Try changing speed

We experimented with different speeds and pressures brushing Lizzie's hair, and quickly found out that she could tolerate slow and firm strokes so much better that light quick strokes which made her run away.

Hair-free top to go

I take a fresh top for Wendy to change into as soon as her hair is cut – it lessens the 'itchy feeling'.

No surprises

We took Ben into the barber shop just for a visit (several times) to see other children having a haircut and to see what equipment the barber uses.

Get the time right

Go to the barber shop at the quietest times, so there is less time to queue. There is also the added bonus of less 'people noise' at these quiet times. As our barber became more of a friend and he could see how distressed Pete was, he suggested we came back once he had closed the barber shop for the day, so it would be just us in the shop.

Photo cue

I show Billy a picture of the actual barber shop and a picture of the barber who will be cutting his hair, we are lucky and have a fantastic accommodating barber.

See for yourself

JB is much better when he can see what is going on when we cut his hair. We bought a non-breakable mirror from one of the catalogues.

All in the timer

We use a timer so Noah can tell when the haircut starts and finishes.

Ear plugs

Callum is sensitive to noise, we find soft flexible ear plugs cut out the noise of the hair cutting machine.

Blow the bits away

Becky is very sensitive, so when she has her hair cut, we remove all cuttings by using a hairdryer to remove it as we go. Becky likes the cold air setting.

Stress toys

When we go to the hairdresser we always take along stress toys / favourite books or video.

Wash it at home

Julie hates having her hair washed at the hairdressers. We just ask for a dry cut or just wet her hair with a plant spray.

No more tangles

Suzie has very thick hair. I towel dry her hair and leave in conditioner. This makes it easier to brush with a squirt of water.

Sensory issues

For someone with sensory defensiveness, hair brushing can be an awful ordeal. For some, it feels as though every hair-root is being pulled tightly and inflaming a nerve. The sensation’s not much less if they brush their own hair. The best thing is to keep it short.

Short and tangle-free

Florence hated having her hair combed because she got lots of tangles and it hurt. We changed her hair style to a shorter one which she helped to choose - forget your dream of ringlets for now!

Do it at home

Some people cope with haircuts much better if it's done at home. Ask around for recommendations, ask your local barber/hairdresser, or try the mobile hairdressers in the 'phone book (You can always try another one next time if your first choice proves hopeless...)

Brushing hair

We find it really hard to brush Magdalena's hair, but she cries much less if we brush a member of the family's hair at the same time as her hair is being brushed.

iPad distraction

I take my son's iPad to the barber's and put his favourite clips on it to distract him, while the barber cuts his hair at the speed of light.

A window seat

My son is very sensitive to hair cutting, but sitting him in the shop window to watch the traffic makes him slightly more tolerant. Still a few wiggles and bolts for the door, but much better.

Visiting the hairdressers

I've found that taking my daughter to the hairdressers when she is not having her hair cut helps her see it's not always scary. I take her when I'm having a cut or her younger brother is too.

Hair's a funny story

Bag Books do a funny multi-sensory story about going to the hairdressers which might lighten the mood for haircut-phobics.

Good vibrations

Use an electric toothbrush a few years before needing to start using an electric shaver. Helps get people used to the vibrations/noise etc.

Keeping hair clean

My son recently had an operation and couldn't bath or shower for 10 days. I found the dry shampoo Batiste to be excellent. There are other, fancier versions such as Ojon (available in John Lewis) but Batiste did a good job. Also great to use occasionally if the person you are caring for hates having their hair washed, give them a break occasionally.

Hairwashing without tears

Make hairwashing easier by smearing cream or shower gel (we use aqueous cream) on the shower door/screen, then they can make marks or pictures on the window while you wash their hair, without tears!

Haircut distraction

My 8 year old son with ASD would not let the barber cut his hair and would throw a full blown tantrum. Until we tried putting a portable dvd player in front of him, he got so distracted that voila - no more tantrums. Not even one tear!

Tangle teeze

Hairbrushing was always really painful for Violet, until someone suggested a 'tangle teeze' brush which goes through her hair much more smoothly. We also agree on an amount of times I can pass the brush through her hair before we start.

Detangle shampoo

My son has very fine hair which tangles easily. I recommend the Daniel Galvin Junior (DGJ) organic shampoo called wild n crazy hair juice de tangler (green bottle). This, along with cutting hair short and using the detangle brush has made washing and combing so much easier.


For someone who hates having a haircut, try a basic desensitisation program. You can download some pictures from the internet and present them as an activity. These might initially involve a shampoo, a pair of scissors, then having your hair washed, etc.

Haircut hints

I make sure there is no one else around when I cut Aaron's hair as this makes him very anxious. I also cover his neck in a cream or moisturiser as this cuts down the itching on his neck.

Shaving game

Introduce shaving as a game - Dads can involve sons when shaving themselves. Make it fun and talk about how good it feels afterwards.

Cut = pain

The word cut used to frighten my daughter as she associated it with pain, cutting her finger etc. We started using different words like 'tidy up your hair' and found she was more accepting of the hairdresser!

Unscented shampoo

If someone is sensitive to strong smells, that could be one of the reasons they don't like having their hair washed and/or cut. Try using unscented shampoo instead.

Shaving test

To prepare my son for needing to shave, we are using neck clippers for a few seconds each hair cut to see if he can tolerate the noise and vibration at the back of his neck. Aiming to crack this before moving anywhere near his mouth!

Use talc

I play hairdressers at home with my autistic nephew so when he does get his hair cut it is more like a game. I also put talc on his neck so the hair blows off easily and isn't itchy.

Cando shampoo

Make it easier for someone with special needs to wash their hair by getting shampoo in a pump. Avoids opening a slippery wet cap, figuring out how much shampoo you need and using both hands at the same time.

Try a variety of brushes

If someone doesn't like having their hair brushed, it could just be the brush you're using. Try a variety of different brushes to find one they like the feel of.

Hair colour samples

Try giving the hair-colour samples as finger fidgets during a haircut. Great distraction.

Fear of changing appearance

For fears of a changing appearance, hairstyle apps for your mobile phone will allow you to try different hairstyles on yourself before getting a cut. It’s pretty funny when you start adding moustaches and beards, and laughter can be a powerful cure for this phobia.

Washing hint

Emma has really long hair and isn't keen on it being washed. We found that if she lies on a wedge on the shower bed, with her hair hanging over the top, it is a lot more comfortable for her.

Swimming goggles

Tyne really dislikes getting water in her face, especially her eyes. When having a shower we put swimming goggles on once we get to the hair washing point. Showers are a lot less trouble now.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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