Credit: Instagram/ @selenagomez

Who can forget when Selena Gomez swopped her long locks for a short bob when she broke up with Justin Bieber? And she did it again after calling it quits with The Weeknd in 2018.

What is it about women and their hair? When facing drastic life changes like parting ways with their partners, they tend to part with their locks too. Or change their hair colour. Case in point: Katy Perry debuted a teal ’do after her divorce from comedian Russell Brand.

Why the drastic change?

Like rebounds, hairstyles can help you get over a rough patch in life. Sometimes, it’s the length, other times, it’s simply a colour change. The transformation of hairstyles is one way to leave the past behind and pave the way forward. Your appearance holds the burden of the person you used to be, and hair is one of the quickest ways to get that change.

Dr Adaline Ng, principal clinical psychologist at Better Life Psychological Medicine Clinic, outlines the key reasons why women are so quick to change their hairstyles. “For some, it symbolises a new beginning – like new hair, new me. For others, it allows them to regain a sense of control in their lives.”

She adds that for some, changing their hairstyle can signify that they are better off without their ex. “Essentially, it boils down to the significance of that action to the individual. If they choose to chop off their hair, it may symbolise that they are getting rid of something that didn’t work out. From there, they can start over again,” says Dr Ng.

Yoga instructor Lucy Ong, 32, agrees: “After the dust settled from the break-up, when I wanted to shake off the whole relationship, I thought to myself, “What can I change?” I remembered my ex saying he always liked my long hair and so, I cut it short. It was liberating!” She’s since grown out her hair and moved on to a new partner.

The question is, of all things to change, why hair?

Dr Ng says it’s a mental exercise. “It is easier to handle if you change your mind about the consequences. Eventually, your hair will grow out or you can change the colour again. It’s a safer way to enact change for yourself. It may seem like a dramatic change at first, but it is still safer than other drastic changes like moving or making expensive purchases. Ultimately, it sends the message that ‘I am
responsible for my own decisions’.

Hairstylists say when clients come in asking for major changes, it’s sometimes not due to a break-up, but a life change. “My clients have different reasons – they got promoted, are moving or have gone on to their next stage of life. Most say they are going to live better, and start loving and caring for themselves,” says Charles Chong, associate director of Chez Vous Hair Salon.

Drastic changes take courage too. Yann Beyrie, who runs Yann Beyrie Salon says: “Break-up hair is one of the most common reasons when our clients come in and ask for dramatic styles. They are looking to shed the weight of a past relationship, or need a new look to signify a new chapter. Sometimes, they just want to keep things interesting. But really, wanting that change takes courage, because they have to be daring to carry it off too.”

What do they ask for?

Most hairstylists will get a plethora of requests for this change. Charles says: “I’ve gotten everything, and nothing is too outrageous. Dark hair to blonde, long to short, normal brown highlights or colour to fashion shades like ash and pink, or a balayage style. Some even sport bangs after years of not having a fringe. Many ask for subtle changes like straight to curly hair or extra layers. It may seem subtle to us, but it could be a big deal to them.”

At Yann Beyrie, the clientele tends to already be adventurous. However, the most dramatic request Yann got was a client who asked for a pixie cut after her break-up. “She had very long hair for a long time. The change was striking, and she looked nothing like her old self. It was stunning!”

Has anyone regretted their new ‘do?

According to Yann, most of his clients don’t regret their new style. “It takes a certain amount of courage and certainty to go through that drastic change. That said, before they get their hair done, we place a huge emphasis on suitable styles, and tailor our haircuts to their needs. Their haircuts must match their face shape, hair texture, lifestyle and personality. It’s our responsibility as hair professionals to guide our clients, so we discuss all this before we start. And it’s no secret that it will take a couple of days to adjust to that change.”

That discussion is important to stave off regrets. Charles says: “I’ve definitely said no to clients before, especially for impulse requests like bleaching, or those who are wash-and-go types suddenly asking for high-maintenance styles. I’ve also discouraged clients who want to look like their favourite Korean celeb too. Not every style works in our climate.”

Has any client regretted it? “Oh, yes. Mostly the three examples I’ve shared!” he laughs.

The silver lining? Hair always grows back.