Hair Transformations in Media and the Psychology of It

3 min read

Trisha Mohan ’26

Contributing Writer

While aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, it is easy to find a clip of a distraught-looking person, standing in front of their dimly-lit bathroom with scissors cutting jagged, uneven parts of their hair. Maybe even a vicious application of powdered bleach, resulting in not only a patchy copper tone but a burning scalp at two in the morning (an experience I am most certainly not familiar with). Allie Marie Evans, the actress who plays Natalie in Euphoria did this exact thing. Her beautiful blonde bob? That was done with kitchen shears at 1:30 a.m., documented on her various Instagram stories. From celebrities to the general public, many people deal with impulsive decisions about their appearance; however, because of psychology, this is not only normal but understandable. 

These hair changes seem mainly spontaneous; however, there is reasoning behind why our brain chooses to move on impulse, considering that this late-night, arm-straining process has to have some positive effect besides a new look. Doctor Terri Orbuch, a professor at Oakland University, explains the concept of changing your hair after a breakup or emotional stressor. She stated in an article, “Emotional triggers are people, things, objects, places, and hairstyles that trigger you back into the memories and feelings you had in that relationship. So, hairstyles can be one of those things that remind you of the past or your previous relationship.” She ran a study that concluded that those who still long for the past tend to move on slower; thus, people use change to forget it—such as going for a giant chop or a color change. This desire to escape from the past is what causes our impulsive decisions, and it does not only apply to breakups but emotional stressors in general. 

Now we have gone over why we make the drastic changes ourselves, but why late at night? Briony Leo, a psychologist employed by Relish, a relationship coaching company, has the answer: “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.” Those countless nights spent staying up late, not doing much but holding off work are very common. However, this is not caused by poor time management skills or laziness, but by busy people trying to find time for themselves during the day. Many times, we have schedules that involve working all day and doing chores, and by the time we should go to bed, we have had no time responsibility-free. Thus, we will stay up late to enjoy time to ourselves and do self-care activities then, such as watching movies or, in this case, dyeing and chopping your hair. 

Dyeing or cutting our hair can be a change used to distract us from the past as a form of self-care and expression or simply a sign of boredom; however, these intense midnight changes are not “abnormal,” they are instead a response to modifications in our lives.

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