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Why Do Women Play With Their Hair? 7 Common Reasons Explained

Light-skinned black girl plays with her hair giving obvious non-verbal cues about her mood.

Women display a ton of non-verbal gestures that leave others scratching their heads. Take, for instance, playing with their hair – why do women play with their hair?

Why Do Girls Play With Their Hair?

Women play with their hair for various reasons, and we’ll give you the rundown on all of them in this article.

1. Nonverbal Seduction (or Flirting)

You guessed it! Some women still imitate romantic comedies where the leading lady is on a quest to get the guy. Twirling her hair around her fingers draws attention to herself, and it could be an unspoken way to say, “I want you.”

She may do this on purpose or without even thinking about it. To determine whether this could be the case, consider her other non-verbal cues: 

  • Is she smiling? 
  • Is she batting her eyelashes? 
  • Is she staring at you and then looking away repeatedly? 

If the answer to any of these is “Yes,” she’s probably interested in you! Some guys think it always “means she’s attracted” to them, although that’s not necessarily the case.

If the other non-verbal cues aren’t present, she may be playing with her hair for another reason.

2. Self-Consciousness

Some women are self-conscious, leading them to fiddle around with their clothes, fingers, and – you guessed it – their hair.

If the woman in question just got a new haircut that she doesn’t like, got rained on, or has a history of insecurity, playing with her hair may be a coping mechanism.

You may also notice that she is frowning or crosses her arms or legs to close herself off. 

Cute black woman with a genuine smile wearing subtle make-up and pink lipstick.

3. Nervousness

Hand and body gestures can also signal nervousness. Some people tap their feet, while others twiddle their thumbs or bite their nails. But for women, it’s normal and common to play with their hair when they’re in a situation that makes them nervous.

To gain some additional insight, look at her and see if her face looks strained, if her arms are crossed, or if she’s rocking back and forth. These are all signs indicating that she’s nervous. 

4. Stress 

Many women play with their hair in stressful situations, as it can be comforting. If a woman is visibly anxious, is huffing and puffing, and is rustling up her hair, chances are she’s stressed out.

5. Self-Confidence

Sometimes, a woman feels herself and loves how she’s looking. Maybe she’s rocking a new hairdo or wearing a new outfit. If she’s feeling it, she might twirl her hair or even flip it and strut down the street. The hair play may be all about her and not at all about anyone else. 

6. Force of Habit

We all develop habits, good and bad, and playing with hair is a common one. Many women play with their hair simply because they’ve developed a habit of doing it. If it’s a habit, you’ll notice that she does it often and in most situations. 

7. Uncomfortable

A myriad of things can make a woman feel uncomfortable enough to fiddle with her hair. She may push it toward her face or take it down from a ponytail to feel warmer in cold weather.

In warmer months, she may push it back frequently to keep it off her face. Sometimes, it can be annoying to have hair grazing your face or back, so you’ll see women moving their hair around for this reason as well. 

Female wearing pink dress showing non-verbal cues that she's comfortable keeping eye contact with a gentle smile.

Analyze the Situation, Female Body Language, and Other Cues 

How to Read Female Body Language and Decode Women

Trying to decode a woman’s mannerisms is nearly impossible if you don’t consider the situation and any other cues she’s exhibiting.

Here, we’ll tell you how to analyze the situation and other cues to figure out what a woman is thinking. 

The reasons behind hair play can vary widely based on the situation a woman is in. For instance, if a woman is playing with her hair at a job interview, the chances of her doing it to seduce someone are low.

Whereas, if she’s doing so at a party, the chance is quite a bit higher. If a woman is in a relaxing setting, like a massage parlor, she’s less likely to be playing with her hair because of stress or anxiety. 

Lady wearing a gray sweater avoiding eye contact as the woman touches her chin.

This is not to say that there won’t be any outlying situations where a woman’s reason for playing with her hair doesn’t match the situation. That’s when you should consider some other nonverbal cues: 

  • Eye contact – If a woman is playing with her hair and making steady eye contact with you, it’s safe to say that she’s attracted to you. 
  • Tight lips – Tight lips are usually a sign of stress, anxiety, or dislike. If a woman is playing with her hair and tightens her lips, there could be something wrong. 
  • Leaning forward – If a woman leans toward you as she plays with her hair, this is a good sign that she is interested in you. 
  • Leaning backward/distancing – When a woman seems to be creating distance as she plays with her hair, she may feel uncomfortable or anxious. It’d be best to ask her what’s wrong to figure her out. 
  • Crossed arms – Arm crossing is often a way of shutting others out. If a woman is playing with her hair and crossing her arms, she may feel a little guarded or even offended. There is one exception to consider, though; arm crossing can make a woman’s cleavage more pronounced. So, if you’re unsure why she’s crossing her arms, look to some of the other cues to gain more insight. 

As you get to know a woman, you’ll learn more about her mannerisms through conversations and situations that you two go through. 

Pro tip: If given a chance, note her mannerisms as she interacts with other men – this can help you determine whether the hair play is directed at you, specifically. 

Hair Play Vs Hair Pulling: Pay Attention

Women playing with an iPad while showing physical signs of being interested in the conversation.

Twirling the hair is one thing, while hair pulling is another. Hair twirling can be explained by one of the reasons mentioned above. However, repetitively pulling the hair harshly is a sign of a mental disorder called trichotillomania.

It’s a condition marked by an extreme compulsion to pull out your own hair. But what’s interesting is that the hair twirling could come before the pulling.

Among sufferers of the condition, hair twirling may be used to choose which hair to pull out. 

What to Do When a Woman Plays with Her Hair

Let’s talk a bit about what to do when a woman plays with her hair. There are several things you can do, including: 

  • If you’ve determined that she might be stressed, politely ask her if she’s okay and whether there’s anything you can do to help. 
  • If you think she’s interested in you, let her know using verbal and non-verbal actions. 
  • If you determine that she’s closed off, give her a bit of space and then try to figure out what’s putting her off. 

If the time is right and you want to be direct, you can ask her why she’s playing with her hair. No one knows her like she does.

She could withhold her true feelings, of course, but there’s a chance she may tell you exactly how she’s feeling. You can then take it from there! 

A woman playing with her hair could signal much more than interest. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that hair play is just one nonverbal cue out of a ton.

If you don’t want to ask her straight out what she’s feeling in the moment, you should consider the entire situation and other nonverbal cues to figure out what she may be thinking or feeling.

We hope that this article is helpful to you as you navigate women’s mannerisms and nonverbal tendencies.