Why Emotional Haircuts Feel so Cathartic, According to Therapists

Written by Ashley Locke

The stresses of various life occurrences can often be too much for us to bear. Whether we’re going through a breakup, starting a new job, or moving, these emotionally-heightened periods often increase our desire to cut our hair. But why is that? What is it about these emotional periods in our lives that have us reaching for the scissors? To get to the bottom of it all, we reached out to the experts to uncover once and for all why we want to cut our hair during emotional life periods.

Person cutting their hair during an emotional period in their life | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Getty / Basak Gurbuz Derman)

About the Experts

Liz Hughes is a Houston-based licensed professional counselor.

Sara Kuburic is a writer and existential psychotherapist.

So, Why Do We Cut Our Hair During Emotional Periods in Our Lives?

The answer likely won’t surprise you, as it has a lot to do with our need to feel in control. “Some respond to stress by grasping for things they can control since life feels so out of control: Cue the new haircut and color,” shares professional counselor Liz Hughes.

Existential psychotherapist Sara Kuburic agrees with the need to feel in control as a large motive behind emotional haircuts. She shares that it “can also boost our confidence and make us feel better about ourselves. A hair change can mark a new beginning or be symbolic of letting go (literally).”

Hughes does note that “human change is more complex than a few hours at the salon. Sometimes the illusion that everything will be different because of our new hairdo gets shattered when we realize we can’t change our personality or habits as easily as we can change our hair.”

Why Changing Our Hair, of All Things?

There are a number of reasons why we want to change our hair during emotional periods. Hughes notes that after a breakup, “some people come out of relationships feeling very restricted and experience a lost sense of self, so making a drastic hair change can feel like they are reclaiming their personality.” We’re able to let go of the people we once were by doing this. It helps us embrace another side of ourselves during trying times.

Cutting our hair is also an easy way to achieve instant gratification. When everything feels like it’s falling apart, we can have some control over our new look. And it acts as a sort of release. “We know it will grow back or we can dye it again in a few weeks,” Hughes says about why we choose to change our hair. “Yet, it still provides that instant gratification for change that we are craving at that moment, with the ability to undo it if it’s the worst thing ever. The reward system in our brain provides us with dopamine when we achieve this quick fix, which leads to us temporarily feeling really good.”

But it isn’t only emotional times in our lives that have us itching to change up our hair. Kuburic shares that sometimes we may feel bored or just want to remain fashionably relevant. “I think as humans, we grow and change,” she starts. “It’s normal for us to want our hair and appearance to express the way we experience ourselves at that moment (as we evolve, so will our appearance).”

Are There Any Benefits to Making a Drastic Hair Change During Heightened Emotional Periods?

Cutting your hair isn’t the best coping mechanism, but Hughes shares that it’s not all that bad. “I think changing hair in response to a breakup can be a healthy distraction. I believe any change in small doses can be a positive thing and helps us play a little and switch up our mundane day-to-day look.”

Kuburic agrees, noting that leaning into these emotions can help you better connect with yourself. “If you feel like you finally want to lean into being who you really are, the emotions might give you the push you need.”

Still, Hughes doesn’t recommend an emotional haircut being your only strategy to deal with stress as it can cause us to avoid our emotions surrounding the situation. “If you’re really craving a new ‘do, I say go for the change, but make sure to revisit the emotions or reasons for wanting to dye your hair in the first place.”

How Should We Deal With the Urge to Cut Our Hair?

Sometimes, there’s no need to fight the urge, mentions Kuburic. Yet, she does recommend you find better ways to self-soothe. She recommends you ask yourself why you want the haircut in the first place before making your decision. “Maybe getting more rest, taking care of our body, or finding a support system would be more beneficial than a haircut,” Kuburic recommends.

Similarly, Hughes doesn’t completely advise against cutting your hair, though she urges you to give yourself some time to think it over. “There are very few life decisions that need to be made in 24 hours,” she notes. “Give yourself a few weeks to think about the long-term cost of changing your hair. If you’re still 100% committed after a few weeks, go for it.”

Feeling good about your decision to get an emotional haircut after reading this? Thinking of going with bangs? HERE is how to properly cut your own bangs at home!