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From embracing curls to grey strands: Women recount their evolving relationship with hair

"I realised how my hair was never the problem. It was all just in my head."

women and hairWomen from across ages, professions and the country share their relationship with their hair.

For many women across ages, hair styles, hair problems, and good or bad hair days go way beyond the momentary vanity. It’s often a projection of internal turmoil, changing body image, expression of femininity, and coming to terms with it all. And while it may manifest itself in going bald or dyeing the hair pink, orange, or blue, sometimes its simply about self acceptance of just the way our hair is, as expressed by women in the previous part of this story.

Read what women from across ages, backgrounds, and the country had to say about their relationship with hair.

Sneha Savla.

“I had long felt fortunate enough to have been genetically blessed with beautiful hair. I always liked to have fun with it. I have had red hair, to extensions of pink and blue. But, the minute that I got my first few strands of grey hair, I freaked out because in a large sense, it also feels like you’re growing up. I would try and either get it cut, or cover up those couple of strands.

“It was an unnecessary stress that I had, and at one point, I think it just changed me. But right now, I feel very liberated to not be bothered by the few strands of white that I have in my hair because I was able to accept the greying of my hair as something that is just a natural progression. You could probably deceive time by making all of these external changes. And even though I don’t know if I’m fully in acceptance, it helped me deal with realising that yes, I am growing older.”

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–Sneha Savla, she/her, 30, brand Strategy, Mumbai

Nabomita Aich

“I have always been quite insecure about my hair being curly. I would always feel different, and not in a good way. People called me names like ‘pasta’ or ‘Maggi’ just because of my hair. On top of that, being in my mid-teens, when I used to see other girls with straight hair who were considered conventionally pretty, it affected my self-esteem. I’ve always suffered from this inferiority complex for how my hair made me look. I remember always being worried about how bad my hair looked every time I went out. Keeping them braided or tied up became a ritual.

“In the end, when I did get my hair straightened permanently, I looked at myself in the mirror and I felt beautiful for the first time. I was happy thinking about how people around me, my friends, or the boy I was crushing on, would consider me pretty for having straight hair. It worked. Everyone called me beautiful. Some even told me how my curls were stopping me from looking this pretty.

“But all these ‘praises’ and ‘compliments’ soon faded away and I went back to being that normal girl again, this time with straight hair. That’s when I realised how insignificant this whole thing was. I realised how my hair was never the problem. It was all just in my head. I was pulling myself down, comparing myself constantly with people around me, letting their opinions about me get to my head. I was beating myself up for something that was beyond my control.

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“As I grew up, I’ve learnt to embrace myself the way I am. I have grown back my curls again and I’ve learnt to embrace them. Sometimes I straighten my hair or get them coloured, but not because I have issues with how I look but only because it feels good to try new things.”

— Nabomita Aich, she/her, 20, bachelor’s student, Kolkata

Natasha

“I’ve had a complicated relationship with hair all my life. Growing up, hair removal was an essential part of my gender expression and dealing with body hair dysphoria. I started shaving body hair at 14, way before I identified as a non-binary trans person. And while I shaved body hair almost every day, growing hair on my head brought me immense joy. I felt free when I ran fast and my long hair jumped synchronously to my strides.

“When I decided to medically transition, the first thing I did was grow out the hair on my head and get laser hair removal for rest of my body parts. I’ve been on it for two and half years now; there is hardly any body hair left on my body. Not having to shave has calmed the dysphoria I experienced around body hair significantly. Laser hair removal and HRT have saved my life, and that’s why access to gender affirming care is so important in saving trans lives.

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“Growing up, I was bullied for despising body hair and for my femininity. Since then, my biggest realisation has been that how I’m perceived by people is not an onus I should put on my gender or myself. It’s no more about checking if I tick boxes of traditional ideas of femininity but about the importance of looking in the mirror and being able to see myself euphorically, and know that this body is in its rightful place.”

–Natasha, she/they, 29, MNC professional, Chennai

Vandana Bhandare.

“Growing up, I loved my hair because it had a gorgeous texture like straight hair from the top and then it got wavy towards the ends, it was my pride because none of my friends had anything similar. At home, we just used simple products that were easily accessible to us. The kind of haircuts I would also do were very simple: U-shapes and V-cuts. But, my hair started changing when I contracted Covid during the second wave, and the texture of my hair completely changed. It became dry and I had terrible terrible hair fall. I started fearing to even comb because of how the comb would pull out too much hair and I would soon have nothing on my scalp. 3-4 months after I recovered, I saw a doctor about the hair fall; it thankfully stopped.

“While that was a big relief for me, the natural texture of my hair is gone. 3 months ago, I cut my hair the shortest I have ever had because I wasn’t doing well mentally; I thought that the makeover would help me, but the feeling was temporary. But I don’t regret cutting it that short.”

— Vandana Bhandare, she/her, 25, founder of a clothing label, Bangalore
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First published on: 03-02-2022 at 12:30 IST
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