Watch: COVID-19 gives rise to a new crop of self-taught hair stylists in the UAE


Dubai: The pandemic has given rise to self-taught barbers and hair stylists. Armed with a sharp pair of scissors or newly-bought hair trimmer, a comb and a small mirror, many Dubai residents have literally taken grooming routines into their own hands — or have let their partners and spouses spruce up their top.

With the easing of movement restrictions, however, and with almost all salons now open — albeit at limited capacity — is it time to yield back the hair styling to professional barbers or are people continuing with their self-grooming?

Ruzzel Tamayo after a hair cut
Image Credit: Supplied

But first, let’s look back at one of the recurring topics of conversation during the COVID-19 lockdown, when access to salons and barbershops were cut off (pun intended) and people scrambled to buy clippers and took to social media to learn how to trim those extra centimetres of hair.

TLC — tender, loving cut

Filipino expat Andrei Avila told Gulf News: “Cutting your own hair was not easy and the issue of doing it yourself was neither superficial as it seems. Hair is an expression of our identity.” He explained: “The way we cut or colour our hair is how we want to see ourselves and how we want other people to appreciate us.”

“Of course, there were movement restrictions and I was not able to see many people aside from my immediate family during the lockdown. But work continued through Zoom meetings and I did not want people to see I just rose up from bed. Appearing shabby was not in my vocabulary. My hair style impacts my everyday life, appearance and self-esteem,” he seriously underlined.

With no access to his favourite stylist, the solution for Andrei was to take a leap of faith and let his wife, Hanie, do the trimming. “Since the pandemic, my wife has been cutting my hair using conventional clippers. It was a life changing experiment for both of us — to put it more accurately,” commented Avila.

“But I can honestly say, I’m satisfied with my hair cut. It was a little bit jarring at first and we had a few discussions on styling but — aside from the money we saved — I now feel more comfortable and safe to let my wife cut my hair every month. What she was initially lacking in skills — obviously as compared to a professional hair stylist, my wife more than made up with TLC — tender loving care — haircut,” Avila adoringly commented.

DIY ‘Quarancut’

Another Dubai resident, however, has returned to his favourite barbershop and gave up doing his own hair for more than two months. “At the onset of the pandemic, I was really afraid of going out. I did not take chances — I did not leave the house for over two months and my hair grown and was really scruffy,” said Ruzzell Tamayo.

He added: “I watched some YouTube videos on ‘Quarancut’ (haircutting during quarantine) and asked advice from friends how to DIY (do it yourself). I said, yes, why not give it a try. I did cut my own hair and it was a disaster! I gave up after a few tries and I just shaved my beard to still look and feel good for myself.” “I said things couldn’t go on like this and thankfully after a couple of months, the restrictions were lifted and I was back at my favourite salon in Deira,” Tamayo added with satisfaction. He said he felt safe going back to the barbershop. “Safety procedures have drastically improved — temperatures are checked at the door and anyone with high temperature or flu-like symptoms are barred from entering,” Tamayo noted.

He also noticed that in some salons, online booking was mandatory and barber seats are sanitised after every customer use. Razors, cutting shears and other barber tools are sterilised and the barber is required to wear the standard face mask. More importantly, the price of getting a haircut has gone down from Dh35 to Dh20 — in a bid to attract the return of customers, according to Tamayo. “I definitely felt more like a modern human again,” added Tamayo, after sending a photo showing his latest visit to the salon.

A barber’s tale

Almost all salons are now open — albeit at limited capacity.
Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Indian expat and barber Ishaque Mammath couldn’t be more happier now that business is back. Although it’s under the new normal, Mammath said customers are slowly but surely getting their grooming done in the salon. “Before the pandemic, I was doing 10-15 services on weekdays and over 20 services on weekends. The numbers are now yet back to those figures but my loyal customers have already returned,” Mamath said.

One of his loyal customers is compatriot Rijohn, who hails from the same Indian state of Kerala. “The coronavirus has really forced many people to do haircutting into their own hands and I am one of them. But I utterly failed in doing it properly,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Now back at the barber’s chair and as locks of hair tumbled down his shoulders, Rijohn said: “It was fun cutting your own hair but I would rather leave the job to those who do it well. “Besides, Mammath is not just my barber, he is also my friend and I really trust him to make me look good, fresh and clean,” Rojohn added. Then he dozed off as the razor rang like a lullaby around his ears.