Everybody feels better after a fabulous new haircut, and when we’re having one of those days when our hair looks perfect it transforms everything about us – our confidence, our energy levels, our whole attitude towards life. So what is it about our hair, or a trip to the salon, that can have such a positive impact on our mental health?
Let’s look at the salon experience first. In a recent survey conducted by researchers from the University of London and University College London, 202 participants were asked ‘Is having a haircut good for your mental health?’ The results showed that it is, particularly because many people believe that salons and barbershops are safe places where they can unburden themselves from the stresses of the outside world. For that hour or so while they’re in the chair they can relax and let the stylist work their magic, enjoying not only the washing and the cutting of their hair but also the social interaction of chatting with someone they probably don’t really know but who they trust is focused on making them look and feel as good as possible. From beginning to end, getting our hair cut in the salon is an invaluable boost to our sense of wellbeing.
But what about the days and weeks that follow the salon experience? Why are those kinds of good hair days so important to the way we feel about ourselves?
Well, to begin with, it’s no secret that if we’re looking good on the outside we’re probably also feeling good on the inside. After all, no matter how much we’re told that “it’s what’s inside that counts” our appearance and self-image has a huge effect on us 24/7. But the psychology behind having a good hair day is even more complex than that and it started way before Instagram, beauty blogging or celebrity culture ever happened (yep, even before Jennifer Aniston wowed the world with ‘The Rachel’ – sorry Friends fans!)
Throughout the centuries, gorgeous hair and great self-image have always been interlinked. From the biblical story of Samson, who so strongly believed that his barnet was the source of his supernatural strength that when Delilah cut off his flowing locks his strength immediately seeped away (how’s that for the power of barber’s scissors?!), to Cleopatra’s famous gilded mane, to the iconic curly updo made famous by Elizabeth I, to Marie Antoinette’s towering powdered tresses, hair has historically always been a highly-valued symbol of power, wealth and sophistication. But it even starts earlier than that, at least genetically.
Remember how, when you were a child, there was always that relative who would make a fuss of your hair, who would want to plait it or put bows in it to make you look even prettier, and would say things like “I wish I had hair like yours… when you get older, the boys are going to be beating a path to your door”? (which always sounded kind of frightening to us) or, if you were a boy, they’d tell you how handsome and grown up you looked when your hair was neatly cut and combed? That kind of attention makes us feel special, so it’s no wonder that we keep looking for it – albeit in slightly different ways – throughout the rest of our life.
Also, strong luscious hair is a sign of health and youth, no matter what age we might be. That’s why when a baby’s born with a thick mop of hair people will always comment about how well he or she looks (or – alternatively - why so many of us colour the grey out of our hair in attempt to hold off the first signs of ageing.) When our hair looks good it makes us feel younger and more confident, and that’s never a bad frame of mind to be in.
Now let’s think about when we meet people. When it comes to making a first impression, our hair is one of the most important details people notice about us. It’s also one of the features we’re most likely to remember after we’ve met somebody and we’re trying to recall what they look like. Rightly or wrongly, when our hair looks fantastic people are more likely to respond to us positively.
Wrap that all up, and it’s no wonder why ‘having a good hair day’ can make such a difference to our confidence and mental health. Whether you’re a woman or a man, your hair is a statement of who you are. If it’s looking healthy and well-managed, and if it’s styled or coloured to express your personality in the way you feel most comfortable, your hair projects the message that you are happy, healthy, and in control of your life.
That’s why good hair days are so valuable, and why a new haircut is always guaranteed to put a big smile on your face!