Hundreds of NI people headed to the hairdressers after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions earlier this week. Leona O’Neill and Stephanie Bell find out why they now feel a cut above.
Banbridge mother-of-two Karen Warren (52), runs architectural salvage business Period Homes Ireland Ltd and was first in line when her hairdressers opened again.
"Lockdown was OK for us," she says. "The weather I think helped everyone. We were closed for eight weeks but we had plenty to do around the house, it kept my husband busy. But it was lovely to be able to do all that in the sunshine.
"It wasn't so great for my hair. I had always had short hair and it had got so long in lockdown that I could actually tie it back in a ponytail. But I had greys coming through and the ends were so dry and broken, it was horrendous. I looked like a scarecrow.
"Friends who knew I was going this week to get it cut said that I actually suited it a little longer, so I got a lovely colour put in it and just the tail ends took off it. It's longer that I would normally wear it but I've got used to it and love it now.
"I had been counting down the days until my hairdresser opened again. My hair just had to be done. No matter how much effort you'd put into make-up and getting yourself dressed up, you need that finished look with the hair. That was why it was so important for me to get in there this week. As soon as I heard that the hairdressers were opening I was straight on Messenger asking for an appointment. The hairdresser said I had to ring in when they opened so I sat on the phone for half an hour - it was constantly engaged - but I wasn't hanging up until I got an appointment. They opened on Monday and I got in on Wednesday.
"It was a lot different, I had to wear a mask and a girl met me at the door and took my temperature. It was very well-organised and they made me feel very, very comfortable and I didn't feel afraid. My hairdresser Joanne McKelvey had taken over the upstairs floor of her premises so I went up there and got my colour done. The only thing was you didn't get a cup of tea, but I could live with that! Walking out, if I had won a million in the lottery I don't think I would have felt as good.
"My husband saw me and had to look twice, he thought he had a new woman. You just feel so good after getting your hair done!"
Londonderry mother-of-three Paula Griffin (55) says she feels completely rejuvenated after having her hair done.
"Lockdown has been very stressful," says the Waterside woman who visited the Glam Lounge on Wednesday.
"Normally I would only really get my hair done if I was going out somewhere or doing something nice. But I would never leave it three months between appointments.
"During lockdown I'd to keep it back in a ponytail so I was straight on the phone for an appointment.
"My hair is naturally dark blonde. I get it dyed regularly so I had a full head of roots. Not having my hair done made me feel sluggish."
Paula had no qualms about safety. "Everyone is wearing masks. The proprietor was wearing a visor as were all the girls. The sanitisers were there to use and they cleaned the chairs after each use. I got my hair coloured and cut and I felt normal again."
Belfast-based magazine editor and mother-of-one Kim Kelly (46) opted for a drastic change after lockdown, ditching her brunette locks for blonde at La Bella Vita in Dundonald.
"Getting my hair done is my thing and I get it blow dried at least once a week.
"Other people go out to bars, I go to my hairdresser. I would spend a lot of money on my hair. I had a full head of extensions in before lockdown and I ended up having to take them out myself with pliers which was great fun. I was left with a bit of a mess so I had to go onto the internet to get treatments. I think I did quite well and was quite proud of myself in finding dyes and stuff.
"My heart really went out to the girls who needed it, like some I know who have hair loss. I could just shove my hair in a ponytail, but for them hair is like a medical issue. Through my work I've met so many women who are wearing hair-pieces and toppers and extensions and I felt that an exception could have been made for them."
Kim found visiting the hairdresser still a hugely positive experience despite a temperature check on arrival and staff wearing shields. "There are plastic screens, there is no waiting room and I had to fill out loads of forms before I got my appointment.
"There is an 800-person waiting list. We did all the consultations over the phone, there is hand sanitiser everywhere and the tea and coffee came in paper cups. The towels and gowns are all disposable and there is no one waiting about. This is a big salon with around 16 seats and not all the seats are being used."
She adds: "I love nothing better than getting my hair done. I love the feel of it. I love them brushing my hair. I love getting the grey hairs out. I don't want to look old. I'm going to go down fighting!"
East Belfast author and mother-of-one Stephanie McKittrick (35) was counting down the days until her hairdresser re-opened.
"I've been quite fed up in lockdown," she says. "I started writing another book, I studied quite a lot and threw out a lot of stuff from my house.
"I am dark brown naturally, but I have been blonde now for a while.
"But once they shut down the hairdressers, there's no way you can lie; we are all left with this big band of truth with a little pebbledashing of grey hairs. Once you have roots it's obvious, and I'd be talking to people and could see them looking at them. It's like they were talking to my roots and not to me. I was very conscious that I had this big black band at the top of my head.
"I was in contact with my hairdresser Paul Meekin Hair during the entire lockdown to see what was happening and if there was any chance of them opening up again. He messaged me straight away when the green light was given and I was one of the first ones in."
Stephanie's visit to the hairdresser this week was markedly different: "Everyone has protective gear and visors on. All the staff were wearing masks and we had to wear masks. Paul would have always had his two little dogs in the salon and that gave it a lovely homely feel, and there was always loads of chatting and the place was always packed. But when I was in there were only four chairs that were in use instead of the normal eight and it was difficult to understand what anyone was saying with the masks on. It was still an amazing experience, and they did a great job in adapting... and the head massage was out of this world.
"The girl who did my hair, Kerryann, told me she's working for the next seven days in a row to try to accommodate everyone.
"It's like they say, if you're heading into a new change and a new season, then a new hairdo sets you up to take on the world. We're coming out of lockdown and getting ready to embrace this new normal and you need a new do to go with it."
Jamie Fairbrass (39), a DJ and music producer, known by the stage name JKenzo, says he struggled with his hair more than his wife did with hers during lockdown.
Jamie, who lives in Craigavon with his wife Debbie and sons Michael (9) and Joe (7), was delighted to let Belfast stylist Jason Shankey loose on his locks on Wednesday.
"I usually get my hair cut every three to four weeks and it had been four months since I last saw Jason. My hair had got really long, I don't think it has been that long since I was 15, and there was a lot of grey.
"It had a life of its own and was hard to keep tidy. In the end my wife was happier than me that I got an appointment as most mornings when I woke up I looked like Coco the clown.
"She had her hair done just before lockdown and she was great. I struggled a bit more because I'm used to it being short.
" Thankfully all the grey has been cut off and I have an appointment already made for four weeks' time."
David Jackson (59), a retired auditor from Belfast, got booked into his regular salon Escapades in Moira as soon as it re-opened.
"I wasn't tempted to do my own hair during lockdown although when my sideburns got a bit too much I had to trim them back. But for most of it I just thought everyone else was in the same boat and I wasn't the only one living with terrible hair.
"I've been going to Escapades for 20 years and once I knew I had an appointment I couldn't wait - suddenly I became aware of this little bit of a mess on the top of my head which hadn't actually bothered me at all up until that point."
David felt safe with the precautions taken inside the salon. "Escapades asked us to wear a mask and I did a dry run the day before to see how that felt and it was fine.
"I felt safe enough in the salon and have already made my appointment to go back in August. some people have even complimented me on how good it looks."