Does your hair hold trauma? TikTok influencers say they are cutting their locks to symbolize a rebirth. In this Her Campus article, Mindpath Health’s Kiana Shelton, LCSW, talks about how our hair can affect our mood and self-concept.
Our hair has been with us through it all. You might remember the updo you wore to your first school dance, the braids on your first date, the curls to your high school graduation. Hair holds emotional weight and memories, so much so that cutting it off can be a form of letting go of those memories that hold trauma, and a tool of empowerment.
Recently, the therapeutic chop has been trending on social media. The topic “hair holding trauma” has over 10.9 billion views on TikTok. TikToker Amanda Jey shaved her head to rid herself of past trauma and manifest an era of rebirth. TikToker @holistichairbytaira, who is a holistic hairstylist, shares in a video that the urge to cut your hair after a big life change is an intuitive guidance that will help you heal.
Though it might be trending now, the sociology of hair and its impact has been a concept that has been around for years, even decades. In a journal article published in the British Journal of Psychology, “Shame and Glory: A Sociology of Hair,” Anthony Synnott explains that hair is one of the most powerful symbols of identity because it is both personal and public. And in many cultures, hair is a sacred part of us.
Sandra Cooze, a trauma release coach, says, “In many cultures, hair is seen as something sacred, an extension of us. Hair holds both positive and negative energy. It is an extension of our mind holding our thoughts, emotions, stress, hopes, and fears. Cutting our hair is healthy not only for our hair, but for our overall well-being.”
In communities of color, the “big chop” is more than just letting go — it symbolizes a transformation into a version of yourself that embraces your natural hair. The idea of “beautiful hair” as we know it today was mainly formed around white women, excluding women of color from the narrative.
The premise of it is all about taking a stand against societal ideals that view POC’s hair as “not beautiful,” which causes them to chemically treat their hair to straighten it or buy wigs to cover their curls. The “big chop” is when you cut off all the chemically treated parts of your hair to take back that power and show that natural hair is beautiful. In a lot of ways, it’s a redemption.
Kiana Shelton, a licensed clinical social worker, says, “As an African American clinician, I have seen clients cut their hair to serve as the ultimate act of self-love. While there is nothing wrong with having an emotional attachment to your hair, an emotional attachment can be a slippery slope to emotional dependency. Especially if these ideas around your hair begin to impact mood and self-concept.”
Though hair is a part of your identity, it doesn’t have to define you. For some, cutting their hair can be seen as an affirmative practice, symbolizing one moving away from societal/cultural views or expectations and into the liberation of creating one’s own definition and beauty standard.”
Society’s ideals on hair have also impacted the queer community. Long hair has long been a societal symbol of femininity, and in return, buzz cuts have become a symbol in the queer community for battling heteronormative beauty standards. Cutting your hair, especially in the queer community, is a way to redefine what it means to be feminine and create a beauty standard that isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Physically speaking, hair is just hair, but on an emotional level, it’s so much more than that. It’s a symbol of times in your life, memories, societal views, and emotions. Whether you want to rid yourself of the weight of past trauma or take a stand against gender norms, cutting your hair is a form of letting go. Hair is a part of your identity, so however you choose to wear it (or whether you post it on TikTok) is up to you.
Read the full Her Campus article with sources.