How you feel about your hair says a lot about your confidence and self love

Bazaar India spoke to 8 fabulous women about their bond with their hair and what they do to take care of it.

Harper's Bazaar India

Our hair can be a source of great strength and at the same time hide some of our biggest insecurities. To many it is an integral part of their beauty, and others speak of their liberating sense of self when detached from their manes. Here are the tales of some fierce women—what their hair means to them and what they do to maintain the relationship.

Saanchi Gilani, Fashion Stylist

“I wouldn’t say I have a love-hate relationship with my hair... It is more of a ‘love and let’s try to work this out’ kind of a relationship, really. I was born with really curly hair; as I grew older, it became straight; and then, during my teenage years, I developed loose waves—so my hair has truly experienced all kinds of textures. I blow-dry my hair frequently, and on days that I don’t, I genuinely try to make it through without hating it. In the past, I wished I could make my hair look the way it does when it’s blow-dried, but with time, I have discovered acceptance and appreciation. As a child, I had really thick hair ties would snap because of it. Of course, I didn’t value this gift then, so now I do everything to retain its density. Over the years, my hair has also become a lot more frizzy, but a little care is all it needs to look and feel smooth. And so, I don’t over wash my hair—I listen to it, and only when it feels oily do I cleanse it, so I can retain the scalp’s natural oils. I like to oil it as often as I can, and treat myself to a hair spa treatment every few months. Steaming my hair is another ritual I practice often—I wrap my hair with a hot towel after conditioning it, and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing out the product. I’m terrible at styling my hair at home, and I have been visiting the same hairstylist for years—Clarabelle Saldanha Hair Salon in Mumbai. What I love about Clarabelle’s haircuts is that she not only cuts my hair right, but her technique ensures that it grows out well, too.”

Meghna Goyal, Founder - Summer Somewhere

“I think we all have good and bad hair days. Growing up, I was very insecure about the way I looked, and did not have the best relationship with my hair. But with time, you learn to accept yourself. Over the years, I have grown to really like my hair. The only thing I would like to change, though, is the speed at which my hair grows...I feel it grows too slowly. But other than that, I am quite content with the way things are. I have pretty much had the same hairstyle for as long as I can remember. I colour my hair once a year, but nothing drastic—I like natural tones. My haircare routine has certainly evolved over the years. I now know what really works for my hair and what doesn’t. I have realised that one should stick to a simpler haircare routine in order to stay consistent. I oil my hair once every two weeks to nourish the scalp and hair—it also increases blood circulation. I also refrain from over-washing my hair by limiting it to twice a week. If it gets greasy, I simply tie my hair up in a ponytail or a bun. The best hair advice I have received is to be patient. Consistency is key, and seeing any changes in our skin or hair takes a minimum of six months. I recently started taking supplements for my hair; they come highly recommended, and I am hoping to see my hair get thicker over the next few months.”

Aisha Ahmed, Actor

“I have had a love-hate relationship with my body for many years. But, during those moments of insecurity, my hair always managed to make me feel confident—it keeps me going. Whoever said ‘new hair, new personality’ was onto something, as every time I am going through an emotional lull, a change of hairstyle makes life seem exciting again. Once I realised that my hair holds such tremendous power, I learned to take better care of it. I don’t colour it often...unlike in my teenage years. Now, it is more of a form of expression for me than just rebellion. I am aware that I have abused my hair a lot over the years, and because of that, it isn’t as dense as it used to be. But I am not complaining, because my mother’s genes have been a blessing! These days, I mostly stick to home remedies—a quick hair pack made of eggs, bananas, hibiscus flowers, or coconut oil works wonders for me. I also prefer having my trusted hairstylists work on my mane to ensure I get the desired results. Honestly, the best haircare advice I have received is to experiment as much as you like because eventually, you’re going to lose all of it.”

Seema Anand, Author, Mythologist, and Kama Sutra Expert

“According to the Kama Sutra, the ‘seat’ of all desires lies in the parting of the hair. Also, on the night of the full moon, the crown of hair is our erogenous zone. There are even certain (very evocative) kisses that focus more on how the hair should be held rather than what the lips are doing. So, yes, women certainly have a very intense relationship with their hair. When everything else (weight, make-up, skin, etc.) takes a backseat, the hair remains at the forefront of our beauty regime. If I were to define my relationship with my hair in two words, it would be ‘emotionally exhausting’. Like a lot of women, I have always felt insecure about my hair—too frizzy, too wavy, too straight, too curly, too greasy, too dry—it was never right. But now, at 60, I am loving the way it looks—who would have thought that grey hair could be so empowering? The one adjective I often hear for it is ‘sexy’, which is a far cry from what we have been taught all along. We have been taught to associate grey hair with old age. Adjectives like elegant, beautiful, gentle are quite commonly used for grey hair, but ‘sexy’ is definitely a new term for mine. I love that I have been a part of that vocabulary of an enabler for that change. I made the decision to go grey in December, 2019 (pre-Covid), so it wasn’t forced upon me. It was a conscious decision, a choice I made for myself. Initially. I received a lot of push-back. I was told that going grey would make me look older. And that I couldn’t go grey and also talk about sexuality and pleasure. But now, grey hair has become aspirational! All the admiration I get for it just goes to show that if you feel good about something from the inside, it looks good on the outside too. So, I have finally left my insecurities behind, and for the first time in my life, I think my hair and I are in a love-love relationship.
That said, I miss the ombré look I had a few months ago—when my hair was still growing out and was white at the roots and black around the looked so dramatic! Grey hair is particularly dry and brittle, so it needs a lot of conditioning. I always remember a line from the Devi Bhagwatam, where they talk about her jet black hair that ‘glowed like a million suns’. White hair doesn’t have its own inner glow, it needs a lot of external help. So I follow a regular regime that includes oil massages, deep conditioning treatments, and John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Serum. I think one of the joys of long hair is the ability to experiment. Yes, I definitely experiment with my hair, but clearly not enough. Styling hair is one of the 64 skills of the Kama Sutra. It is even listed as a form of foreplay (shampooing and dressing your partner’s hair). A quick glance at the elaborate hairstyles on the Khajuraho sculptures will give you an idea of just how important it was for shringar rasa. There were also different hairstyles for different positions. One in particular—my favourite, in fact—requires you to thread your hair with flowers and then there was a recommended way of shaking them loose as you approached the heights of pleasure, because the sight of your partner’s loose hair and the flowers on the floor were so exciting that it would lead you to your next arousal. Or, there was the act of unfurling the hair when you made love. There was even an alankar that required dishevelled hair. Styles and modes of hair in the world of pleasure were endless. There was an entire erotic vocabulary around it. We don’t do enough.”

Avanti Nagrath, Model

“I have a balanced, stable relationship with my hair. I feel good about the way it looks and feels, and that certainly adds to my confidence. In fact, taking care of it has become an important part of my daily routine. My hair has been pretty consistent over the years. It did go through a phase of extreme dryness due to weather changes and rigorous travelling, but oiling helped keep it hydrated. Now, I oil it as often as possible to keep it nourished, and this simple ritual has helped my hair grow much longer. I also use a yoghurt mask to condition it. Being a model, my hair is styled very often, and I ensure I always use heat protectors, and treat it to a good hair spa when I have the time. I don’t colour my hair—I never have—but I love experimenting with new hairstyles. I believe every hairstylist adds a different dimension to your hair, and I enjoy seeing different people’s visions come to life.”

Shehla Khan, Designer

“Thankfully, I have had a wonderful relationship with my hair—one that continues to evolve with time. I have wavy hair, which I quite like. However, during humid months, I prefer straightening it to control frizz. When I was younger, I was obsessed with short hair, and I loved experimenting with colour. But now, I like to keep the length long and the colour ever-changing, from blonde to mahogany, red, or copper. I feel lucky that I have never wanted to make any drastic changes to my hair. I take good care of it and eat healthy meals, which has helped maintain its density. Over time, I have realised that oiling your hair is not really necessary to keep it nourished. I ensure I take suitable vitamins and use hydrating products to keep my hair and scalp healthy.”

Urvashi Kaur, Designer

“I love my hair...I always have. It’s a big part of my identity and has served as a vital tool of self-expression. Short or long, I have always had a good relationship with my hair, and I love experimenting with hairstyles and colour—I even got my hair permed for a little change of texture. As a child, coming from a Sikh background, I had beautiful, thick, long hair. I knew about 15 styles of braiding, and my mom and I would constantly change things up—adding ribbons and was so much fun! I am grateful that my parents weren’t rigid with the customs and supported me tremendously. At 13, I began exploring my own individuality and sense of style. It was then that I cut my hair short for the first time. I got a perm as it was trending then, and I absolutely loved it. When I was 18, I got a bob and grew it back, and then when I gave birth to my daughter, I got a pixie cut. Over the years, as my responsibilities grew, I started loving myself with short hair. I feel extremely confident in this length; I love how fuss-free it is, and the sense of freedom it grants is empowering—it can be styled in the way I want, in very little time. Also, I am obsessed with hair colour—I love trying out different shades to see how they work for my personality. I have explored colours like blue, silver, pink, purple, and aqua. Currently, I have ash-grey hair, but I am also fascinated with the shades that show up when the colour eventually fades. Deep conditioning and washing my hair regularly are all that I need to take care of it, thankfully. Since I colour my hair often, I use sulphate-free products and indulge in salon treatments regularly. There’s a sense of liberation while experimenting with your hair, and I thoroughly enjoy it. I don’t fear bold choices. I feel my relationship with my hair has gotten better with age, and I am excited to see how it evolves in the coming years.”

Regina Cassandra, Actor

“My mother was a Bharatanatyam dancer and she wanted me to follow in her footsteps. To achieve the classic Bharatanatyam beauty look, one had to wear extensions to create a thick braid in case your hair was short. My mother didn’t want me to wear extensions, so she ensured I had nice, long hair. It almost reached my thighs. However, deep inside, I really wanted to experiment with my look. At the age of 17, I got a fringe, and a few years later, I decided to get a fresh look and chopped off my long hair. And boy, did I love my short hair! My mother, of course, was furious as I hadn’t told her before, and it came as a shock to her...but after some time, she got on board. I have been through some crazy hair experiments—I coloured it red once, and this other time, I got an undercut. It was so liberating because when I tied my hair in a ponytail or bun, I looked like a completely different person; and when I wore it down, you couldn’t even suspect that I had razored my hair underneath. So, to sum up, I have had a relatively good relationship with my hair. You could call it a love-hate relationship, even, because sometimes, it is hard to love your hair when it is going through a bad phase. For instance, in my line of work, our hair is exposed to excessive heat styling and colouring, and that has impacted my hair has thinned down considerably. I work over 265 days in a year, and during that time, my hair goes through a lot. So on my days off, I just let it be. In fact, I don’t even own a hairdryer as I don’t like blow-drying it—I do enough of that when I am working. My haircare routine is extremely simple: I don’t try too many new products and stick to a nice hair mask (I love the one by Moroccanoil) to condition it and control frizz. Doing very little to my hair and using significantly fewer chemicals is something that has worked well for me. My hair has definitely evolved over the years; it has become better, and I take better care of it now, too. I oil it, even though my dermatologist recommends against it—but I enjoy the oil massage as a pre-bathing ritual. But there are certain things that do not work for me—like applying onion juice to the makes me break out. I also have grey hair—which I cover-up during shoots—but when I am not working, I let it be. This premature greying is a result of Vitamin D deficiency in my body. My advice: listening to your skin and hair is so important. When you listen to your body, it automatically presents you with solutions to tackle the issue, and I am a firm believer in that.”