me and my hair
Five top creatives and writers share all their hair-related feelings.
While we feel no actual pain when someone chops a lock of our hair off, that's not to say we don't feel something. Hair is inextricably linked to our feelings – a bad hair day can ruin your self-confidence; thinking back to past hair escapades can make us smile, cry and cringe (sometimes all at once); and a new 'do can make us feel like we're walking on a rainbow. Let's get deep into the follicles of how these creatives feel about their hair. sabina mckenna, writer and curator
My relationship with my hair has been the ultimate romance in so many ways. Intense, passionate, tumultuous, triumphant, joyful and at times utterly heart-breaking.
It all started very young. For years my hair was other people's responsibility: my mother let it do what it wanted, then every few months or so my father would shave it all off for a clean start. The next phase was braids. They were easy to keep neat for extended periods of time, and at the tender age of eight they made me look unbearably cute.
As I grew older, I started to become more aware of my own appearance. One day at the salon I noticed the silky straight hair of an African model on a packet of hair relaxer... And so it began – the first of what would be many hair rituals performed throughout my life. Relaxing, flat ironing; long, lustrous real human hair extensions, that were equal parts ethically and economically problematic. These were the rituals I would perform for years in a bid to make my naturally coily 4B/C hair resemble anything but that.
Today, my hair and I have reached a point of acceptance. Not to say it doesn’t still take work. My rituals have changed, too, and I’m learning in a different way; learning how to care for my hair. To protect it. To love it.
emily naismith, writer
I had sweet blonde ringlets as a toddler and ever since then I’ve been fighting to regain my curls from my frizzy, limp, mousey-brown nothingness. A few years ago, I stumbled across the world of the ‘Curly Girl Method’. In all honestly, it seemed like a cult with its devout followers, diabolically intense Facebook groups and strange coded language (‘scrunch out the crunch’, ‘squish to condish’, ‘low poo’) but my hair absolutely sucked, so I was in.
I watched about 27 YouTube videos; scoured the shops for the CG-approved products and re-learnt how to wash aka ‘co-wash’ my hair (aka ditch the shampoo and instead massage conditioner onto your head for 10 minutes).
It did make my hair curlier. I even got some ringlet action. But it turns out I don’t have the stamina to be an official Curly Girl. I don’t have the upper arm muscles to wash my hair like that! Or the time! I pulled the pin soon after I spent most of my birthday walking around the city looking like a rat drowned in a 1kg tub of gel, because I’d read that air-drying gave the best frizz-free results. It’s not worth the pain! To think that I almost physically posted a strand of my hair to the US to get its curl properties analysed (I was in deep, ok).
These days I take the elements of the method that work for me and ditch the ones that don’t. I may dabble in the Curly Girl Method, but I will never be a true Curly Girl™.
ella benore rowe, hair salon owner
I’d comb my dry hair and the sounds of sparks would crackle off the plastic bristle brush (people would tease me saying it was one for a horse). I was six years old and I couldn’t understand why my hair just wouldn’t ‘go down’. I had just started school and I felt like an outsider – blessed with hair that was a combination of my father’s wavy European hair and my mother’s glorious afro.
I now own Elvies Studios – named after my mother. I wanted to create a space for us. Growing up, we would sit and play with each other's hair in front of the tv. "Ella, can you please oil my scalp?" I’d use my fingernails to divide her thick, kinky hair to make pathways to nourish, tipping the plastic container of frangipani coconut oil Mum bought on her last visit to PNG.
I learnt about my hair and myself from Mum. Reflecting on these earlier experiences helped me see what was possible and what had been impossible. Simplicity. Natural beauty. Balance. Shape. Care. Sectioning; oiling; plaiting; stretching; picking; and shaping with the hands and palms.
I learnt that being different was a superpower. I turned this magic into what is now my daily ‘dream life’. I did it because I wanted to create the world I wanted to live in and I knew that others needed this, too. Elvies Studios is a place founded in love and understanding, respect and the will to bring people together. Rather than flattening and reducing my hair, we now ‘lift from the roots’ with pride.
My hair was always the first thing people would comment on when they met me – it still is. And now it is my greatest asset.
phebe rendulic, crafter
I am 37 and have been dyeing my hair pink consistently for over six years now. One day, a friend of mine was itching to do something fun and asked if I would be open to going pink. The second I saw my reflection in her mirror after she’d dried my hair, it didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. It felt like my natural hair colour.
I was never good at attempting hairstyles that trended over the years and because I went to a strict Catholic school we weren’t allowed to colour our hair (or even wear it down if it was longer than our shoulders). Entering the workforce had similar rules, so I kept my thin, dusty-blonde hair in a ponytail for the first two-thirds of my life until I decided to go to art school, where everything changed when I bleached my hair white.
Before COVID I would often get stopped by people complimenting my hair or I’d have little girls staring at me – it always made me smile. It would often be older ladies who would tell me how my hair had brightened their day. I also find that when I pass someone else with a pastel or multi-coloured ‘do, we have this little acknowledgement nod we give each other – like we’re in a secret society.
When the first big lockdown happened in Melbourne, I found myself stuck in my little hometown in South Australia, working remotely from my dad’s kitchen table for seven months. I let my hair grow out and suffered the extreme pain of regrowth (like everyone else did during that time). My mum could tell that it was getting me down so before I left to go back to Melbourne she booked and paid for me to get my ‘natural’ pink hair back.
rebecca varcoe, writer
As someone who deeply cherishes her hair and has been bestowed the gift of fast-growing locks, hair care has been the perfect arena for me to fight some beauty battles. My noggin has played host to a range of styles – disasters and successes both – that have given me a strange affection for the hospitality of my follicles.
Perhaps because of the speed at which I knew my hair would grow back, I have experimented liberally with my hair across my 32 years. From bobs with shaved undercuts to chunky copper highlights littering the "Jennifer Aniston" layers teen me aspired to, I've loved nothing more than changing up my locks to match my mood. At five, this meant a half-melted marshmallow embedding itself in the ends of the hair I refused to let my mother touch. At 14, it was nearly-black lengths teased up top to create the volume required to communicate to the world my dedication to the handful of emo bands to whom I was devoted. By 17, shaving an undercut told everyone I was ready to go to art school.
My poor hair has been through it all. But we’ve been together for the ride – through the box dye disasters, the long and the short. It’s you and me, hair. Together, we can do it all.
These tales were brought to you in partnership with the folk at Klorane and their Organic Cupuacu range which deeply repairs very dry and damaged hair. Find out more about the three-step treatment of Klorane Organic Cupuacu shampoo, conditioner and intensive 3-in-1 treatment mask on the Klorane website.