Experts Reveal The Real Reasons Why Cutting Your Hair Can Feel So Empowering

by Julia Guerra
Sonja Lekovic, Stocksy

If you haven’t already heard through the grapevine or caught a glimpse of her heart-stopping new ‘do on social media, Ariana Grande chopped off her hair, and it’s got me feeling some type of way. Personally, I can associate most, if not all of my life’s biggest moments thus far with a specific hairstyle, and while no one can know for sure why the “Thank U, Next” singer switched up her look, when you see her transformation, you can't help but think about how empowering it can be to cut your hair. I mean, after all this pop star's been through in the past year, I'd have to imagine that saying goodbye to the literal (and perhaps figurative) weight on her shoulders must feel amazing.

Obviously, Ari didn't call me up to chat and hash out the details on why she decided to cut her mermaid locks. (Plus, for all I know, maybe she's just been wearing hair extensions this whole time and finally took them out for a selfie, BUT I DIGRESS.) I'm only guessing that she opted for a different style to welcome a new chapter of her life, mostly based on my own personal experience with these things, but maybe also because the 25-year-old singer just dropped the most epic declaration of independence to ever bless your Spotify playlist — and really, who doesn’t contemplate snipping their strands after a major breakup?

Regardless, hair is (and has historically been) considered to be symbolic of change, according to research published in The British Journal of Sociology, so if you aren’t in dire need of a straight-up trim, there might be some other, more deep-rooted emotions inspiring you to call up your stylist.

Look, maybe you’re skimming through this article right now and thinking that I am the most dramatic of drama queens, but I’m serious: Once in a while, there's a driving force greater than split ends leading you to the hair salon, and according to mental health counselor Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, that gut feeling poking and prodding at you to go brunette, to get those lavender highlights, or to really take the plunge and give your stylist permission to do whatever feels funkiest, often has to do with who you feel you are at your core, and how you want others to perceive you.

“Hair is an extension of our identity, how we see ourselves, and how we would like others to see us,” Forshee tells Elite Daily. “When we need a change, cutting or changing our hair is usually considered because there is a significant amount of meaning about what our hair means to us in terms of our identity, and how others perceive us.”

However, Forshee adds, people don’t solely yearn for this type of change when they’ve been through something traumatic or upsetting. Though she does say that breakups and loss are among some of the most common reasons why people will opt for a bold new haircut, Forshee tells Elite Daily that positive life changes — like having a baby, starting a new relationship, or getting a promotion — might also inspire you to go for a different 'do. “The decision to cut your hair during a transition period, whether it be a positive or negative transition,” the mental health counselor explains, “symbolizes to the individual themselves a new start.”

For women of color, in addition to potentially symbolizing the beginning of a new chapter in life, cutting your hair (also referred to as "the big chop" in the POC community) is often a form of liberating self-expression, as well. Kiyah Wright, an Emmy award-winning celebrity hairstylist and founder of Muze Hair, points out that straight hair is typically the "only accepted beauty norm" when it comes to hairstyles in the POC community, but she says diverse types, textures, and lengths are all beautiful in their own right, too.

"In the POC community, the big chop can represent liberation, self-discovery, or starting anew for many women," Wright tells Elite Daily over email. "This can be anything, from literally freeing herself from heat damage, hair breakage, and/or effects caused by a relaxer or hair extensions, to making a bold statement by defying and breaking free from traditional beauty standards."

What's more, Wright says that showing off your new 'do, aka "the big chop reveal," can also be a sentimental moment in a woman's life, depending on the emotional attachment she has to her hair, and why she decided to cut it in the first place. "A big chop can be a big deal to some in the POC community because some consider their hair to be their crowning glory," Wright explains, adding that, when a woman shares her new hairstyle, she's also, in a sense, revealing "a new identity to those closest to her, and to the world."

So yeah, I'd say that's pretty damn empowering, wouldn't you?

But as much as I'm in favor of switching up your hair from time to time in the name of starting fresh both literally and figuratively (I, myself, dye my hair at least twice a year), it’s important to keep in mind the fact that, no matter how hard you may wish for it to be the case, cutting or changing your hair doesn’t actually transform who you are at the end of the day. Moreover, separating yourself from a fistful of strands likely won’t separate you from any emotions you might find difficult to process, either. So while sitting in a stylist’s chair and feeling the scissors slice through damp pieces of hair can feel incredibly freeing, it’s not a magical antidote, nor is it a cure-all.

If the only reason you’re pursuing a new hairstyle is to come out of the salon a new you, then you might want to re-evaluate why you’re getting a haircut in the first place. “When we cut our hair for the purposes of change, psychologically, we are experiencing a rebirth,” Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, explains. For many people, she tells Elite Daily, the act becomes “symbolic of hope that they can attract different circumstances and heal from past hurt.”

On the one hand, says UNITE Hair's creative director, Gary Baker, a haircut can be a "true statement of change," particularly because it's "so visual and immediate," he tells Elite Daily. It’s beautiful, and it’s empowering — but cutting your hair is also something that is often done in haste, so it’s important to know where that driving force for change is really coming from. Are you antsy for a haircut so you can celebrate a new chapter in your life? Or are you trying to lift a figurative weight in a very literal sense?

Try to consider these questions before you go through with a cut. But, once you do chop your tresses, just own it, girl. No matter how your strands fall, they're beautiful, just like you.