5 Reasons We Cut Our Hair Short – the Psychology of Haircutting

I’ll never forget the first time a client walked into the salon on a Friday night and wanted to cut her waist-length hair to shoulder-length. She walked out of the salon very excited about her new look. 

The following morning, as soon as I arrived, I was immediately called into the store manager’s office and nearly lost my job. That’s when I realized that Hairdressers have to be psychologists, too.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to offer psychology of haircutting 101 as part of our curriculum.  

In this article, we’ll consider these questions

  • Why is cutting hair so emotional?
  • Why you should never cut your hair on impulse
  • 5 reasons that makes us want to cut our hair

Why is cutting hair so emotional

If you’re a toddler getting their first haircut, the answer is simple. They don’t understand that cutting their hair isn’t going to hurt like cutting their finger.  Besides mom always says don’t play with scissors.

However, the emotional adult response is usually a more complicated trauma response. Why can cutting your hair be so traumatic?

Lack of good communication at the hair salon:

I have a friend whose hair is past her butt, not quite to the knees. She is scared to go to most hairdressers and typically trims her own hair, except whenever I’m in town.  “I just want a trim”, she says. But frequently, hairdressers cut way too much off. I show her exactly where I will cut and trim, only what is essential to make a nice clean line and more volume. My friend’s hair is in excellent condition. She just tries to keep split ends at bay.

Rule #1 Don’t take liberties with people who take pride in their long hair.

Our hair becomes our identity, particularly long hair. 

The idea also applies to hair color.  If we alter our hair dramatically, it will impact how we feel about ourselves.

My mother used to cut my hair with bangs when I was a kid; She liked them and thought I should wear bangs too. When I became a teenager, I realized bangs made me feel uncomfortable, and I am NOT my mother. I have my OWN identity. 

So if you have extraordinarily long hair, think thrice before you decide to guillotine your hair.  Chopping off long hair can be most traumatic since it took so much time to grow, long hair IS your identity.

Avoid buyers’ remorse if cutting your hair is just a passing fancy.

Communication is Vital

Don’t assume that every hairdresser has the same talent or ability. We all have different strengths and weaknesses.

2 ways to improve communication with your stylist:

  1. Photographs always help when trying to communicate what you want.
  2. Find a Hairdresser with appropriate skills and a similar mindset.

Before you jump into something dramatic that might have life-altering emotional consequences for you.  

  • Spend time with your stylist and make sure they have the same mindset as you. 
  • See what work they’ve done on other people. Let them prove that they have abilities with your kind of hair.
    • Do you like their work?
    • Did that person have similar hair as you? 
  • Stick by your stylist 
    • Don’t change hairdressers on impulse
    • Once you believe you have the same mindset. Don’t think you will get the results you want on impulse with another styist.
  • If you are dynamicly changing your hair, you have to come to the realization you might not like it and might have to grow back out. 

Recently a friend posted a picture of herself regretting her haircut.

I texted her asking, “what happened?  I didn’t think your hair was that short”.  So she explained that she is in the process of growing her hair out again. Her hair straightened was probably mid-back length, and she cut it short enough that she felt uncomfortable with it except having it back in a bun or up and away from her face.

I told her that I often have the same struggles, even as a hairdresser. We proceeded to talk about the reasons why we cut our hair.

5 Reasons We Cut Our Hair Short 

  • Reason #1 Unhappiness

When I feel frustrated and unhappy with myself or my appearance, I want to cut my hair. I think that cutting my hair will make me feel more cheerful.  And it does make me happy for a while. 

So Why does cutting your hair feel good?

Call it excitement, adrenaline rush, the thrill of the chase, or the endorphins of trying something new. An attractive appearance has less to do with our hair and more to do with our attitude.  So maybe a haircut is our answer to having a bad day.  

My hypothesis: Men must be much happier 😉 since they cut their hair more frequently.

The Short-lived high of a NEW hairstyle

Reality check

Shortly after my haircut, I often regret my decision, and then let it grow out again.  Because reality hits, styling my short wavy hair in high humidity is challenging. 

Usually, you have to style short hair more frequently than you do long hair. It’s our thinking and self-criticism that make us unhappy.

Retuning to the girl who almost made me lose my job. Looking back, I would’ve cut about half as much as she asked me to or made her sign a waiver. She would’ve had some of the thrills shorter hair, maybe without as much trauma when reality hit.

Then she realized how different it would be styling medium-length hair with long layers, she wasn’t accustomed to it since her hair had been all one length. Probably in her mind, she now had short hair with layers, and that required maintenance.  She wasn’t a happy camper like the previous night.

  • Reason #2 Nostalgia

Our bodies and hair change over time.  When we start reminiscing about how we looked when we were younger.  We think about how nice we looked, and we want to look that way again. I want to cut my hair the way it was before to make me feel young again.

Reality check

Seeing photos of myself during the grow-out stage reminds me that not all hair lengths are flattering and make me look heavier; I become very discontent with my haircut. 

Reason #3 Addiction

Haircutting can be an addiction, and so can hair coloring. Ok, so it’s not the same as substance abuse.

As we discussed, the NEWness of things creates endorphins in our brain, which make us feel happy temporarily.  So that is why people like buying new things, new relationships, trying new looks, etc.

Reason #4 Identity

Why do older women cut their hair short? And Why cutting your hair is empowering?

While some people get traumatized by a significant haircuts, others are trying to reinvent themselves and discover their unique style.  

Most people do this when they’re younger. We establish our signature style.

Maybe our upbringing demanded that we maintain a specific look like keep our hair long. Then during a midlife revelation, you become less tolerant of being told what to do.  

Or cutting your hair could be a matter of practicality, washing and drying your hair more frequently because you sweat a lot.

Maybe it was a drastic change like shaving your head. A woman I follow on TikTok said she tried growing her hair out but, she no longer identifies with long hair. And for her short hair is practical, because long hair is more work, maintenance, and products which =expense.

Reason #5 Control

Some people cut their hair off because of depression, loss, and grief.  They think “out with the old in with the new.”

It’s something you can control when life seems out of control.

Cutting off your hair is a normal and common way to deal with loss. In fact, there are references to this custom even in ancient times. 

If life gives you lemons, get a haircut

In review 

Before you go through with a major haircut, Ask yourself, 

Is cutting my hair an emotional decision or a matter of practicality?  

Is it an impulsive decision, or am I convinced that it’s what I want?

Do you know of another reason why cutting off your hair can be liberating or traumatic? 

If so, please share your stories with us below in the comments

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