Experts weigh in on cutting your hair at home during quarantine.

With social distancing guidelines, local and state-wide lockdowns, and other quarantine orders temporarily closing non-essential businesses across the country to slow the spread of coronavirus, it makes sense that hair salons and barbershops would be shut down, too—but good sense isn’t very helpful when you’re in desperate need of a haircut. While not exactly essential, hair salons and barbershops provide an important service to people trying to keep their hair in good shape, and those who require regular maintenance trims may soon realize that they’re not going to be able to get that professional trim for at least a few weeks.

So what’s the solution? The concept of the quarantine haircut is growing in popularity as people turn to their own sets of scissors to trim bangs, men’s hair, split ends, and more at home—but giving yourself a haircut during quarantine (or having a household member do it) is likely to do more harm than good.

“Don’t do it,” says Kali Ferrara, a stylist at The Salon Project by Joel Warren in New York City. “It’s going to cost you more time and money.”

If you rely on regular salon visits to maintain your color, keep your bob or lob looking neat, or to prevent split ends, now is not the time to take your haircut into your own hands: “One wrong snip, and you’ve got a mushroom or a mullet,” Ferrara says. And while you may be able to live with raw ends or a grown-out lob for a few weeks, living with an accidental mullet may be a lot harder. As Ferrara points out, a bad haircut can take up to a year to grow out.

Geoffrey Frost, the owner of Frost Salon in Atlanta, Georgia, agrees that taking your advanced haircare into your own hands right now—especially if you’ve never done it before—is not the best move.

“We’ve advised our clients to avoid coloring their own hair,” Frost says.

If you’re required to appear on video chats for work and you’re panicking about the running joke that we’ll all finally see each other’s natural hair colors, Frost recommends using a brush-on powder to cover grown-out roots. This will hide what Frost calls the skunk stripe and serve as a temporary fix until you’re able to get into the salon again.

What we should all do right now, both professionals agree, is give your hair a break.

“Right now’s a good time to do masks on your hair, not use heat on your hair,” Ferrara says. “Take this time at home to feel better instead of look better.”

Frost recommends doing regular deep-conditioning masks and treatments on your hair during this time, giving it a break from constant heat styling and color treatments. Any grown-out ends or dry strands will stay as they are now—you won’t be making them worse, at least—and you can quickly get any issues rectified once salons reopen.

That said, if you rely on your hair salon and stylist to look your best, show them your appreciation right now so they’re able to reopen as soon as social distancing and public health guidelines allow.

Both stylists say their salons are selling gift cards for clients to buy now and use when the salons reopen, and both are taking names for first-day bookings once their salons reopen.

“We’ve just been building a list,” Frost says. “We’ve just asked people to be flexible if they can.”

When salons do reopen, there’s sure to be a rush to get in as soon as possible, so Frost suggests being flexible with appointment times and patient as you wait to see your stylist for that post-quarantine fix-up. The best thing you can do for your salon and the stylist you know and trust is to wait to cut or color your hair until they’re able to do it for you: Showing your support as soon as salons reopen will help them regain their footing after an extended closure. And, of course, if you always wonder how much to tip your hair stylist, err on the side of too much after this.

Quarantine haircuts for men, boys, and bangs

All that said, sometimes waiting isn’t an option, particularly if you have bangs obscuring your vision—or a fussy little boy who can’t see because of his grown-out hair. Ferrara suggests pinning hair back so it’s left alone and preserved for a professional to fix up, but if that’s impossible (or your son won’t let you near him with some hair clips), Frost has some pointers for anyone attempting the small-scale at-home haircut.

For best results, limit quarantine haircuts to bangs (here’s how to cut bangs) or hair that falls into eyes and can’t be pinned back. For other situations, fall back on the reliable messy bun, braids, or clips to keep your hair contained.

“If you’re going to cut their hair, do not cut horizontally with blunt scissors,” Frost says. That will lead to the bowl cut look we all love to hate. Instead, try to do a textured cut near the eyebrows, taking care not to snip the brows. Frost calls this a point cut: holding scissors vertically, rather than horizontally, and making small, quick snips.

He suggests using cuticle scissors or beard-trimming scissors, rather than a larger pair, because they’re more nimble and easier to use for snippy cuts. (They’re also safer, particularly if your son or husband fidgets.) Keep trims small, and remember that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you look like right now.

“It’s not necessary to look good for your family members,” Ferrara says. Barring hair that obscures your vision, don’t worry too much if your roots show or your ends get uneven: We’re all in the same situation.