7 Women Share Their "Breakup Haircut" Stories

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Schwartz.
Coco Chanel once said "A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life." Slightly-cheesy Pinterest quote aside, there's actually a lot of merit to this saying. (In 2017, the sentiment reads a little more like 'new hair, who dis?') For a lot of people, that major change comes after the end of a relationship. Enter: the "breakup cut."
The concept isn't new (and it's often stereotyped), but there is some scientific proof to it after all. "Hair is not only an aspect of your identity [and] self-expression, it's one of the few things you can control quite easily," Dr. Sanam Hafeez, clinical neuropsychologist and professor at Columbia University, tells Refinery29. "Changing your hair can be a big statement. It may mean you announcing something without announcing it or signify a metamorphosis. It's an instant statement that may actually make you feel like a new person."
"Breakup cuts" are so common, almost every hairstylist has helped execute one. "A haircut after a breakup is powerful," Chase Kusero, hairstylist and co-founder of IGK, says. "People [often] keep their hair a certain way because of what a partner likes, or because it’s how they’ve always worn it. When you cut it and wear it how you want it, it’s empowering." That being said, it's important to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. "When you do a cut out of anger or revenge and that anger fades, you want to make sure you still like the cut!" Franck, hairstylist and fellow co-founder of IGK, adds.
We know what you're thinking now: Is this really healthy, or just a quick fix? "Shedding your hair may not equal out to shedding your problems," Hafeez reminds us. "Process your emotions, sit with the pain, cry, get a trim, but don't make any drastic changes until it's passed — and it will pass."
The hair pros agree: "It’s good to give yourself time to process and reflect before taking action," Jen Atkin, celebrity hairstylist and creator of Ouai Haircare, tells R29. "Yes, cutting your hair is a rush, so I can see why getting a great cut after a breakup can be exciting, but it doesn’t mean it has to be done in a rush." Her rule: If you still want the cut after a week, then do it. "It's an opportunity to reinvent yourself, so take your time deciding who you want to be next," she adds, "Then get rid of those bad feelings and move on!”
Ahead, six women tell the real stories behind their "breakup cuts" — and how it ended up being the best decision they could have made.
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The Breakup: "I dated my best friend, which was the biggest mistake. I learned a lot about myself and my worth and he taught me how to really love myself, reach for the stars, and be happy. But the breakup was meant to happen — and I saw it coming. The next day I was cutting my hair."

The Cut: "I have naturally curly hair that I've relaxed for over a decade. A friend was going natural and I wanted to join her, but in order to do so I would have to get a major cut. My boyfriend loved my long hair, so I chose not to cut it [while we were together]. I told my friend that I would join her in her natural hair journey... if I ever broke up with him.

"I'm not going to lie, I did cry a bit when they cut off the ponytail because I felt like I was letting go of my past — and there would be no more feeling sad or thinking about him. As the hairdresser was cutting off my ponytail, it felt like I was cutting him out of my life, too."

The Aftermath: "It felt weird... like I was 100 pounds lighter. The best part of cutting it was that all of my friends immediately knew we had broken up. I didn't even have to explain myself. I think it was the right choice at the time, and I wanted to go natural anyway, so it was a win-win."
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The Breakup: "I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for some time. I felt very defeated and angry when it ended, like somebody robbed me of my emotional energy, my time, my capacity to love. I was not going to let this continue and something within me told me I would look awesome with shorter, more badass hair."

The Cut: "I've had long, wavy, brown hair my whole life, so I went to my trusted stylist, Hilda Flores. She knew what style would look amazing on me, and she also was able to grasp the message I wanted to send to myself and the world."

The Aftermath: "I found the cut to be cleansing, both emotionally and physically. It was more of a statement to myself that it's my life, my hair, and I can live by my own rules! I see myself as a strong, badass, incredible woman, and now my hair is simply a reflection of that. I learned that I am capable of anything I set my mind to, no matter what people say against it. It's cheesy, but true: You need to believe in who you are and trust your gut."
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The Breakup: "I don't like to talk too much about it, but to summarize it, I was becoming someone I wasn't, all to keep my partner happy. After we broke up, I stopped trying to please everyone else and decided to just do what I wanted."

The Cut: "My hair was almost shoulder-length before the cut and I had been trying to grow it back out long because most people thought I looked 'prettiest' with long hair. Honestly, I was tired of being told that I looked better with long hair and that I wouldn't look as 'feminine' if I cut my hair. I went for a short, versatile cut that was cute, but also a little edgy — and I felt liberated immediately after."

The Aftermath: "I still wear my hair short and have even shaved my head since then! Having a hairstyle that I truly enjoy boosts my confidence and makes me feel more eager to reach my goals."
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The Breakup: "I started dating him late last year. The relationship was fun and exciting, but looking back it was basically a six month exclusive relationship with my best friend where we occasionally had sex. Then things got weird and I felt like I was being ghosted. Turns out, I was! After a cliché drunken fight in a bar on Cinco de Mayo I learned my intuition was correct. He realized he had commitment issues and that was the end of it."

The Cut: "I was going through photos on my camera roll and realized that I'd had exactly the same haircut with different variations for three years, so it was time. I had a traditional bob before and I thought maybe I'd grow my hair out, but I needed change now. I turned to my boss, Sal [Salcedo], and said 'Let's do bangs?'"

The Aftermath: "Out with the old, in with the new! My mentor always tells me that you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow. I didn't realize how much my old hairstyle was my comfort blanket. That hairstyle was my identity and once I changed it up a bit, it allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone in other ways as well. I would definitely do it again. Hopefully in the future it's even more dramatic."
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The Breakup: "It was the first guy that I seriously dated after college, and he immediately told me that he was only looking for friendship and casual sex. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and I ended up chasing my 5'6" Tinder match for months on end. Without getting into specifics, it ended pretty badly. Okay, fine: He dumped me via text while I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning."

The Cut: "My relaxed hair was struggling after I graduated from college in December 2013, shortly before this faux-lationship began. I was so hellbent on impressing him that I'd get $20 blowouts at the Dominican salon down the block from my mom's, sacrificing the health of my hair in hopes of a compliment. By the time May came around (and that "breakup" text happened), my hair was so thin that you could see through it. At that point, I had nothing to lose. My heart was broken, so why the hell not cut off a few inches?"

The Aftermath: "I was definitely that girl who cried in the chair as my hair dropped to the floor, but once my stylist spun me around (and added a few tracks to the top of my 'do for length), you couldn't tell me anything. I was still sad, but I was popping."
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The Breakup: "It was an emotionally abusive relationship that went on for about a year. He was constantly putting me down to make himself feel better and I knew I had to get out of the relationship, but knowing how he was, it [felt] impossible. I was stuck. I was very unhappy and always looking forward to the next day, hoping for a change. I finally got the chance to end things and I got out."

The Cut: "My hair had been cut into a chin-length bob for about two years. I wanted to feel more edgy and have an actual look, so I decide to get a shag cut. I haven't had bangs since I was a toddler, so I thought this could be a good change."

The Aftermath: "The cut was a blessing in disguise. I needed something new and I needed to shed some weight — it was just time for a new me and that's exactly what the haircut gave me. The haircut gave me confidence and I learned I shouldn't second guess myself if I need a change — just to do it!"
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The Breakup: "I don't really like talking about the relationship — it was a long time ago, and in retrospect, it was pretty damaging to my mental health and self-esteem. It wasn't a good fit and he just wanted me to be someone I wasn't, and look a certain way, which resulted in a lot of insecurities about my looks and my body. We broke up twice — I got the haircut after the first time."

The Cut: "I just felt like I wanted a change, so my hairstylist gave me a long bob that's longer in the front (to my collarbone) and shorter in the back (to the nape of my neck). I loved it immediately."

The Aftermath: "It made me feel great — and I have kept it short ever since. During that relationship, I was constantly trying to mold myself into this image of a woman that he wanted. The chop felt like a physical, obvious change that I chose. Plus, I really liked how it looks. It's (one of) my go-to hair cuts now — usually for the fall and winter. I would definitely do it again."
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