We all know someone who's gotten a "breakup haircut" after a dramatic split. Whether you've gone through the transformation yourself or have been dragged to the salon by a close friend to experience the phenomena first-hand, there's something about chopping it all off that signals this new freedom.
While there's no denying that a breakup haircut can feel liberating and transformative, can it actually be beneficial to your mental health? Is there a psychological reason it feels so therapeutic? Turns out, the idea for a cut comes from a common need for a fresh start.
"People sometimes will look for something tangible to demonstrate the closing of a chapter or the beginning of a new one, and your hair is one of the most obvious ways to do it as everyone will notice," Christie Ferrari, also known as Dr. C, clinical psychologist and blogger, told POPSUGAR. "Who doesn't want to look their best post-break up?"
Psychotherapist Daryl Appleton, MD, added, "When we change something about our appearance, we tend to attract more attention, either positive or negative. Regardless this reinforcement helps us not only feel seen but also can act as a signal to others that something has changed."
"When we feel physically or emotionally hurt, it is a natural reaction to want to change or redirect to avoid this pain."
People have a lot of different coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with the stress of a breakup — taking up a new hobby, shopping for new clothes, hitting the gym more — and changing your hair is just one of them. "When we feel physically or emotionally hurt, it is a natural reaction to want to change or redirect to avoid this pain," said Dr. Appleton. "Emotional hurt is much harder to change or redirect, so we tend to focus on the more tangible physical changes. It allows for some more immediate release and relief."
A new haircut is a fast and easy way to boost your confidence, but before booking your appointment, you'll want to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons — if not, it's just a quick-fix.
"We have to make sure we're changing for ourselves," said Dr. C. "We are the ones who want the change and that it's not about changing for someone else. Otherwise, we risk a lot of things: dependency, imposter syndrome, and not following through with the change." Dr. Appleton added: "The only harm is if the inside work isn't being done. You can change your hair a million different ways but if you don't work on the 'inside stuff' then it's just a band-aid on a bullet hole."
For Savannah St. Jean, hairstylist and owner of Savannah Rae Beauty in Florida, she's seen plenty of breakup haircuts happen in real-time and refers to them as hitting a reset button, but acknowledged that it's also a risky endeavour. "Sometimes our highly emotional state makes us want a fresh new look, but I highly suggest treading carefully," said St. Jean. She recommends her clients make sure the style change is practical — for instance, you don't want to lose your ability to pull your hair into a ponytail with a big chop if that's your go-to style.
But that's not to say St. Jean doesn't believe in the magic of a breakup haircut; she does. "With a little bit of professional advice, it can be invigorating and positive and put an extra bounce in their step. I think if it's done right, it can be exactly what they need to move forward."