“Why don’t you put relaxer in your hair? There are many good ones,” a lady asked me months ago at a hair salon in Aguda in Lagos, Nigeria.
She continues to watch me with a puzzled expression as I carefully worked my fingers through my kinky mass in attempt to detangle it before getting my braids done. Then she adds, “you will be more beautiful if you relaxed it.”
She isn’t alone in thinking that. African hair, in its natural state, is hardly considered beautiful in Africa’s most populous nation. The ladies are bred on the “creamy crack” (hair relaxers) and grow up to become dependent on long, swaying weaves.
This in of itself wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t so put off by natural hair. Every time I go to my local salon, the stylist has to ask, “are you sure you don’t want to relax it?” and so begins our usual back and forth, with me telling her all my hair fell out when I relaxed as a young girl and she telling me that the relaxers are better now, etc.
But perhaps that trend is shifting and women in Nigeria, much like in the United States say 10 years ago, are beginning to see the beauty in their own God-given curly locks.
A handful of Nigerian “naturals” in the city of Lagos got together for a meet up in Ikoyi on Saturday, which I attended and felt right at home. No weird stares at my kinky twists here. There were teeny weeny afros, afro puffs, and twists all styled and accessorized.
The meet up was organized by Natural Nigerian, a blog site that celebrates natural-hair beauties and promotes wellness too.
Visitors heard lectures on how to properly take care of natural hair from experts, which was great because believe me when I say you will get no such advise from a great majority of hair salons in Nigeria.
There were tips about how to properly moisturize, how much hair product is too much hair product? To go crazy with the protein treatment or not? And what’s the deal with applying heat to natural hair?
Other experts also shared natural skin care tips. For instance, do you want to know a natural homemade recipe for fixing chapped lips, click this link.
The information was soaked up by the handful of people at the lectures, who were armed with questions for the experts.
Then there was the added bonus of having a mini fair outside where naturalistas could buy all manner of natural hair and skin products, most of which are hand-made in Nigeria. Amazing, right?
I felt at ease, loaded up on my hair oils and aloe vera juice and had a general fun day of it all. And I also hoped the word will continue to spread that black hair, African hair, is beautiful.
This is no disrespect to those who chemically stretch their hair or use weaves… in the words of India Arie you are “not your hair”.
But it would be lovely for Nigerian women to start taking pride in their natural hair and not to see it as any less beautiful than the long, swaying weaves we often hide under.
I took a lot of pictures, and have added some below.