Some children find it difficult to accept routine grooming tasks like haircuts. The reasons are not that they are afraid to leave the salon with unkempt hair or an uneven cut, but rather because of the sensory response the whole haircutting process will evoke. These sensory responses may be due to tactile hypersensitivity (i.e. aversions of wet textures during hair wash), auditory over-responsiveness, (e.g. aversion to the sound of scissors or hair trimmers), and many other factors.

Children may be sensitive to visuals, sounds and smells. A haircut can be very upsetting for children who are sensitive to touch. They might feel irritated as pieces of their freshly cut hair sticking to their necks, or their stylist touching their necks during the trim. A salon’s bright lighting can make it difficult for children who are sensitive to light. These children might also hear a lot of different sounds in a salon. These include loud conversations, hair dryers and running water as well as the buzzing of hair trimmers. It can be hard to protect your child from unpleasant sensory input, especially if the hair salon is busy. There are several ways you can make the experience less stressful.

Here are some tips for children who don’t like haircuts

Do your research about salons

You might be noticing that your child becomes overwhelmed by larger and busier salons. You might find a place that is more calm and serene, which may suit your child’s sensory needs better. It might help to talk with the salon about times they are less busy so that you can plan accordingly.

Use social stories and a visual scheduling:

Social stories and visual schedules can be very helpful for some children and this includes haircuts. To reduce the anxiety and unpredictability, it may be helpful for your child to see and visualize all the steps involved in a haircut at the hair salon. If you think that the child may be having some fear, show them some simple YouTube videos of children their age having a haircut at the hair salon. You may let them know that they can choose a haircut they like at the hair salon.

Be a model of behavior

You could schedule time to do a fake hair cut the day before your hair appointment. You can also model the appointment and go through each step. You could also have your child practice giving you haircuts. This will make it more fun. It can help to reduce their anxiety by making it fun!

Make sure to schedule your cuts together

Your hair appointment might be best scheduled on the same day and time with your child. Your child will be more relaxed if you are the first to go and they can watch you relax and enjoy the experience.

You can bring your child’s blanket, toys, headphones, or earplugs.

A weighted blanket can help calm anxious children during haircuts. You might also consider a sensory toy to distract them. You can also reduce auditory input by listening to soothing music (e.g., spa music) or using earphones with noise cancelling headphones or earplugs. 

Touch the Tools

Ask your child’s hairdresser to show you the equipment used during a haircut before your child gets one. Ask to smell and see any hairsprays or shampoos. Children will be more prepared for their haircut if they can see the tools and products being used.

The First Snip

A buzzing electric razor can sometimes be too much for toddlers and young children. The noise can be so close to their ears that it seems magnified. Ask the hairdresser if she can use scissors and if your child is able to make the first cut.

Be the Barber

You could try to cut your child’s hair at home if they still have problems with their haircuts. You can use scissors to trim your hair as needed. You might consider giving your child a cut during bath time. The warm water can be soothing and relaxing. The bathwater can be used to quickly and easily remove any hair clippings.