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