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When I was growing up, haircuts didn’t seem to be a very big deal. They were always up to mom or dad — we’d go to the salon at whatever time worked in their schedule and it would usually just be when they thought I had too many split ends or my hair had grown too long. When looking back at my older teen years, however, I felt like I was the one deciding when I wanted a haircut and what I wanted the cut to be. I notice now that more often than not the reason that I wanted a haircut was because something big was happening in my life. Out of curiosity, I asked a bunch of my friends when they go to get their hair cut, and no one really had a set schedule; it was just cut when they felt the need to. So that led me to wonder: why do we feel the need to change our hair?

“Cutting our hair or changing our physical appearance falls into three different types of coping and can be seen as a common reaction to a stressful event,” said Dr. C. “These include wanting to gain control of the stressor, seek social support, and wanting to grow out of adversity.” (Harrington) It turns out that the want to change our hair can come from a desire to feel more in control and more relaxed. This makes sense given our daily lives become much more hectic as we reach adulthood. I could definitely relate to this, as the last time I cut my hair was actually due to feeling extremely stressed. It was just two weeks ago, and my friends and I all felt overwhelmed with the our school workload, so we literally cut our hair in a restroom here at the University of Utah. Later that same week, we were still looking for a way to feel more in control, so we went and got piercings as well. 

“Throughout history, women have changed their appearances to handle trauma – anything from a breakup, to job loss, to the death of a loved one. It’s a powerful statement to both oneself and the world, as even slight changes to hair can dramatically affect how someone is perceived–a type of signal to friends and family that something has happened” (Moyer.) Another source says that it can be due to more than just a stressful event, and I personally still think that the deeper reason is to feel like we have more control over our own life. This source says that women change their appearances to get over things as well, as it seems to be a great physical tool to show that you’ve moved on with life.

But just because we can find some pretty great reasons to justify it, is it really a normal thing to do? Christy Beck, a therapist based in State College, Pennsylvania says “It’s completely normal to want to superficially change your appearance. You can consider it a form of self care.” Plus, “You’re doing something for yourself to make yourself feel better” (Foley.) Changing your physical appearance is just like any other form of self care — you’re taking these actions to make yourself feel better after some kind of experience that made you feel a little low. That’s a normal activity. 

Not all physical changes are because of a low point in your life though; I think that changing your physical appearance can also be to give yourself a confidence boost and make you feel empowered. As Coco Chanel famously said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life,” and it seems that the world has taken that to heart” (Moyer.) Changing physical appearances is a valid way to make yourself feel more confident, in control, and even more becoming toward your true self.

Foley, K. E. (2017, June 11). It’s totally normal-and maybe even useful-to cut off all your hair to deal with loss. Quartz. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://qz.com/1002590/its-totally-normal-and-maybe-even-useful-to-cut-off-all-your-hair-to-deal-with-loss/. 

Harrington, J. (2020, May 13). Why does social distancing make everyone want to change their hair so drastically?POPSUGAR Beauty. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/psychology-hair-changes-social-distancing-47418662. 

Moyer, S. (2019, August 4). Why do we crave drastic hair changes when things go wrong? BALANCE. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://balance.media/why-do-we-crave-drastic-hair-changes-when-things-go-wrong/. 

First year as a Her Campus Utah writer. Sophomore at the University of Utah. Majoring in Political Science and Gender Studies.
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