Your hair is perhaps the most versatile accessory you can ever have. Ankita Mamgain digs deeper into the significance of our locks across time and cultures and ways of keeping them looking great.
A fascinating part of our body, hair gets just as much, if not more, attention as the rest of the ‘living’ us. Both personal and public, it is seen as a reflection of our identity. This is widely evident in fiction, with writers often describing a character’s hair in a way that it reveals something important about them.
From Rapunzel to Goldilocks and elf queen Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings to the curls of modern day urbanista Carrie Bradshaw, these characters wouldn’t be the same without their trademark locks.
There’s a deep connection between hair and self-esteem; ask any bald person you know. Many even equate a bad hair day with having a bad day. From making a fashion statement to taking a social or political stand, your hair is more expressive than you think.
The link between long hair and femininity goes back a long time – in some of the earliest cave drawings, women have been depicted to have long hair. In medieval Europe, a woman’s long, flowing locks were a symbol of her virginity and purity; once she was married, custom dictated that she wear her hair up, or covered. Over centuries, women have considered hair to be their “crowning glory”, a phrase that dates back to Biblical times.
Long cascading locks are considered a sign of sensuality and many cultures call for a head-scarf, to avert unwanted attention, or even a chop or shave once married or widowed. The significance extends into religious realms as well, with thousands tonsuring or shaving their heads as a mark of effacing of ego in certain Hindu temples across India. This hair then journeys hundreds of miles across the world in the form of wigs and has helped many restore their self-confidence post radiation therapy.
In the mid 1950s, hair even became a sign of liberation as the feminist movement gained momentum. A short bob cut just below the ears became the rage and was seen as a symbol of women taking control over their own lives.
From dramatic to demure, sexy to elegant, your hair can transform your personality and mood. On a more personal level, whether it’s getting over a break up or performing a make-over, it all begins with a visit to the hair dresser.
Hair and beauty is a multibillion-dollar industry. The average woman is estimated to spend approximately USD50,000 on her hair during her lifetime and almost two hours a week washing and styling her locks. Hair grooming is nothing new; different cultures have used their own methods and products for centuries.
Your lifestyle choices greatly impact the shape, feel and look of your hair. Add to this the various external environmental factors and the odds often seem stacked against us in the hair care department. Hence it’s necessary to get the basics right.
Cleansing: Regular shampooing is essential for both your hair and scalp as it gets rid of dirt, oil and sweat. Choose a shampoo depending upon your hair type – dry, oily, normal or coloured and the frequency of washing should not be more than two to three times a week. Avoid using too much product or shampooing too often as it may affect the capillary fibre in your hair over time. Always wash with warm water; hot water can not only dry out hair, it can irritate the scalp; and a healthy scalp equals healthy hair.
Conditioning: This is important as it restores moisture to your hair follicles, making them smooth and manageable. It usually should follow a wash; however, you can also opt for weekly or fortnightly deep-conditioning treatments with a hair mask. There are natural conditioners that can be used for this, such as yogurt, honey, coconut oil, shea butter, bananas or apple cider vinegar.
Brushing and drying: Before turning on your hair dryer, use a towel to dry your hair as much as possible. Keep your blow dryer moving as keeping it in one spot for more than a few seconds can damage the strands. Hair that’s too dry can actually receive natural oils if bushed properly. Avoid using a brush on wet hair as it can increase breakage; use a comb instead to remove snarls. For longer hair, begin brushing near the end of the hair and work your way back to your scalp.
Styling: This is truly the most fun and interesting part. From short, long, shoulder-length and pixie cuts to even partly or completely shaved, playing with colours and styling your hair in hundreds of ways, you are only limited by your own imagination. Surely you’ll remember the time spent with your girlfriends experimenting with different hair styles! Adding to the fun is the plethora of hair adornment available for all ages, tastes and budgets.