Forget about clothes, hair most important for Lankan women

February 22nd, 2008 - 9:56 am ICT by admin  

By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, Feb 22 (IANS) Beauty-conscious Sri Lankan women attach more importance to their hair than to clothes or make up and often judge others by the way they have dressed their tresses, a new survey has revealed. Conducted by the Lanka Market Research Bureau (LMRB) for Unilever in December 2007, the survey found that 48 percent of the 429 women interviewed strongly felt that hair was a crucial aspect of appearance or beauty. Another 45 percent were less sure, but granted that hair was an important aspect of beauty.

Asked to indicate what in their view was most important for a woman’s appearance, 41 percent mentioned hair, 33 percent mentioned clothes, 23 percent chose skin quality, and only two percent ticked make-up.

Done through face-to-face interviews with women between 19 and 40, the survey covered the urban and rural areas in all provinces other than the war-affected northern and eastern provinces.

The concern for the quality of hair was stronger in the urban areas and among youth in the age group of 19 to 25.

As many as 33 percent of women of all age groups, irrespective of whether they were urban or rural, said that hair styling could “instantly transform” their appearance. Only 11 percent disagreed strongly. A woman could make a “significant fashion statement” by doing her hair up, said 78 percent of those interviewed.

The hairdo is so important that, in a majority of cases, the final thing that a woman will check or adjust before going out is her hair. In the survey, 50 percent reported doing it, as against 32 percent who said they would adjust the dress and 13 percent who said that they would touch up the make up.

The survey reveals that Sri Lankan women are quite happy with their hair, with 35 percent saying that they are “very happy” and 62 percent expressing reasonable satisfaction. For 76 percent, their hair was the “best” reflection of their personality.

In Sri Lanka, women tend to judge other women by their hair. About 37 percent confessed that they had many times judged others by the way they groomed their hair. Another 35 percent said that they had sometimes judged others by their hair.

The condition of one’s hair may either boost or dampen one’s confidence, the survey reveals. As many as 81 percent said that on days their hair looked good they felt more confident and open to new opportunities.

Conversely, women felt a loss of confidence and feared loss of opportunities if their hairdo was not up to the mark, or the hair did not accord with the current perception of beautiful hair.

This is indeed a universal problem, which was noticed and commented upon by renowned Indian psychologist Nimmi Hutnik in her book “Living in the Hair and Now”.

Hutnik said that if women felt unhappy with their hair, they did not try to realise their full potential.

However, despite the importance they give to hair, Sri Lankan women are not adventurous enough to go for the latest styles and colours, the hair care industry says. Of course, hair care facilities are also few and far between, and what is available is expensive.

However, weddings are occasions when cost is not considered a factor. Therefore, there has been a mushrooming of beauty care salons catering to the marriage market across the island.

And thanks to the bridal dressing cottage industry, the beauty-care movement is spreading from the English-speaking westernised elite to the Sinhalese-speaking middle and lower middle classes, and from the Colombo metropolis to the outlying towns.

The day is not far off when the focus of Sri Lankan beauty salons will shift from the confines of the wedding to catering to the day-to-day hair care needs of the average workingwoman.

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