During one particular grooming low during lockdown, I sat on the floor of my bathroom, and decided to unearth a toenail that likes to push into my nail bed. Tool in hand, I administered the treatment that I thought would rid me of uncomfortable tightness surrounding that errant toenail.
Things did not go to plan, and I ended up with a swollen toe and an unhappy and uneven nail situation that now means I will clearly need to see a podiatrist, when allowed to visit one once more.
Other lessons learned following forays into tending to my beauty needs included; that hair colourists are really enormously skilled to blend roots into mid lengths (with one adventure leaving me with a very clear line between the top of my head and my grown out balayage), and that shaving very coarse and curly hair can come with the price of ingrown hairs.
Do these realisations sound familiar? Did you too have a nadir where a job best left to professionals went awry? Or did you discover that you could in fact manage more than you thought without help?
On Monday 12 April, lockdown will ease and more establishments will be permitted to reopen, including hairdressers and nail salons.
So as we start making bookings again (you’ll be lucky to get one before June at this rate) here are some good rules to govern what you can safely do at home to save some cash and what should absolutely be left in the hands of professionals.
Do: Look after the health of your hair at home
The fact of the matter is that hair that is over processed, i.e. dyed and styled to the max, will lose its sheen and bounce pretty quickly. Conversely, hair that has been hydrated and left to its own devices as much as possible will remain more healthy and therefore more likely to be shiny and manageable.
And while a trim plays a role in looking after the quality of hair, it is only half the story; the rest of it is up to you at home. Do you to use hot tools every single time you wash your hair, or could they be saved for special occasions? Could you add the odd mask into your routine? And maybe a hair conditioner?
Don’t: Cut your fringe at home
Ideally don’t cut any of your hair yourself, but the fringe rule is absolute: nobody in the history of home hairdressing has ever successfully navigated this one and in all likelihood you will end up with either a woefully crooked edge or with an unintentional micro fringe.
Do: Use root touch up products at home
If you don’t like emerging grey hair and want to cover it, root touch up powders and sprays are a good solution.
Color Wow Root Cover Up, £22.80, lookfantastic.com come in a variety of colours and are great for precision, or get L’oreal Paris Magic Retouch Root Touch Up, £8.99. superdrug.com for a spray that allows you to cover a greater area more quickly.
Don’t: Reach for the permanent dye at home
This is a hard thing to resist, granted - but if you have highlights or lowlights and want to maintain them, it’s better to hold out for a hairdresser’s expertise and experience.
If you simply must colour yours, opt for a really good kit that offers lots of information and a few options of different finishes like the Josh Wood Permanent Hair Dye Kits, £14, boots.com.
Do: Invest in a good eyelash curler
There is nothing quite like the eye-opening effect of curled lashes, and it’s the quickest way to look perky in the morning, which is why every make-up artist worth their salt espouses the virtues of upright lashes.
Eyelash curlers are the only safe way to get them at home, and Surratt Revelee Lash Curler, £32, Spacenk.com is generally considered to be the gold standard among those in the know.
Don’t: Attempt to perm your own lashes
A lash perm or LVL lift is an excellent beauty win if you want your curl to last four to six weeks and can bring yourself to sit still with your eyes shut for an hour while said curl is applied.
But there is no way you want to attempt this one at home - it is never a good idea to administer all those chemicals so close to your eye by yourself. The best places for a perm? Blink Brow Bar, Daxita Vaghela at Athertone Cox, or Brows By Suman.
Do: Laser body hair at home
At home hair removal lasers using IPL (intense puled light) to kill the root of the hair follicle have come on leaps and bounds, and now safe and effective options are available for all skin tones.
Don’t: Repeatedly shave coarse and curly hair
If you have particularly coarse (rather than fine) hair on your body, you will likely be well aware of its propensity to push into skin as it grows after being shaved, ending up as an ingrown hair.
Exfoliation goes some way to reduce the likelihood of this happening, but you might have to accept that shaving as a form of curly and coarse hair removal isn’t the one for you.
P.s. The Gillette Venus is still unbeatable as a razor that whips off hair without irritation, in case you are going to go that route - and it now comes in fully recyclable packaging - from £10.99 at boots.com.
Do: Weekly pedicures and manicures
Don’t attempt any of the bigger stuff alone. It is a good idea to file the bottom of feet, trim nails, add moisture, and then leave alone. Margaret Dabbs makes the best manicure and pedicure kits for home use, as well as any other hand or foot paraphernalia you might need.
Margaret Dabbs The Perfect Home Manicure Set, £45, margaretdabbs.com, Margaret Dabbs The Perfect Home Pedicure Set, £79, margaretdabbs.co.uk. Ruby Hammer’s Nail Kit, £22, cultbeauty.com is also ideal for on the go to make sure any snags are tended to without damaging your nails.
Don’t: Touch your own cuticles or cut any of the skin on your feet
Not only because you may end up slipping and seriously cutting yourself, but also because in all likelihood even if you consider yourself to be pretty neat and clean, your home equipment won’t be sterile and using it could lead to an infection.
By that token, any good podiatrist or manicurist who takes to your cuticles should only do so with equipment taken out of a sterilised bag, so that you know you’re in safe hands.
Do: Tidy up straggly eyebrows
That random hair hanging around on your temple? It can go. So can anything that’s far away from the bulk of your brows. This is a good rule of thumb for tidying up brows in general; just don’t go anywhere near the main shape.
Also get your hands on a pair of Tweezerman classic slant tweezers, £13, lookfantastic.com - they make precision much easier.
Don’t: Pluck in a shape unless you are confident
Following on from the rule about plucking your eyebrows, if you don’t feel comfortable to do yours yourself, consider any periods between trips to a professional as an opportunity to let them grow out, giving the expert you see more scope to create a perfect shape for your face when you do go in.