9 Epic Hair Transformations – and the Major Life Moments That Sparked Them
Sure, dyeing your blonde hair cotton candy pink isn’t as dangerous as, say, flinging yourself out of a plane with only a parachute to save you – but it certainly takes guts. (Have you seen how wrong an at-home dye job can go?) It’s precisely that element of risk involved in committing to a dramatic hair change that makes a big chop or daring colour experiment pair so nicely with a major life event. Both require the courage to let go of an old, familiar version of yourself and a willingness to make room for a new, bold reflection. (No parachute necessary.)
We documented nine such daring and beautiful transformations below, and they’re each about so much more than “just” hair. Read on and be seriously inspired by how these women used dyes and shears to embrace their sexuality, adjust to life in a pandemic, reclaim their personal definition of beauty, and so much more.
The Post-Graduation Curl Plan
Name: Kiara Medina
“For as long as I could remember, I straightened my hair- and had extreme heat damage because of it. My friend Jessica led the naturally curl movement in my friend group. One by one, we were all committing to healthy curls. I was going through lots of change when I decided to stop using heat tools. I was going to be on my own for the first time, I was moving to Dallas three months after graduation, and I was just ready to fully embrace my curls. I committed to going natural in 2015, right after college graduation. I did a big chop and got consistent haircuts every four months to remove heat damage and maintain my hair shape. I’m so happy I did it! I regret not doing it sooner. I was too busy trying to ‘fit in’ and hating my curls.
Straight hair has historically always been seen as more ‘desirable’ and ‘manageable,’ even in my family. It was quite the journey with lots of trial and error (the rise of curly hair influencers providing helpful tips, product recommendations, and transition photos also helped me stick to the journey), but I feel more like myself than I’ve ever felt.”
The Social Distance Dye Job
Name: Alaina Demopolous
“It’s really hard here in New York, so I have to hold on to that small moment of optimism when I see my hair and smile.”
“I’ve spent the past three years dyeing my hair different colors. I believe I’ve tried seven hues in total, from blue and green to orange and purple. As the rare feature I can control, I’ve found changing my hair helps me cope with my unpredictable 20s. When social distancing started in New York, I knew I was bound to dye it again. I chose a Pepto Bismol pink this time, because it’s a color I’ve never done before. The pink really helps boost my mood when I’m pacing around my apartment and catch a glimpse of the shade in the mirror. It’s really hard here in New York, so I have to hold on to that small moment of optimism when I see my hair and smile.”
The Hide-able Side Shave
Name: Urvija Banjeri
“I had long, waist-length hair and I decided to shave about 3/5 of it off last year. I was feeling generally insecure about my appearance at the time and I thought it would either A) make me feel better about how I looked, B) let me lean into the ‘ugly’ I felt, or C) make me stop thinking about my appearance as much altogether. (Also, I’d been threatening to do it for years and always wondered if it would suit me.) I did it around the time I came out as bisexual and I thought it would help signal to other queer folk that I was one of them. Really, I just ended up getting stared at way more on the subway, and I think my introverted self found that too much to deal with. I do think it helped girls in queer nightlife spaces notice me more but I also just didn’t feel like myself when I had the shaved side showing, so I decided to grow it out.
I don’t regret cutting it, but growing it out is a pain. I’m lucky in that I have so much hair that it was really easy to hide once I figured out it wasn’t for me.”
The Postpartum Chop
Name: Taylor Negley
“I had kept my long hair since sophomore year of high school and only trimmed it for health. When I got pregnant with twins, I kept it long (the picture on the left is a month before they were born). I was on bedrest for five days leading up to delivery, so I couldn’t get up to wash my hair. And then I was kept on bedrest after their delivery because of super high blood pressure. When I finally was allowed to get up, I showered with the terrible hospital water and shampoo (since I was unexpectedly admitted and had no supplies) and when I got home, I realized I had to chop it. I cried as it happened. At first, I chopped it just enough to be able to keep as much length as possible, but I went back and cut off more, because postpartum hair loss absolutely ruined what was left. (The biggest thing I’ve learned since having kids is no one touches on the real sh*t that happens postpartum.) I was so, so sad. But now, it’s short and I’m OK with it! The only thing I regret about chopping off nine inches is that it’s too short to just throw up in a topknot, my go-to daily hairstyle. Super frustrating, but overall: change is good.”
The Post-Breakthrough Bob
Name: Anna Harvey
“My hair change wasn’t spurred by one big event, but a culmination of important things. In January, I started a new job and began addressing and treating my anxiety and OCD. My anxiety often centered around my hair and whether or not it looked dirty, so I think that motivated me, too. Immediately before my appointment, my hair was at my collarbones. A year ago, it was mid-back. Last night I chopped it off into an almost chin-length bob! It feels so me. It hasn’t been long, but I already feel so much cooler and more confident. I’m trying overall to be confident about myself and not be so negative. To me, cutting my hair was a way I could reject another societal expectation around women’s appearances. I’ve heard things like, ‘if it’s blond, keep it long’ and worried I wouldn’t be desirable with short hair. It’s been fun to really face those insecurities head on and do something I’d been scared to do before. I don’t regret it at all and am excited to have short hair for the foreseeable future.”
The "Coming Out" Chop
Name: Olivia Angeli
“I had just come out as bisexual and felt a little lost when I went for a pixie cut. I thought if I looked ‘gayer’ I would fit into the queer community better. I’d looked through tons of photos on Pinterest to see how short hair would fit my face shape, but no one person or picture served as the final inspo.
I used to hide behind my hair, but chopping it off during a really transformative time in my life allowed me to focus on other things. Even though I grew my hair back out to a longer length after about a year, the cut helped me become comfortable with my sexuality and who I am inside, instead of focusing on the stereotypes of what I ‘should’ look like on the outside.”
The Relaxer Breakup
Name: Racquel Waite
“My hair was relaxed before, or chemically straightened. I got my first relaxer in Jamaica when I was 9 years old, because my mom said my hair was too thick and hard to manage. At first, I was excited to have long straight hair, but as is the case with chemically breaking the bonds of your hair, repeated treatments eventually caused major damage. I had never thought about going natural during high school, since that was not the norm where I’m from. When I was young in Jamaica, only kids had natural hair. The majority of teens and adults had relaxed hair.
“Natural hair became something I’m super proud of and a feature that makes me more confident.”
I went natural in 2011. My friend was going natural as a way to embrace her blackness and ‘authentic self’ and it inspired me to do the same. I was a poor college student at the time, so I didn’t ask my stylist for help. I just let my natural roots grow out and then chopped off the relaxed ends. (It’s a method known as ‘the big chop.’) I sported a teeny Afro for a couple of days before wearing weaves and braids regularly. I was nervous about rocking a teeny tiny Afro and that’s why I quickly got extensions and did not wear my natural hair until it grew to a length that I liked. Eventually, I felt beautiful even with short kinky hair and learned how to manage my natural hair in a way that made it seem like less of a burden. Natural hair became something I’m super proud of and a feature that makes me more confident.”
The Return to Red
Name: Dominique Astorino
“I had come out of a serious depression and anxiety spiral, as well as a slew of physical health problems that forced me to make a significant set of life changes. I had left my job with no strategy for what was next and moved to a new city. My hair had become a dull dark brown (as opposed to my usual more coppery color) after a few years of being indoors and in a not-so-sunny area, and I hadn’t had a real haircut in years.
Once I finally came through to the other side of that spiral, I wanted my exterior to reflect my new, superhappy and sunny interior! I wanted to amplify my natural red tones and get my ‘sun bleached’ red from my college years without looking fake – or actually bleaching my hair (with the sun or chemicals). I wanted to be a louder, more saturated, vibrant version of myself – energetic, playful, etc. I literally told my stylist, ‘I want ‘me, but more.” The result has made me the happiest I’ve ever been with my hair! I have zero regrets, I get more compliments now than ever before, and aside from the external affirmation, I’m just so happy about it internally – honestly, it impacted so much more than I anticipated it would. I feel more myself, more confident, like I’m holding more space. It ended up trickling into other areas; reassessing what I wear and my personal style, how I present myself to the world. I finally feel like I’m claiming my space and staking my territory in the world. Sounds SO dramatic for a hair change, but it really is just an extension and physical manifestation of a mental change and an attitude shift.”
The Post-Breakup Glow-Up
Name: Kendal Kristiansen
“My ex-boyfriend loved the unnatural bleach blond hair color. Since I’m naturally blond, ombré seemed like the best option to bring me closer to what my natural color was before dating him! I barely have to do anything to my hair anymore now that I’ve stopped bleaching, so it looks and feels much healthier. In the end, I realized I shouldn’t have kept my hair that unnaturally blond just because a man liked it better that way.”