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Why People Cut Their Hair After a Breakup, According to Psychologists

It's about letting go.
Why People Cut Their Hair After a Breakup, According to Psychologists
IMAGE Instagram/kylienicolepadilla
It's about letting go.

Actress Kylie Padilla surprised the internet when she chopped off her long, brown locks for a shorter cut just after reports of her split from husband Aljur Abrenica.

Although the actress has clarified that her new haircut is for a role, it remains an all too familiar image of the "breakup haircut." Celebrities do it, your friends do it, heck, you've probably even done (or thought about doing) it even once. Why is there even an urge to cut one's hair drastically after calling it quits with a partner?

It's a cathartic effort to regain control and power over one's life, said psychologists Joseph Marquez and Ali Gui. Getting a new 'do is a painless way to cope with the heartbreak and trauma of a breakup.

"Breakup is a transition point. And in order to cope with things, changing hairstyles or getting a haircut is a way of showing an end and a new start because it will grow again," Marquez told reportr.


Why hair?

When it comes to post-breakup makeovers, both men and women usually change their hair. Whether it's a new cut, color, style, or even growing a beard or mustache—the hair is the usual target for drastic changes to one's physical appearance.

It's not just a coincidence. According to Dr. Gui, people often target the hair, because changes are easy, reversible, and painless.

"It's not a permanent change unlike a tattoo or a new piercing. Hair grows back. It's something that you can change again once you're in a different state of mind," she told reportr.

"Getting a haircut or changing your hairstyle is a quick way of telling yourself that 'I can do this because I have control over my life' because breakups usually make us feel powerless," she said.

While there are men who have changed hairstyles after breakups, the practice seems to be more common with women since hair is often tied to femininity, said clinical psychologist Marquez.

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The practice is a pop-culture norm—a staple in breakup films and even on social media. When a woman who just came from a breakup posts a "new look, new me" selfie, it's often taken as a confirmation of a couple's separation and a signal of moving on.

"When you think of long hair, we often think of women and their attachment to it which is why it's more common among women," he said. 

A change in hairstyle is also more obvious among women, said Gui, who noted that it's also a way of projecting a new image.

"We can easily spot when a woman gets a new hairstyle. It's very obvious so we often connect it with a transition point in their lives—in this case, moving on from a breakup," she said.

Is a "breakup haircut" a healthy coping mechanism?

It depends, according to Marquez and Gui. Different people have different ways of responding to heartbreak and have different paces of moving on, they said.
"If it makes you feel good about yourself, then it's good," Marquez said, noting that there cannot be one prescribed way for coping.


Some people get haircuts, others get a "revenge body," and there are those who just silently move on from heartbreak.

"What's important is that you don't hurt yourself or anyone else with the coping process," he said, noting that the "difficult" part of moving on from a failed relationship usually lasts two to three months.

For those who are fresh from a breakup and are thinking of making drastic changes, Dr. Gui has this advice: "Don't make permanent decisions when you're emotional."

Oftentimes, reckless decisions due to breakup blues lead to regrets which is why it's best to calm down first before making any commitment.

"Whether it's a haircut, a tattoo or whatever it is that you thought of doing, remember that your actions have consequences," Dr. Gui said. "And the question that you should always ask yourself is: can you handle the consequence?"

* This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.


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