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Author: Karen Marie Shelton -
Originally Posted on: December 30th, 2011 at 5:26 pm
Last Revised: May 7, 2021
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Hair Cut Shock?

Hair By Paul Mitchell

Hair By Paul Mitchell


Dear Karen,

I recently went to my hairstylist for a small hair trim and unfortunately they cut a lot more off than I asked for.  I wanted a trim, but they cut 6 inches off.

As if that’s not enough to deal with, now my ends are acting crazy weird.  They are thick and bushy which never happened before now.  I called the hairstylist to ask why this is happening and she said I was suffering from hair cut shock.

Seriously?  I never heard of that before now.

I told my mom and she said it was ridiculous and you can’t get hair cut shock from dead hair.

What is hair cut shock and how likely is it to happen?  What do I do about it?  How long will this weirdness last?



Hair By Paul Mitchell

Hair By Paul Mitchell

Dear Camilla,

Just as plants or trees can temporarily go into shock after being pruned or cut back,  hair may also respond in a similar fashion.   Not all hair professionals agree with the idea since human is dead once it’s left the scalp.  However, others swear it can and does happen.

If you believe in the concept, hair shock can occur with minor trims or when hair has been cut more than 4-6 inches.

Hair cut shock may manifest in a variety of ways depending on how much hair has been cut and the hair’s type, texture and current condition.

Hair Cut Shock Symptoms

Some people report that right after a trim or major hair cut the ends of their hair tangles more easily and seems much thicker.  Others report that their hair has more fly-away strands or is fluffier along the perimeter or hemline.  When hair is naturally curly or wavy (wurly) the texture may become more prominent and ends may spring up and out.

Hair cut shock usually lasts until the first shampoo right after the cut.  Some have reported the effect lasting up to one week but generally it never lasts longer than a few days.  Ultimately the hair relaxes and continues to grow out from the roots (unless the head is completely bald) which eliminates any initial hair cut shock.

Hair By Paul Mitchell

Hair By Paul Mitchell

Causes Of Hair Cut Shock

Why do the ends seem thicker right after a hair cut?  It’s not necessarily hair cut shock, but simply the fact that the ends may be blunt cut which automatically makes them look and feel thicker.  Since hair tends to be much thicker at the roots and thinner at the edges, when the ends are removed the hair will naturally seem thicker and fuller throughout.

If  several inches have been cut off the hair, water will initially be absorbed and redistributed differently, making the ends appear more luxuriant, fluffy and shiny.  This is similar to a plant that is pruned of dead leaves and then watered.

The plant has a tendency to plump up and the leaves appear much fuller.

Some hair consumers who report the hair cut shock experience have noted the more length cut from the ends, the more shock their hair seems to experience.

Temporary Shock

This is not necessarily a bad thing and it’s only temporary.  Another hypothesis is that if the ends of the hair were tough, damaged or split when they are all cut off, the remaining hair will be healthy and soft.  As a result, the healthy hair will tend to retain water better than split or tough ends.

This means that the healthier your hair is when it’s cut, the more likely you are to experience hair cut shock

As the newly cut ends toughen up, the water will no longer be absorbed throughout the ends and the thicker ends will be minimized.

Best wishes,
Karen Marie Shelton

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  • laura May 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I have wavyish, coarse hair, and I have noticed that when I have it trimmed, it definitely acts weird and the ends want to go in whatever direction they want. I think it’s because the longer your hair is, the more weight there is to hold it down into position. When the weight is removed, hair is not as controlled. But I think since the hair is dead, it’s not like the hair itself reacts. What the author of this article said about the ends toughening up over time makes sense though!

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