During the first lockdown Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, a 55-year-old entrepreneur, went for a drive around London. “I remember looking in the rear-view mirror,” she says, “and I noticed all these little hairs coming out of my chin. That was a bit of a shock. Like, bloody hell, I’ve really been growing these out.”
Parvizi-Wayne is of Iranian heritage, and hair removal is a big part of her culture. “Grooming, for Iranian women, it’s essential,” she says. For her entire life, from puberty onwards, Parvizi-Wayne had scrupulously removed her facial hair. “It was like a jack-in-the-box reaction,” she says. “If I saw a hair, I’d go to the salon.” If she failed to do so, a relative or family friend would take care of it for her. “Iranian aunties literally pin you down if they see a stray chin hair,” she laughs. “They pull out a piece of string to thread you then and there.”
But during lockdown, the salons closed and she didn’t think to tackle her facial hair herself. In the car that day, Parvizi-Wayne was confronted by the sight of her facial foliage, in all its natural splendour, for the very first time. “It was less Frida Kahlo,” she says, “more the bearded lady.” After the shock subsided, she realised something more surprising. “I didn’t care. It was liberating.”
Who could blame anyone for looking at the chaos and uncertainty of this wreck of a year and cultivating, say, a luxurious monobrow? Quite reasonably, in 2020 many women contemplated their tweezers, shrugged, and thought, ‘There’s a pandemic happening’.” Head shots displaying newly drab hair, starved of highlights for the first time in years, have been shared on social media in the manner of surprising natural phenomena. Legs have bristled beneath the embrace of thermal leggings. Chins have sprouted solitary hairs, like lone flags atop the summit of Everest, fluttering proudly in the wind. It was not a strike, per se, but a nationwide grooming hiatus.
Research from Mintel shows that 51% of UK beauty and personal care consumers feel a reduced need to be groomed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, while 15% of consumers have been removing their body and facial hair less often since the start of the pandemic. Partly, this was due to financial reasons. We are in straitened times: 30% of the consumers Mintel surveyed cut back on their spend on beauty treatments as a result of tightened household budgets. It was also logistical – beauty salons were among the last businesses to reopen in the UK after the first lockdown, with restrictions not lifted until July. Since then, they have been subject to regional guidelines.
“I’ve been dyeing my hair since for ever,” says Amanda Armstrong, 54, a recruitment boss from Bournemouth. “I was one of those people who, the minute I got a grey root coming through, I’d book the appointment.” Armstrong