Love at first snip: the pure joy I find in going to the hairdresser

Amy Elder 24 October 2020
Image credit: Leg Dolgachov

Getting my hair done professionally for the first time in six plus months revitalised me. Not only did it revive my hair which had suffered from a few DIY bleach jobs over lockdown, but it also brought me back into the real world, as if life was really continuing similar to how it was pre-outbreak. You walk into the salon and for that hour you’re in this little world, just existing, just being, not having to think about any of the pressures or stresses of the outside world, and being pampered, and knowing your appearance is in good hands to be improved. Chopping off my split ends lifted weight off my hair, as the process lifted weight off my shoulders, feeling fresh and clean with a new trim. Engaging in idle chatter with the ladies in the salon and the kinds of questions they ask you about yourself are refreshing. You’re in a bubble having a chummy conversation with someone who has taken a quite different life path to you. And when you come out of the salon, you’re back into the real world, but you feel better about it all, after your little escape. As much as DIY jobs can be a fun adventure, it doesn’t quite compare to the peace you feel after letting someone else take care of your hair.

The feeling of having your hair played with is a sensation unlike any other. It takes me right back to those moments in primary school when you would all sit at the feet of your teacher and your friend asks if she can sit behind you and braid your hair while you’re being shown synonyms for ‘said’. It’s an activity that friends don’t do enough as adults. Having a professional do your hair brings an element of physical touch, one of the five love languages, which is often lacking, particularly after six months of staying home in lockdown. And it’s not just a happy coincidence. Hairdressers know how to handle your hair so that you feel relaxed and have a better experience while sitting in the salon chair. Being comfortable means you’ll be able to get the exact style you wanted. You come out of the salon feeling refreshed inside and out. It’s a form of self care that isn’t just superficial. And there’s none of the stress involved in bleaching your own roots. The salon is a place to disconnect from the outside world. It’s a haven where you can gossip, drink tea and eat Lotus biscuits, read trashy magazines you’d never buy for yourself, and escape the hustle and bustle of Cambridge life and be whoever you want to be. It’s a restful period for the soul. You forget about your responsibilities and the calamities going on in the world and come out feeling refreshed both physically and mentally.

There are so many sensations involved in the process: the warm water washing your hair and tickling your scalp, the heat from the hairdryer, the smooth, nostalgic tunes on Magic FM cultivating the calming atmosphere, the feeling of fingers running through your tresses and inadvertently massaging your head, the lightness you feel upon standing up with newly cut and blow dried hair, the clean and sweet scents of shampoo, conditioner and heat protectant spray filling the air, and the breath of fresh air when you step outside and back into the world. The chemical haze is gone, and you realise you’re back to reality.

It’s a tale as old as time that uni girls enjoy a spontaneous bleach or dramatic chop, just as much as they love decorating their bedrooms in halls with fairy lights. But it’s more than just the aesthetic change which is part of the life reset experience.

Of course, it’s not revolutionary to state that having a haircut or colour job makes one feel refreshed. It’s a tale as old as time that uni girls enjoy a spontaneous bleach or dramatic chop, just as much as they love decorating their bedrooms in halls with fairy lights. But it’s more than just the aesthetic change which is part of the life reset experience. It’s often thought (at least by me) that changing your hair will subsequently change your life. Many times I have mistakenly attributed my dissatisfaction with my life to my dissatisfaction with my hair. In the words of Fleabag, ‘Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t, so we could actually think about something else occasionally, but it is.’ After multiple recent hair changes in an attempt to find this peace of mind, I’ve finally realised the truth – fixing your hairstyle-based sadness will not suddenly solve all your problems. If you want to fix your life, you have to change your life, not (just) your hair. But, that being said, while not completely life-changing, the salon experience is certainly more restorative than it gets credit for.