Sensory-Friendly Haircuts Are Changing the Experience For Those With Autism

Getty and Photo Illustration by Aly Lim

Image Source: Getty and Photo Illustration by Keila Gonzalez

In a viral video posted on TikTok in March, Billy Dinerstein, barber and founder of Your Kind of Cuts, is seen cutting the hair of a squirming child as people cheer in the background. “Go Ky Ky Go!” “I’m so happy for you dude,” and “Awesome!” are a few of the chants you’ll hear from the team working to keep the child distracted. Dinerstein is one of the few barbers in the country that offers sensory-friendly haircuts, which is a service that is particularly popular for people who are disabled or on the autism spectrum.

“When I first started barbering, I ran into this child – his name is Matthew,” Dinerstein tells PS. “The second time I cut his hair, his mom asked me to step outside. When I did, she handed me a bunch of business cards and said, ‘Please, I don’t care where you go, make sure you stay in contact with us. Nobody’s ever [taken] the time for our son like this.'” Dinerstein learned afterward that the client was autistic and his parents had a hard time finding barbers who would, and could, cut his hair. “He’s still with me today and it’s been 14 years,” Dinerstein says.

Since then, Dinerstein’s clientele has grown – people from 16 states have traveled to see him and his team in Nutley, NJ – and the list is ever expanding. The dedication of his longtime clients underscores one thing: there is a demand for sensory-friendly barbershops that is not properly being met.

Experts Featured in this Article

Billy Dinerstein is a barber and the Owner of Your Kind of Cuts barbershop in Nutley New Jersey.

Arthur Iskhakov is a barber and the owner of Good Guy Barber, formerly known as Barber’s Blueprint. The shop is based in Brooklyn, New York.

What Are Sensory-Friendly Haircuts?

Thankfully, more barbers are recognizing the importance of sensory-friendly services and getting the appropriate training to welcome all clients into their shops. “My wife and I received training through this organization called Culture City,” Arthur Iskhakov, owner of Good Guy Barbers in Brooklyn, NY, tells PS. After experiencing a woman trying to calm her autistic child while on a family trip, the couple started offering sensory-friendly cuts.

But what exactly is a sensory-friendly haircut? Though there isn’t a specific go-to, there are characteristics of a hairstyle that make it more sensory friendly than others. “They’re mostly just styles that you can do with scissors versus buzzers,” Iskhakov says. “They’re also typically fairly short looks – I don’t usually see anything that has hair past the shoulders.”

The Importance of Sensory-Friendly Haircuts

Many people experience sensory issues, but some may be better at hiding their tells than others. “Adults with sensory issues tend to become more high functioning than when they were children,” Iskhakov says. “Sometimes they don’t even say anything when they sit in my chair.” Still, someone can experience sensory issues for a host of reasons, and for Iskhakov, that’s cause enough to continue offering the service. “It’s not just people with autism,” he says. “You could have people with PTSD, military veterans, people who’ve experienced trauma. You never know.”

While sensory issues are more of an invisible disability, beauty is an industry that should be inclusive for all, and sensory-friendly haircuts are one more step in the right direction. “I’m on a mission to make sure that before I leave this earth everyone understands how high the stakes are for the work that I do,” Dinerstein says. “We work with people who have autism and sensory issues every day. They’re our colleagues, friends, and loved ones. We all need to do a better job of making this community more welcoming and inclusive as we move forward.”

Ariel Baker is the associate editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

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