From cutting our own hair to using common pantry items for skin maintenance, the do-it-yourself spirit has always been strong with regards to beauty. This DIY subculture exploded when pandemic-related salon closures and appointment backlogs all but forced us to become our own beauticians and barbers. 

For two years now, we’ve chased the trendiest hairstyles, flawless skin, symmetrical eyebrows and perfectly sculpted beards, emulating countless stars and social media influencers in the process. While this renaissance of self-care and self-reliance produced some true aesthetic achievements, it has also yielded more than a few notorious DIY disasters…

Gorilla Glue Girl

Have we reached a turning point? With salons open and operating safely, are there certain things we should just leave to the professionals? We asked three stylists to weigh in and share which services they wish clients would leave to them at this point, and the hair-raising reasons why. 


Cuts That Don’t Make the Cut

Girl cutting own hair poorly

Imagine being a hair stylist waiting on a client who recently scheduled an emergency touchup. The client walks through the door, and you swallow hard. It becomes clearer with each step that their “touchup” is, in fact, a DIY rescue mission that Rambo wouldn’t feel comfortable taking on. 

This scenario isn’t hypothetical for stylists Alyssa Hare and Cassidee Banks of Salon 77 West in Danville, California. 

According to them, there is one glaringly obvious reason we shouldn’t cut our own hair: Even with a half-dozen strategically placed mirrors, we can’t recreate all the angles a stylist enjoys while they work. As a result, we end up with a lot of uneven lines. 

The worst missteps Hare sees, however, are committed in the front.  

“There’s nothing worse than a hack job on your bangs,” she said. “Bangs frame your face, which is the first thing people see.” 

I dun see why u have to pay $50 for a haircut when u can DIY – wait what

So much can change with a single snip… 


DYEing for an Intervention

It starts innocently enough. You want to touch up some grays, or try out a bold, new hair color. You buy said color (it’s probably a member of the red family), get some application pointers from a YouTube tutorial, and have at it.  

A few hours later, your head is as orange as a Bengal tiger’s.  

Surprised young black woman with orange hair


Hare, who specializes in coloring and extensions, sees this mistake often. She attributes it to choosing a hair dye with the wrong tone or developer volume.  

“Everyone is different,” Hare says. “The same dye formula on ten different heads of hair will yield ten different results.” 

Stylists take the guess work out, customizing dyes based on the natural characteristics of their clients’ hair and a (literal) textbook knowledge of colors, tones and developers. This knowledge gives them an added edge when fixing our DIY mistakes. Word to the wise: Color corrections are tricky. Making them trickier by trying to fix one hair dye snafu with another only makes this pricy service pricier. 


Some Colors Don’t Mix

Certain drugstore hair dyes can have harmful metals and additives that damage hair after prolonged use, but that probably won’t stop people from using them any time soon. What may make them think twice is that chemicals in boxed hair dyes don’t always play nicely with the dyes used in salons. 

According to Hare, it’s possible for people who often dye their own hair to experience a negative chemical reaction when getting the treatment done in the salon that can severely damage their hair. She says that the fried areas have the look and consistency of cotton candy… 


Beeker on fire

While this outcome is rare, following one simple rule can prevent it altogether: 


Always tell your stylist if you’ve been coloring your hair at home. 


Bleach Bummed

Just like their laundry, people can have a spotty relationship with bleach. It has a higher pH level than traditional color treatment and lightens the hair by eliminating its natural pigments. Under processing, or not using enough bleach leaves us with orange streaks, splotches, or something else we can all laugh about later with friends.  

Over processing, or using too much bleach, is another matter. It causes breakage, brittleness, scalp burns (“bleach bites” to some), and patches of hair to potentially fall out. 

“There can be a lot of chemical damage done without the right knowledge, and it could be easily avoided by trusting a professional,” said Banks. 

Oh, the dreaded chemical haircut. Sounds like a 90’s electronica act: will likely keep you off the dance floor for a while. Sometimes, all that can be done is to cut off the remaining hair. In some cases, the damage is irreparable. 

If only we could bring dead hair back to life. 



Lash & Brow Malfunctions

Mannequin with lipstick and eyelashes

Lash lifts and brow laminations can help give us that mysterious, grab-you-from-across-the-room gaze. Be warned, though: The DIY quest for movie star eyes can be perilous. 

Both treatments use thioglycolic acid, which is also used in perms. It literally breaks down and restructures hair by (rapidly) increasing its pH level, after which a neutralizing agent lowers it. Mismanaging this relationship has some nasty consequences. 

“I don’t think everyone understands that these chemicals can easily damage their hair or burn sensitive skin,” says Crystal Jaime, an independent lash artist and wax specialist in Modesto, California. 

Jaime’s clients have shared many DIY fail tales with her. Instead of feathery lashes and fluffy brows, they ended up with angry caterpillars on their foreheads and spider-leg lashes. Neither of those are as bad as burns or losing those poor little hairs altogether, which can also happen. 

Would that be called a chemical pluck? In any case, it’s very unpleasant.  


Continuing the rich tradition of DIY beauty isn’t a bad thing. The unique styles and level of creativity that people display in creating them are truly inspiring. In fact, it’s through DIYing that many hairdressers, estheticians, nail technicians and others began their journeys. 

We’re only saying that some things are simply better left to professionals who have completed that journey. You know, those who: 

  • Have graduated from cosmetology school and make their living at this  
  • Trained for years in shaping and styling techniques 
  • Know the unique effects of different acids and chemicals on the skin & hair 
  • Have all the proper tools with which to do their jobs correctly 
  • Know your name and look forward to seeing you 

Can the people in the DIY videos say the same?