In time of virus, grooming takes a hit


A friend closed in his northern Italian apartment for almost six weeks emailed me saying that his wife says he looks like a “clochard.” That’s French for street bum. This from a man who once was a walking advertisement for fine Italian tailoring.

Grooming has taken a hit as the coronavirus shuts down public life. That’s understandable, though others in the household might like a spiffier cellmate.

The following is not for those suffering from the coronavirus. Their only job is recovery. Rather, it is for the healthy self-quarantining masses stuck for weeks in their homes. Trips to the drugstore or supermarket don’t count as public outings. Notice how they’re also looking shabby.

It’s an interesting experiment to shuffle through the days in pajama bottoms or sweatpants with an occasional upgrade to jeans. Can I wear a T-shirt with a coffee stain? Just for today — and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

With hair salons closed, we’re getting to see the real color of people’s hair. “Here comes the 2-inch zebra stripe of roots,” a dark-haired friend told me. Pulling one’s hair back would be a mistake, she adds.

My friend worried that a run on root touch-up spray would leave the drugstore shelves in the hair color section as empty as the ones for thermometers. Hasn’t happened yet, she reports.

No sympathy here for people desperate for a cut. Toughen up, I say. But gray roots? That’s a real concern for vain people of a certain age, not that I would know.

There’s all sorts of advice on upping one’s game for those times when you must greet your public in a video conference. Much of it centers on what you should wear — from the waist up. Below the camera’s eye, no one at the other end can see what you have on or don’t have on.

Of course, you must also fix up the part of your home that appears behind you. For a Zoom call with my stylish friend, I placed a small vase of daffodils within the “eyesight” of the computer. “How do you like the flowers?” I asked. “Nice,” she answered, “but you might not want the box of 500 envelopes in the back.”

My precious bottle of Purell “advanced” hand sanitizer advertises that it “kills 99.99 percent of most illness causing germs.” I bought it for a couple of dollars before the pandemic. Black marketeers are now apparently trying to sell it for more than a flask of Chanel No. 5.

I do wonder about the virus-fighting abilities of my fancy lavender and rosemary liquid hand soap, a relic of gentler times. The label says, “Specially formulated to leave your hands feeling silky, refreshed and slightly scented.”

Can a soap that doesn’t leave the skin dry, cracked and smelling like a pesticide do the job? I’ve decided to continue using the lovely scented soap on the assumption that the virus does not like nice things.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed some beauty experts on how they’re maintaining standards. One makeup artist said she is giving herself facials with a microneedle derma-roller. A Paris-based acupuncturist revealed she is running a gua sha stone tool over her skin to release tension.

If you don’t know what a gua sha stone tool is, ask Amazon. They’re apparently still in stock. The Journal article advises trying some of these home treatments “so you can at least feel human again.”

Actually, the lapse in grooming is, in a way, making some of us feel more human than ever — in the minimalistic, homo sapiens sense. If you don’t apply the vitamin C serum today, no one will notice.

By Josh Bovee

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