivier Echaudemaison, creative director of the French cosmetics brand Guerlain.

"Let them grow -- leave a virgin forest," said the man who once looked after makeup for screen legends Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren.

Feel free to experiment with makeup, Echaudemaison told AFP, because "if it doesn't work you just take a tissue and you start again".

"But anything with hair is a lot more risky," he warned.

British makeup guru Sali Hughes, whose Beauty Banks charity has been giving donated cosmetics and toiletries to hard-pressed health staff since the pandemic started, also cautioned about some of the wackier homemade beauty tips circulating on social media.

- Lady beards -

"Professionals are also genuinely worried... and tell me they're bracing themselves for a plethora of complex colour correction appointments when they finally reopen," she said.

So be careful tackling those greying roots with a beetroot recipe picked up on Facebook.

Demand for some brands of hair colour shot up six times in Britain after the first week of the lockdown there.

Television presenter Stacey Solomon is unlikely to have been one of those battling for the last box of hair dye.

She told her three million Instagram followers that she was letting nature run free during the confinement and putting her razor away.

Let it grow, moustaches and all declared the woman who had previously joked how her children love to stroke her "beard" and "facial fur".

Social media, however, is full of horror stories of people posting their failed attempts at cutting and colouring their own hair.

French stylist Thomas Girard has been giving up to six free online courses a day to deal with this aesthetic emergency.

His advice is stop immediately if you make a mistake. "The biggest error is thinking that you can fix your mistake by keeping cutting," he said.

As for roots, he advises just letting them go grey.

"It's no longer a marker of age, or stigmatising" -- in fact, it could be seen as body positive, he argued.

Indeed fashionistas Sophie Fontanel and Vogue's Susan Harris have famously let their hair go grey and white -- and they have yet to be driven from the front row of the catwalks.

And the lockdowns may have another lasting effect on the beauty industry, particularly in Asia where wearing masks during flu and cold outbreaks is common.

Cosmetic sales have plummeted by up to 70 percent in South Korea with some women rejoicing in not having to bother about wearing lipstick.

- Islamic inspirations -

But as mask wearing becomes a global phenomenon as more and more experts recommend it as a way of slowing the spread of the virus, some are taking them as a beauty challenge.

One ingenious Egyptian meme has gone viral showing a woman blending her face mask in with the rest of her makeup and crowning it all with drawn-on red lips.

In fact many are looking to the Middle East for inspiration, where women have centuries of experience making the best of themselves behind Islamic face coverings.

That did not stop Iraqi makeup artist Fatima Aldewan coming in from some online flack with her Instagram tutorial on "coronavirus looks".

Nor did the criticism deter Jordanian designer Samia Alzakleh who has created masks encrusted with rhinestones.

But if you really want to look good in a mask, it is all about the eyes, said Echaudemaison.

"There is no longer a mouth so we concentrate on the eyes" and women suddenly "take on a Middle Eastern allure," said the veteran makeup expert.

His top tip is to go for the doe-eyed look, which he described as chic and sensual.

"Women are afraid of eyeliner," he told AFP. "Yet it is a fantastic thing." And his word to the wise is to start "on the outside and work your way in."