Nibi in Nigeria // Natural Hair Style Icon

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Meet Nibi who’s trying to start a natural movement in Nigeria :)

Where are you from?
N:
I live in Lagos, Nigeria and work in finance. I was born here, grew up in the UK, and moved back to Nigeria just over 4 years ago

What is the natural hair scene like in Nigeria?
N:
It’s pretty much rejected here for the most part. When I first moved back, I would constantly get comments at work especially (I worked in a bank), and have people asking me why I was natural and offering to relax my hair for me. I’ve been referred to as a “tree hugger”, amongst other things, and people have acted like I was making some sort of statement wearing my hair natural, when in reality, I just prefer the way it looks. I just found it all quite amusing.

Recently I have started to see more natural heads around, but they are still in the minority. Apart from the stigma surrounding natural hair (relaxed hair is still pretty much seen as the most acceptable), there are a lot of people who try to go natural but don’t know how. They use the wrong products with horrible ingredients, and so their hair is pretty unmanageable and not knowing what to do they hit the relaxer again. I started getting a lot of people asking me about my hair, how I found it so easy to manage, etc. And so I began informally dispensing advice, and have helped a lot of people to go natural or start transitioning.

The main problem I encountered when advising people in Lagos to stop using sulphate shampoos, or products with mineral oil, or to cut down on the cones used, they’d ask me for specific products they could use, and there was nothing in Nigeria I could recommend. That’s why I decided to start “The Kinky Apothecary”. I supply products that before now were impossible to get here. I make sure everything we supply is free of the nasty ingredients I mentioned above, so that even if people don’t have time to read labels, or understand ingredients, they can be assured that we’ve done it for them. Products range from the popular lines like Aubrey Organics and Giovanni, which are impossible to find here, to lesser known products, such as totally natural products made by people here and in other West African countries.

There is an abundance of good natural ingredients in Nigeria that our hair loves, such as shea butter, aloe vera, coconut oil, etc, so I teach people how to use what’s around them, but also try and make them aware of issues like the differences between oil and moisture, so they don’t just end up slathering shea butter onto dry hair and wondering why they end up with a bird’s nest. Eventually, I’m also going to develop my own line of products and the process is already in full swing. I believe that all this will contribute to changing the natural scene in Lagos, and it will become more common and accepted over time.

When did you go natural?
N:
I first went natural 11 years ago. I mainly did it because I experimented with my hair a lot at the time. A friend of mine went natural because her hair was breaking off, and I loved her twists. At the time I had a short relaxed hair cut. I generally hated going to get my hair relaxed as I would ALWAYS get burns, and I have never really liked other people doing my hair. So one day I just decided not to get a touch up. About 2 months after making the decision, I chopped off the relaxed ends.

In the beginning, I still treated my hair pretty badly, and would go to hairdressers here and attract a lot of attention with the smoke rising from my blowouts and the handfuls of hair flying everywhere. None of the hairdressers knew how to handle it, so there was a lot of rough treatment (e.g combing as if it was the most resilient hair-type when in reality it’s the most delicate).

I have done every imaginable thing to my hair – including dying it red myself using store-bought dyes. Miraculously it didn’t all break off, but the heat damage was pretty special. I then hit the kiddie perm, regretting it instantly and transitioned back to natural almost straight away. That’s when I started doing a lot of research, found all the forums and blogs and got a proper understanding of natural hair. Its only in the past 2 to 3 years that I’ve really learned about the importance of products and ingredients, and how to properly take care of it.

I would say the simplest version of my regime is cowash with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration or Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa, deep condition with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner (although I have recently discovered Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner and am in love), apply Giovanni Direct Leave-in (Or Elucence again) to my hair in sections, and then twist (fat or small, depending on my mood) with my home made Shealoe whip, and seal the ends with castor oil. I normally just pin the twists up during the week, spray every night with a mixture of leave in, water and castor oil, and then I twist-out for the weekend. I do get bored easily, and experiment with other styles, but this is my go-to routine.

What would you like to see in Nigeria in terms of haircare?
N:
It would be great if there were salons dedicated to natural hair care, that understood the importance of ingredients, and actually knew how to handle hair. People think they know, but in reality have no clue.

Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
N:
I have a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kinky-Apothecary/ and the blog, which will be linked to that page, will be going up in the next few days.

The Kinky Apothecary is launching with a natural hair workshop called Champagne, Cupcakes & Curltalk where we will cover overhauling people’s regimes and general natural hair maintenance, giving tips on transitioning, understanding ingredients, and will also introduce products. The first will be this Saturday, May 8th, but I intend to hold these periodically every few months.

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43 thoughts on “Nibi in Nigeria // Natural Hair Style Icon

  1. It’s sooo great to see this! I’m Nigerian too. I did my BC 4years ago when I was in TX. I moved back to Nigeria this year and started wearing my puff… Let me tell you the reception has been horrible. Some girls ask if my hair is a weave and don’t believe when I say it’s not. Some people have asked why I’m natural (what kind of question is that) like it’s a bad thing. Finding products here in Nigeria really is difficult, so I will definitely be contacting you about that.

    I haven’t physically seen any other natural female since I’ve been around but it’s good to see that we’re out there!

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  2. Ahh this is exciting. I am Nigerian as well, natural for about 9 years now. I would love to meet up with the other nigerians located in the abj area. Is it possible to get the contact info of Nibi so I can further discuss with her. THANKS

    I wore my hair natural and i got some positive comments. However got some along the lines of why is a grown woman still carrying virgin hair, don’t you want to relax your hair, why don’t you do your hair. Thankfully I love my hair and just looked at folks as though they were crazy and asked why they had on a crazy looking weave; explained that my hair is just as done as theirs and the only difference is that i have a healthy bunny tail, theirs is a dead pony tail and last i checked, there was nothing wrong with anything termed virgin.

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  3. 21.CO
    8 May 2010 at 9:40 am Permalink

    Ahh this is exciting. I am Nigerian as well, natural for about 9 years now. I would love to meet up with the other nigerians located in the abj area. Is it possible to get the contact info of Nibi so I can further discuss with her. THANKS

    I wore my hair natural and i got some positive comments. However got some along the lines of why is a grown woman still carrying virgin hair, don’t you want to relax your hair, why don’t you do your hair. [Thankfully I love my hair and just looked at folks as though they were crazy and asked why they had on a crazy looking weave; explained that my hair is just as done as theirs and the only difference is that i have a healthy bunny tail, theirs is a dead pony tail and last i checked, there was nothing wrong with anything termed virgin].
    ———————————————————————-
    bless you.
    you are amazing. this line i will start to use from now on

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  4. Kudos to you & your endeavors, Nibi! I love reading about my Natural Nigerian sisters – it lets me know that we all haven’t succumbed to the creamy crack! I’m based out of the U.S. & I haven’t gotten to chance to go back home yet – but I’m glad that you’re reaching out to those who are new to being Natural!

    Again, kudos! =)

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  5. Thank you guys for all your wonderful, supportive comments. I really am touched. And its so great to hear from so many other natural Nigerians. Its sad to hear we’ve all experienced negativity as a result of choosing to wear our hair the way it was given to us, especially at home, but hopefully this will all change eventually. The workshop yesterday showed me that it has already begun.

    I’ve had the same comments where people suggest you can’t be ‘fully black’ if your hair grows long or if its curly, or they are convinced its a weave, or say they couldn’t go natural because their hair is not as ‘manageable’. I even get the ‘dada’ comments when my hair is in twists. Lol. I guess we just need to keep trying to educate people.

    For all those who mentioned they were coming to Lagos at some point, please make sure you get in touch when you are here. In addition to being able to get the products you need, the workshop yesterday showed that there is a community of naturals and people transitioning, who can offer each other support and advice. (@ CO, email me. Lets see what we can do about starting this up in Abj)

    I have just started the blog for The Kinky Apothecary- http://thekinkyapothecary.blogspot.com/- so please drop by. Your comments and suggestions will always be welcome. My email address is also on there for those who mentioned they wanted to contact me. I have so many ideas, but its still very much a work in progress. We’ll get there someday- hopefully!

    Thank you everyone, again! Love to all!

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  6. See…I commend you cos I know that what you are doing is for a good cause.Nevertheless, I will like to correct one notion.That a person carries natural hair in nigeria doesn’t make them a “MINORITY” as you put it. I am nigerian, lived the first 19years of my life in nigeria so I know. Yes, people with natural hair are first seen as religious because there are churches in nigeria that promote that but that is about it. People don’t call you names because you have natural hair. No, it is very accepted, yes very hard to maintain cos of weather and there are products that help too, if the ones you are importing in are reported as better, fine. That is all I want to correct, you are not seen as a minority or being tagged bad names cos you have a natural hair. If you take care of it and wear it very nicely you get compliments on it if all you do is complain about how hard or dry it is..or the stress you go thru cos of it…then you will get advices to get a relaxer.

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  7. @ Abby- Thank you very much for your comment. I wasn’t going to respond individually, but I felt that I had to answer yours.

    I started The Kinky Apothecary based on MY experiences, and the experiences of people who approached me and asked about my hair. Unfortunately, I did not invent the fact that people have and frequently do make negative comments about my hair. At the workshop on saturday, quite a few people mentioned that they had experienced negative reactions to their hair, especially at work. One lady told us how she had once been sent home by her (female) boss when she came in with her ‘fro pulled back, and told to “go to the salon and put something on it- a weave or something”. Another lady mentioned that her hair (which she wears tied back to work) is something that keeps getting flagged in her reviews as “needs improvement”. Someone else has to cornrow her hair and wear a wig. It wasn’t like any of these people were trying to go to work with their hair flying all over the place, but even pulled back or bunned, it wasn’t accepted. Additionally, when I mention natural heads being in the minority, I am talking about people who will rock a full-on ‘fro, twists, dreadlocks, etc. Yes I concur some people are natural under their braids and weaves (I’ve even heard of people relaxing just the front of their hair to blend with the weave), but apart from children, and teenagers, I personally haven’t seen that many people wearing their own hair in its natural state.

    On the subject of products, as I mentioned in my interview, there is no doubt there are a lot of ingredients here that are amazing for natural hair. However in terms of actual products that are free of mineral oil/petroleum or cones, I have found these impossible to find. I might be wrong, I can’t point out every corner of Nigeria where products are sold, but I am yet to come across anything that I would use. However, I’m sure that people would appreciate being pointed in the right direction.

    Finally, the notion that natural hair is ‘hard to manage’ is the exact view I have been trying to correct. As I said, I have been natural for 11 years, the first 8 of which I DID find looking after my hair to be a challenge, which was why I succumbed to the kiddie perm. It was only when I realised I should not be putting certain things in my hair that I found it much easier to deal with and my hair thrived. I am not claiming to be The Gospel: if people are using petrochemical-laden products and this works for them, I am not knocking them. However, if they are thinking of going back to the relaxer solely because they are finding their natural hair impossible to manage, chances are I’ll be able to offer suggestions. Anyone who offers a relaxer as the only solution to unmanageable natural hair is, in my humble opinion, not that well versed on hair issues.

    Apologies for the rant, and thanks again.

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  8. @abby
    how do you falsify peoples experiences when you do not know them?e are you implying that the stories they are told are false? your experience might be totally different from theirs but that doesnt make theirs incorrect. so there is no “notion for you to correct” mmmkay
    and without even having two heads it is quite is easy to see just walking the streets of nigeria that natural hair is not the majority. please do not belittle peooples experiences it is quite rude

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  9. I love this post! Although I’m not Nigerian (I’m Ghanaian) I can definitely relate. The same thing going on over there is what’s going on in Ghana and with those in abroad. When I went back home, I was shocked to see so many of my family members, from 5 – 60 years old, with relaxed hair. They’ve definitely taken on the Western ideals, almost to the extreme, and embracing natural hair is going to be a rough road. It’s great that you’re trying to start at home first. Kudos :)

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  10. No natural movement in Naija? is she serious.. no sis.. I applaud you for trying to bring European products home but um, this is what we do in Naija!

    I was just home about 2 months ago and most women have natural hair they just braid it and do not wear it as Afro…. which of course I think i pretty but I understand it’s hard to manage for any woman. but um no, there are tons with natrual un relaxed hair, they just braid it for the most part and that is OUR movement.

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  11. I transitioned about 2 years ago and now currently wearing my hair out. My mom hates it and request that I get it relaxed like I used too. She went as far as asking my sister to beg me to perm my hair. I’m Nigerian and it is ridiculous that our kinky hair is rejected by our own kind. I love what you are doing there, please keep it up!

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  12. I have joined Nibi’s Kinky Apothecary blog. And am so looking forward to her next edition of Champagne, Cupcakes & Curltalk coming this July. Every since I bumbed in BGLH, I have gone Afro Crazy!!!
    So having an ‘Afro’ community here in Naija is a welcoming idea.
    Way to go Nibi!!!!

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  13. I’m a Nigerian but I live in the US (DMV area). I have never permed my hair, since I was little I always braid it but I’ve also always hated it. Every time I took it out people would compliment me but that wasn’t the issue, it was me looking in the mirror and not seeing a pretty girl because my hair was nappy that made me hate my hair. For a long time I kept my hair in braids until one day I took it out and I realized that my hair got way past my shoulders and if I hot combed it, it kinda looked pretty. From there I realized that for years I had based my entire ideology on white girls, tall, skinny, long flowing hair. I didn’t always get support, my mother still gets mad when she sees my hair out. she asks me why I don’t braid it if I don’t wanna relax it, most of my friends thought I’d gone mad (I’ve always been the tree hugger in the group) but over the years, they’ve come to accept my hair, much like I have.

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  14. I am also Nigerian and newly natural (4 months now). I understand what people would probably say knowing nigerians. My mother saw my hair at first and straight up called it ugly. After 2 weeks, she then got accustomed to it. After a month, she was helping me do my twists. And after about 2 months, she is beginning to transition! The thing is that we Nigerian women who are natural can change the stigma by showing other black women how beautiful we are without the remi brazillian or inidian hair.
    thank
    ps I love your fro!

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  15. Its kind of ironic that here in America, going natural is you supposedly trying to go back to your ‘roots’ but not even the women where we come from has accepted the hair God has given them yet. I’m also Nigerian living in the US. My parents have seen me do any and everything to my head so they’re never surprised anymore lol. I’ve been natural on and off all of my life but Ill never get another relaxer again! I will be in my casket with a big giant afro waiting for my judgment from God. Why mess with something so great?

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  16. Yaaay! Nibi, it’s great to see you on bglh! Your hair is so beautiful.You have been a great help, i’m going to start being a Kinky Apothecary customer soon! lol
    Well, i am Nigerian, i live in Lagos and i have been natural for 3 years. I have gotten beautiful compliments and even had strangers walk up to me and touch my hair. The only negative comments i have gotten were all in the line of, “when are you going to relax your hair” or “it’s just a phase, you will soon go back to relaxers”. Harmless stuff! But the one that cracked me up was when an older woman said; “Young woman, please, why don’t you wait till you are married first before you do this your virgin hair? Because it will chase away all your prospective suitors oh! Men don’t like women with hair like yours, it doesn’t look neat”. I laughed till my ribs hurt! Most women i meet actually like the idea of being natural, but they don’t want to go on the journey, they just want “beautiful, afro hair like yours”. Well, enough of my rant, i am simply loving my eternal hair journey and pray other aspiring naturals get the courage to embark on their own hair journeys!

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