For many people, getting a haircut is a stressful task. Interacting with an unfamiliar person and being in close contact isn’t always everyone’s definition of a “good time,” and when you add sensory sensitivity to the list of haircut anxieties, this seemingly simple chore can become quite a challenge!
If you or your loved one steer clear of the salon to protect your sensory receptors, we hear you. Coping with different sensitivities is a common struggle for folks with autism, ADHD, and several other processing disorders. Luckily, the industry is adapting to the needs of those customers by educating stylists and opening special salons specifically built to support the sensory-sensitive community.
Some new approaches can make any haircut much more enjoyable while tailoring the process for sensory differences. The environment and the cut have short-term and long-term effects on how a person feels, but little accommodations can do wonders. Here are some of the best ways to ensure a sensory haircut appointment goes smoothly.
1. Prepare for the Appointment
Whether the appointment is for you or someone you’re accompanying, there are some things you can do to get the most out of a sensory haircut. Some helpful options may be:
- Scheduling an appointment at an off-peak time to reduce the number of external stimuli
- Visiting the salon a day or two prior to your appointment to familiarize yourself or your loved one with its sights, sounds, and smells
- Getting to know the hairdresser personally, if you don’t already
- Noting the tools or products that don’t work for you (i.e., loud blow dryers or scented shampoos) and sharing this info with the hairdresser
- Viewing haircut videos on YouTube to see it step-by-step and take away any nervousness associated with the unknown
- Looking into mobile hairstyling or finding a hairdresser who will come to you in order to avoid the salon entirely
Thoughtful preparation particularly benefits neurodivergent kids. It can be scary to navigate something unfamiliar, so taking a moment to introduce the new setting and person eases them into the situation. Even just having a plan in place and communicating it in advance can help de-stress the experience and make a trip to the salon much smoother.
2. Anticipate, Communicate, and Advocate
Once you’ve arrived for your haircut, focus on managing everyone’s comfort through some proactive coping mechanisms. These could include:
- Requesting the use of quieter haircare tools (i.e., scissors rather than electric clippers) or dimmer lighting if possible
- Utilizing ear plugs, a weighted blanket, or other items to lessen the sensory impact
- Bringing along sensory-friendly aids (like a Smunchie!) for stimming to release tension
- Watching a movie on a phone or tablet with earbuds in, positioned so that the haircut can still take place while you or your loved one is concentrating on that media
- Taking breaks during longer appointments, as schedules permit
- Bringing along a trusted friend to chat with throughout the appointment
These are just a few of the remedies available to align your appointment with your sensory haircut requirements. Accessibility varies, so you should research stylists and salons thoroughly to find the right one.
And even though a haircut can mean a lot personally and is very hands-on, it’s OK to find ways to take a gentle approach during the experience. Communicating in advance will help make everyone comfortable, and you can always write things down if talking is not ideal during the appointment. For example, if it’s important to have advance notice before being touched because of tactile sensitivity, make a note or call ahead; a professional hairdresser and their salon will be understanding of and receptive to these needs!
3. Helpful Hairstyles
As it turns out, there are even hairstyles that can support sensory haircuts. Everyone is different, and a trim that’s tailored to a neurodivergent person’s specific sensitivities can make all the difference.
If ears are a ticklish spot, an over-the-ears cut may be a better choice than a style that drapes across them. Avoiding bob cuts and flowy designs that can swish around the face and neck can prevent a bothersome nuisance, and if a longer look is desired, a cut that can be easily corralled with a hair accessory is a fantastic alternative to giving up and going with a buzz cut or pixie.
Keeping It Sensory-Friendly and Stylish!
Being sensory friendly shouldn’t have to mean compromising on style. If longer hair is something that you love, Smunchies can help offset some sensory issues. Our sensory-friendly scrunchies will keep hair up and out of the way when it's triggering sensory discomfort, and give you a handy fidget when you're feeling like letting your hair down!
Unlike regular hair ties that don’t offer much sensory relief, Smunchies are designed to feel extra squishy and soft for sensitive skin. They’re also incredibly versatile, and allow you to perfect any style from a bouncing ponytail to a messy bun. It’s a fun and flexible alternative to a sensory haircut, as well as a perfect way to keep reimagining your style between trips to the salon. And of course, while you’re waiting for your turn in the stylist’s chair, they’re a great fidget to ease the overall experienceSo if you’re looking for a way to stay a cut above with your sensory-friendly game, check out Smunchies for fresh, fashionable, and functional sensory hair accessories!