Cut of class

For Nayana Karunaratne, hair dressing is not just about cutting, but styling


MANE ATTRACTION Nayana Karunaratne with her team

MANE ATTRACTION Nayana Karunaratne with her team  

India is short of 50,000 hairdressers. Would I want to quit what I am doing to become a hairdresser? I can't say yes, but Nayana Karunaratne assures me it pays well. With thirty-five years of experience behind her, and 10 salons running successfully in Sri Lanka and India, Nayana is on a mission to give the profession a dignity and respect that it deserves.

At the young age of fifteen she knew that was her calling. With an uncle who was a vice chancellor it wasn't easy to abandon studies for the love of snipping hair. "I don't want to sound cocky, but today he calls me the star of the family."

It's an honour for which she worked very hard. "It's a lot of haaaardwork. You can't have a stomach-ache when you have to see a customer," she says. There is professionalism and there is quality. "The customer is no fool. Every office is air-conditioned. So is a Coffee Day that's meant for teenagers. You can't have unwashed combs, unclean towels or untrained staff."

Nayana is doing a bridal makeup after the interview. She's had many trials, finding the perfect shade of foundation, just the right hairstyle for occasions. And now when the flowers have arrived, flown in especially from Sri Lanka. "I can do it with my eyes closed and even the bride will not mind," she says explaining why it costs so much.

Salon Nayana spends a good deal of money and time on training staff. Hairdressing is not just about cutting hair, but styling. The key is to combine western techniques with eastern styles, like the high lifted coiffures of the Ajanta frescoes. "When we say Asian hairdressers, they think Japan, Korea and China. They do not think Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan." And Nayana wants to change that. The prestigious OMC (Organisation Mondiale Coiffure) Asia Cup, and the Hair Asia Pacific that she is organising in October will be the right venue for this. With 16 participating countries, and a more than a hundred hairdressers from India and Sri Lanka and nearly forty from Pakistan, she's sure the sub-continent will be noticed. "After all, it is a different hair texture, skin, different styles and different desires."

Trends and tips

— Oiling once or twice a week is very important for hair growth and I think it used as a sun guard in ancient times. But you have to wash it off. I completely disapprove off people going around with it in their hair.

— People are still frightened of shampooing; it's not a dishwashing liquid. Conditioners are equally essential, particularly in Chennai where the water in most places is hard.

— Neem is good but that doesn't mean you make a ball of neem paste and put it on your face. Chemical or herbal, it has to be from a quality company.

— Colours are back in abundance particularly red. And Indians are anyway used to mehendi, so they should not shy way from reds as they complement the skin colour.

— Healthy hair and soft curls are back. Bonding is out.

— For men its wispy and a few uneven curls behind the neck, I'd also like to see them do away with that side parting.

Recommended for you