If you’re feeling the itch to overhaul your hair or finally get that tattoo or nose piercing, the timing makes perfect sense. But pump the brakes before breaking out the scissors or bleach.
After spending a year inside her apartment with her two children, Danielle Campoamor, 34, was ready for a new look. The freelance writer and editor in Brooklyn wanted to cut her waist-length dark brown hair to her shoulders and bleach her locks white.
At her salon, called [salon]718 in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, her stylist asked Ms. Campoamor if anything traumatic recently happened in her life, like a divorce.
“No, just the pandemic,” Ms. Campoamor recalled saying. The stylist didn’t miss a beat. “She said, ‘Oh, I get that.’ Then she was like, ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
Ms. Campoamor was thrilled with the result, calling her slick, snow-colored bob “one of the best, albeit expensive, decisions I’ve ever made.”
If you’re feeling the itch to overhaul your hair or finally get that tattoo or nose piercing, the timing makes perfect sense. “I think what you see now is people coming out of the pandemic saying: ‘I feel changed, but I want to look like I have changed. I want an outward symbol of that,’” said Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and author of the book “Beauty Sick.”
However, as excited as you are to see a new reflection looking back at you in the mirror, you might want to pump the brakes before you break out the bleach.
When it comes to anticipation, studies show that people are susceptible to having an optimism bias: They overestimate good things happening to them and underestimate negative occurrences. We may imagine that a wildly different hairstyle will look stunning but may be surprised when it doesn’t look the way we envisioned or turns out to be more expensive and time consuming to maintain than expected.
Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering a radical change to your look.
If you plan a significant change, Brent Ericsson, a stylist at the Philadelphia salon American Mortals, emphasizes the importance of first consulting your stylist.
“Always do a consultation because they’ll be able to tell you how long it’s going to take, what the maintenance is, how much it’s going to cost you and if it’s going to look good,” he said.
If you’re booking your appointment online, Mr. Ericsson recommends alerting the salon to your plans. If there’s space to add a note, he suggests writing that you want a dramatic change. Including this information, he said, “is really going to help to make sure that your first time with a drastic change is going to have a better outcome.”
Colored hair may require specialized shampoos, tinted conditioners or hair masks to maintain the color and nourish the hair. Shorter cuts might require more frequent trips to the salon for touch-ups. Budget accordingly.
Sophie C’est la Vie, a tattoo artist in Brooklyn and co-owner of the tattoo studio This Time Tmrw, recommends thinking through how your new body art will influence how you are perceived at work. If the tattoo or piercing is highly visible, be prepared for stares and questions, even when you may not feel like dealing with the attention.
There are also financial considerations to large-scale tattoo projects. Some studios require a deposit and may charge you by the hour, the day or the session, Ms. C’est la Vie said. The time it takes to complete a tattoo varies depending on the size and detail of the piece. “A very tiny, minimal outline tattoo could take less than five minutes, where a sleeve could take more than a year, depending on how often a client books for,” she said. You also need to factor in costs like tipping.
“Getting tattooed is such a personal, and I would say, intimate experience,” Ms. C’est la Vie said, so clients should feel welcome, safe and respected.
Consult online portfolios when looking for a reputable salon, piercing studio or tattoo parlor. Approach friends who are happy with their salon experience or have body art you admire and seek recommendations.
Ms. C’est la Vie recommends familiarizing yourself with tattoo design styles. Knowing the proper terminology will help you identify artists who can best produce the particular style you want. For instance, she said, if you want a geometric black-and-gray tattoo, an artist who is an expert at full-color photo realism may not be “able to produce something for you that is more in line with your vision,” she said.
When consulting with your hairdresser, bring a few pictures of your desired cut or color.
Mr. Ericsson encourages his clients to find pictures of a model, actress or online personality whose face shape is similar to theirs. And most important, he said, look for people who have a similar hair density and curl pattern to yours. This will give you the best chance of a good result.
“My stylist was so grateful that I didn’t just bring one picture,” Ms. Campoamor said. “I had a few that varied a little slightly, so we could work on what was best for me, my complexion, the shape of my face, all those kinds of factors.”
If you’re not sure what kind of artwork you’d like for your tattoo, Ms. C’est la Vie recommends getting tattoo art books from a library or bookstore. Many tattoo artists showcase their work on their social-media profiles, too. This can help you pinpoint the design style you like.
Many transformative looks cannot be achieved in one session. If you’re lightening your hair, it might take several salon visits. A large tattoo or sleeve may take a few sessions. Be kind to yourself as you wait it out.
To get her hair grandma-white, Ms. Campoamor said it took three trips to the salon over two months. “I was not going to walk out of the salon with the exact look that I wanted because my hair was so dark,” she said. “Having that expectation defined at the very beginning really helped me manage my own journey through the process of how my hair was going to look after each appointment.”
Keep friends and loved ones in the loop during your makeover. Send pictures and videos so they can join in the fun virtually.
Ms. Campoamor credited her “hype squad” with making the experience enjoyable. “It makes it a lot of fun too to have people going through it with you and cheering you on and getting super stoked about your new look,” she said.
She sent pictures to her group-text thread at every stage: the cut, the bleaching, the finished look. “It was fun to bring my friends with me virtually in a way and to have them there,” she said. “That was by far the best part.”
If he’s working with a client who asks for a transformative style like a bob or a pixie cut, Mr. Ericsson will often first snip the hair so it lays on the curvature of the back. Then they’ll assess.
The goal is to avoid having a client shocked by a new look. He prefers to leave at least two inches of wiggle room so he can always go shorter.
“We can fix it,” Mr. Ericsson said. “Especially if it’s just a shape thing. You just have to be willing to let go of a little bit more length” to get the desired cut.
Ms. C’est la Vie recommends telling your tattoo artist if you don’t like the finished work. “Give them an opportunity to address and fix the situation for you,” she said. “Sometimes people feel self-conscious or uncomfortable to do this, but it’s the best policy, the most fair, as well as respectful to allow the original artist the chance to rectify the situation.”
If you feel you weren’t treated well during the session or the artist was unwilling to adjust the design, she suggests seeking out another artist to rework it.
Keep in mind that these experiences, while fun, are not designed to have real staying power. “We are sold a bill of goods by the beauty industry that making these kinds of superficial changes to our appearance will change our lives,” Dr. Engeln said. “It’s not going to change your life. It might be fun for a while. It might be interesting, but the way human brains work is we get used to new things and they’re no longer new.”
“If you’re looking to make big changes in your life, the changes have to come from the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, the way your relationships are working for you,” she said. They’re not going to come from a haircut, body art or piercing.