Phoenix Connolly is an actor from New Zealand, living in Sydney. She recently spent three months in Goa, India, filming an upcoming project, and spent her downtime investigating local beauty secrets. She talks to Sanskruti Naik, the latest in our series I Like Your Hair.
My friend Sanskruti Naik grows her hair down to her knees. It is the hair of fairy tales; so thick and strong that a kitten will climb up it to perch on Sanskruti’s shoulder. She stands 5 feet tall and her hair measures 3 feet seven inches long (at the time of publication).
The length is less impressive to me than the overall health of each strand – smooth all the way to every tip – not a single split end. I have the desire to weigh it. It feels solid in my hands like a ream of hand-loomed fabric, dense beyond what I imagined humanly possible to grow. Hair that makes you question “How?”.
I love making new friends in far away lands; the stretching feeling and the sparks at the edge of your vision when the boundaries of your reality grow.
We don’t speak much of the same language but we make each other laugh and we make each other food. Every morning in her marble kitchen Sanskruti and I fry eggs (for our hair, I learn) and dosa for one another. And every morning I look forward to seeing how Sanskruti will style her hair.
Some days a simple overhand knot swings like a bell at the centre of her back, on others a braid longer and thicker than my arm hangs to her hips. I especially love Thursday’s - the day Sanskruti washes her hair.
It is also the day she goes to the temple. It is respectful to be freshly bathed when you visit a temple. Sanskruti arrives in the kitchen with all 42 inches of her hair wound and bound to dry in a thin cotton towel spiralled on her head like a nautilus shell.
One Thursday morning, over chai and eggs, I asked Sanskruti “how?”. Here’s what she told me.
What’s your secret ingredient for growing long healthy hair?
My Grandmother loves it; she loves to comb it for me ever since I was small. My Mum too, we all have long hair. Also I eat lots of green vegetables. And eggs everyday.
How do you care for your hair?
I use shampoo. Tresemmé. And oil. I put the oil in before I shampoo. I always take care of my hair. And I don’t use conditioner, I only use shampoo. I never use a straightening iron or visit beauty parlours.
Tell me about the oil you use.
I use coconut oil – I buy it from the local shop and I mix in methi seeds (fenugreek). I only use simple local made coconut oil. I roast methi seeds and then put them in the oil. The coconut oil smells different, so if you put the seeds in the oil it doesn’t start to smell bad.
How often do you wash your hair?
Every Thursday, before I go to temple, Shri Dattatreya temple down the road.
How often do you cut your hair?
Once a year, in August or September when it gets too heavy. When it’s up in the knot like you like it; then if it’s too heavy I’ll cut it.
How do you wear your hair most days?
Amado – traditional. [In English we say ‘Bun’ in reference to a bread roll and in Konkani - the local Goan dialect, they use the word ‘amado’ - in reference to a local fruit of the same shape.]
What’s your favourite way to wear your hair?
Open hair, with flowers. The Draupadi orchid is my favourite.
[The Draupadi orchid is named for the female hero of the hindu epic Mahabharata. Draupadi is a queen who spends many years exiled in the jungle with her five husbands. She is famous for her beauty and courage. I recommend reading The Palace of Illusions in which novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni re-imagines the ubiquitous tale from Draupadi’s perspective.]
Do you have any ideas for how you’ll style your hair for your wedding in December?
The peshwai hairstyle, braided and rolled up. I want it decorated with real flowers.
Whose hair do you admire?
What do you love about your hair?
The thickness and dark colour. My hair has a little bit of brown shade, not totally black.
Do you have any secrets you’re keeping in your hair?
Hmm… I love my hair, and I won’t cut it. If I do, I cut it at home. If you cut your hair again and again too much your hair gets scared and stops growing, so love your hair everyday and do oiling every day. Select a time; morning or night.
Put oil through your hair and in a plait before sleep. Now I do it only on weekends but as a child I always was putting oil and two plaits before bed and school, and my grandmother was combing my hair. I stay natural and simple – that is the secret of my hair.