This month I have mostly been...July

This month I have followed the usual yawn-worthy routine of...

...fat twists: twistout: "I can't deal with loose hair in this humidity, so need to modify this style pronto":

Yeah that flash was scary!
Eek! slightly more creative updos: "how do I delay washing by one more day when I'm on vacay and the only accessories I have are a hair band and a scarf?"

(NB: These pictures weren't all taken in sequence because I'm still not in the habit of photographing my hair regularly, but they were all taken this month and illustrate general hair schedule I follow)

Looking for pictures for this post, I thought to myself: it is all well and good having yards of the healthiest hair in the world (not saying I do, but you catch my drift), but what it the point if it is not particularly attractive to look at? The longer it gets, the more product it uses up... and for what? To tuck it away in some unimaginative updo? 

What really is the purpose of hair if not as a way of looking more attractive? It really is that superficial!

I realise I have improved recently, but I'm sure I can do better.

So I've set myself a challenge... 30 days, 30 ways.

For the next 30 days, I am going to find a new and imaginative way to style my hair. I'll take inspiration from my favourite youtubers and bloggers (yes Miss Fizzy, I will be stalking you!), tumblr... everywhere! I'll also try and come up with my own spin on things.

Now I'm well aware that the constant manipulation is likely to cause some damage to my strands, but as I mentioned in my post on protective styling, I am not very focused on length retention at this point in time.

I warn you now, it won't always be pretty. It won't always be exciting. But it's the thought that counts, right?

I do realise August has 31 days, but "31 days, 31 ways" didn't quite have the same ring to it, and I was too excited to wait until September. Also this gives me a tiny bit of slack as I can have one day off!

So wish me luck, brace yourself for an onslaught of blog posts next month, and drop by every once in a while to see how I'm getting along.

Have a good one!

Natural Hair in the Nigerian Diaspora...Temilola

Hi everyone, hope you're having a great week. 

As I collected responses for the "Natural in Nigeria" series, I thought it would also be interesting to hear the views of Nigerian naturals all over the world, and what they experience being natural compared to us back home, i.e. if it is easier due to the lack of constant harsh criticism that we sometimes face at home, access to a wider range of products, etc. 

I also felt that hearing from people who have a handle on their hair would be a source of encouragement to people who might be struggling with their hair journeys, and reading about other people's regimens might take them one step closer to developing one of their own.

Finally, I hope this series illustrates that Nigerian curls and kinks come in all sizes and textures, and they are all beautiful!

First up we have Temilola, who I met as I spent countless hours on the hair forums. Yet another natural hair-obsessed Nigerian? Say it aint so!

This is what she had to say about her journey so far:

Photo courtesy of subject
My name is Temilola, I am a law and business graduate from University of Buckingham. I am Nigerian and I just moved to Lagos last month, but I really don't know if its permanent.
My natural hair journey
Photo courtesy of subject
My last relaxer was 17th June 2009. I started transitioning in September and big chopped in march, So it has been almost 3 years since my last relaxer (I think its easier that way)
I had always wanted to go since I was about 14, but was discouraged by mum; she said it would break and I was so scared of having short hair.
I just made up my mind to stop relaxing it towards the end of 2009. I used to relax my hair twice or thrice a year before so it wasn't difficult to just stop.
Before moving back, I had been to Nigeria once since going natural. I came in December 2011 for Christmas.
The humidity, my goodness! At times it got up to 91%. Everything shrunk to my ears even with flat twist outs LOL. So I just stick to buns and updos now.
As for the experiences with Nigerians, it has been pleasant. My mum started transitioning in Dec and big chopped last month.
A few times people have stopped me in the street to ask what I do to my hair. 
They ask if I'm Fulani, mixed, have a weave of if I have dreadlocks depending on the level of moisture in my hair . They all say they want to 'try' it. I hope they do!
Challenges encountered since going natural
My biggest challenges have been detangling and maintaining moisture, but the women on Naturally Curly were really knowledgeable and I was able to find remedies for those issues.
I didn't have a problem with accepting my hair nor did I experience negative reactions from other people.
My natural hair idol
There is a lady on YouTube called Mahogany Curls. Her hair is absolutely gorgeous.
My regimen
Photo courtesy of subject
I wash my hair every 7 days in 2 sections with diluted Dr. Bronner's castile soap focusing on my scalp.
I condition with Tresemme Naturals conditioner. I detangle in 4 sections, using my fingers first then following up with a wide tooth comb or a paddle brush. All this takes about 20 minutes.
I usually rinse my hair mid-week and just condition with Paul Mitchel Great Hair conditioner and lightly finger detangle.
For leave in, I use any of the Naturigin conditioners, it is natural, thick and moisturizing (sold at TKmaxx)
To style I use Ecostyler gel (blue) for Wash n Go's and for buns I use Sof n Free styling gel (clear).
I use a protein conditioner as needed.
Photo courtesy of subject
Thank you so much for your responses, Temilola. And congratulations to your mum for her BC. Glad to see all the mums are joining in as well!

My quick wash and twistout

See this is the great thing about natural hair. You’re always discovering and learning… and if you’re anything like me, forgetting and re-learning.

Towards the end of last month, I started to get tired of twists and updos, and my general failings when it comes to styling.

After bemoaning, in my braidout post, the fact that I couldn’t get a twistout or braidout to last for more than a few hours, and spending months trying to crack the humidity code, I suddenly remembered how I used to do it back when I first started my healthy hair journey.

I only started doing braidouts on mostly dry hair when I was out of Nigeria for work, and discovered that they yielded much bigger, much more stretched out hair, however it suddenly hit me that when I used to set my twists or braids on wet hair, the result would last for at least 3 days. So I decided to give it a whirl again.

I divided my hair in 4 sections. Cowashed each section, rinsed, re-applied conditioner and finger detangled gently. (And to dispel rumours that every wash session has to take all day, this took a total of about 20 minutes. Note, however, that I skipped the deep conditioner stage). 

I rinsed my hair still in 4 sections, got out of the shower, undid each section, applied my leave-in and twisted into smaller sections like I normally do, but this time I added my styler at this stage. I waited a few minutes between shower and applying my leave-in, with my hair wrapped in a t-shirt, and that prevented the “dreaded drip-drip”. Pretty soon I was left with this (One hour total from the beginning of the wash, by the way):

Products used to style were Kinky Apothecary Whipped Batter and Pink Ecostyler
I left the twists in for about 2 days pinned up like so:

When it was time to take them down, I rubbed a tiny bit of jojoba oil in my palms and on my fingertips and lightly coated the twists with them.

I was left with this:

Yes yes, a trim was definitely in order. Has since been addressed but more on that later
Now I did this when I happened to be staying at my Grandma’s for the weekend. She lives in what can only be described as rainforest, and is literally the most humid part of Lagos I have ever been to (well, technically it is on the outskirts of Ogun State).

Several hours later though, my hair still looked like this:

Much later that night:

A close-up of the definition that night:

The next morning, after putting my hair in 2 loose “pineapples” and covering with satin scarf):

Pineappling hair overnight definitely stretches it out, making it bigger and fuller the next day

Ravaged by humidity near the end of the second day, but still going strong: it wasn't just my hair that was ravaged by the heat and humidity. Eek!

I only left it out for 2 days, as I then decided to experiment with an updo, but I am sure I would have made it to day 3, albeit much bigger and fluffier, and with much less definition, but still all good.

So there you have it, peeps. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. 

So in addition to the tips I gave in my braidout post for a longer lasting set, namely:

1/ Avoid humectants
2/ Use a product with hold
3/ Pay attention to your nighttime routine, and
4/ Do not use a liquid moisturiser in-between


5/ Style on damp to wet hair

to the list.

I was also able to demonstrate how wash days don't ALWAYS have to take hours.

I think I will go back to wet styling for the time being…well, until I’m distracted by something else again that is.

Until next time!


In June, I mostly...

Ok, over half way through the next month (*sigh*), let's get this show on the road.

In June, I mostly...

...tried to find inventive ways to combat humidity...


...then gave up, and went for twists...

I did a "loose twists" method that Miss Fizz wrote about on the Leave In The Kinks blog

I had to take them down pretty soon after they went in- about 10 days later, as I needed my hair out to do a shoot for a project I'm working on (more about that later)... I didn't have much of a chance get any good photos of the different styles I did with them (I mostly wore a lot of high buns). But I will be back in twists soon, and will show how they encourage me to be versatile with my styling.

How have you guys been wearing your hair?

Natural hair in Nigeria... Meet Funmi!

Hi All! 

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I do realise it's Tuesday (evening, for that matter), but the past few days have been a blur so I haven't had a chance to get on the blog, twitter or the facebook page.

One of the best things about starting up The Kinky Apothecary is that I am constantly brought into contact with women who inspire me in different ways.

One such woman is Funmi Johnson, CEO and Founder of born2bebeautiful, and natural with a few blips since 1997. 

Funmi started born2bebeautiful just over a year ago to draw on her expertise as a barrister, trainer, life coach, make up and lifestyle advisor. Their aim is to empower girls to make sound life choices, and to help women realise their potential and look and feel their best. born2bebeautiful specialises in helping women who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence in their relationships. 

Here's what she had to say about her natural hair experiences.

Photo courtesy of subject
Why I went natural
I am from Lagos, but lived most of my life in the UK. I've been natural for 15 years (hadn't realised it had been that long!)

I went natural because I was fed up with putting chemicals in my hair and dealing with the fallout of an itchy dry scalp, which turned out to be an allergy to the chemicals. 

My big chop experience
I didn't really have a view on natural hair before I went natural. I guess I thought it meant you were a child as 'grown' women have relaxed hair.

I did the big chop at 30 and so I was ready for a big change. Shaved it all off (it was a no. 1 grade), got a tattoo, learned to drive and to swim. All in all a very exciting year.

Experiences of being natural in Nigeria
I've only just moved back to Lagos, however I visited last year when I had locs and I got quite a few comments on them. I was a bit apprehensive, given the average Nigerian's views on locs as being dirty. 

When I wear my 'fro out here, it's strange that I get almost the same response as in England. Questions like, "how do you look after it?" "Is it soft?" Comments like "you're really brave to cut your hair"

Photo courtesy of subject 
My mum was horrified when I cut my hair off. A potential suitor said "Why can't you just have a weave-on, like normal women?" A senior colleague at work said "You're so brave to have cut your hair. When I've got no more ambition, I'll cut mine too". 

When I met my husband, I was rocking a 2 inch, bronze 'fro and have been every colour and length in the 5 years we've been married. 

On the natural hair scene in Nigeria
I think the natural scene is a lot more buoyant now. Dreads are actually quite common now. I've even converted my sister-in-law :)

In the UK, natural hair is seen as being a bit exotic I think, and for me that's a whole 'nother story around racism and the exoticism of the Black woman. 

My "natural hair journey"
I have fully accepted my natural hair and have no plans to return to chemicals. I love my 'fro. What I've noticed is that I've got a lot of shrinkage when I wear my hair out here and it's kind of tender. I haven't tried the tips on your blog yet, so there may be some improvement when I do.

To learn more about born2bebeautiful, check out their website here. Funmi also has a blog, which I spent ages reading after she told me about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us, Funmi!

Natural hair in Nigeria... meet Nono!

I always find it fascinating hearing about other people's natural hair experiences, especially here in Nigeria, so I asked some of my customers to share theirs: the good, the bad and the downright ugly. I'm also always reading articles about how natural hair is not accepted in Nigeria. Although this is true for the most part, I thought we should show the world that although we’re in the minority, we have our own little (but rapidly growing) community here!

First up (and first to send her answers in) is Nono.

Photo courtesy of subject

It seems like just yesterday when I got an S.O.S. email from Nono saying she had just done the big chop and needed advice, but now she points out it was over a year and a half ago. We emailed back and forth for days as she asked questions and I tried to give her as much advice as I could. As tends to happen with most of my customers, we quickly built a rapport, so it warms my cockles to see that she’s really in her stride now. Here’s what she has to say about her experience so far:

Why I went natural

I have been natural for about a year and 7 months now. I went natural cos I was bored. I'm someone that gets bored easily and I'd pretty much done all there was to do with my relaxed hair so I thought why not go natural.

Well....being natural in Nigeria is no easy feat. I must tell you that. I'm always asked "why" by hair dressers. One even recommended a relaxer a while ago cos for some reason she felt I hadn't heard of 'em.

Photo courtesy of subject
On how other people receive it 

Most of the people I meet outside are always curious to know how I maintain my hair and the hair products I use. They commend me but they say they can't try it cos of how tough their hair is. I always try to explain that it's possible to wear your natural hair and still have it soft. My biggest issue is with finding products(thank goodness for the Apothecary) and finding salons that can deal with natural hair. More often than not, I make my hair myself just to spare myself the horror of having a hairdresser take a blow dryer to my scalp.

My family loves my hair! I got my mum to go natural so yay!! I've got brothers so I guess we can say everyone in my immediate family is natural!

I currently work in Oil and Gas, and I've been wearing a weave since I started so no one has gotten to see my hair yet but I've been told that as long as it's presentable and not crazy, it's fine. I worked in media about a year ago and they were totally fine with whatever I chose to do to my hair(obviously lol!). The business world is ok with my hair as long as it's not too crazy. I've worn bantu knots, pineapple updos, big buns, mini-twists that look like dreadlocs and huge afros to my MBA classes and no one seemed to mind. People were more interested in how I got my hair to look the way it did.

My views on natural hair before I joined the club

Before I went natural I thought one must really be crazy to want to keep their hair natural. As a kid I was natural till about I was 10 and I remember the torture I went through whenever I had to have my hair done. I must hold some sort of record for breaking combs!

Photo courtesy of subject
My big chop and my journey so far

I was very excited about my big chop. I hadn't had my hair short in years and I wanted to see what I'd look like. I transitioned for 4 months before my BC. 

My natural hair journey so far has been very interesting. It's so much fun trying out new styles and new regimens. I'm always on youtube watching vids of other natural girls and trying what they recommend. Some work and some don't but I guess that's the whole point. Finding out what works for me.

My daily hair regimen at the moment would be a little glycerin, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, leave-in conditioner and water all mixed up in a spray bottle and of course my shea butter. Moisture is so important for my hair especially in Nigeria where the weather gives my hair a lot of frizz. I've been trying out the curly girl method and co-washing my hair often. I can't really see what the difference is but I guess it's a way to clean my hair without stripping out all the good stuff I've got in there.

On being natural in Nigeria

Being natural in Nigeria is really a challenge primarily cos of the weather like I said, but with my spray bottle always handy, I'm able to fight that. I'd love to encourage others to try going natural. I must say the downside is that it is really time consuming and if you're the impatient type you could easily get frustrated but I believe that's a minor flaw. It's really fun if you are like me and love looking different all the time.

I have fully accepted my natural hair. At this stage I think I have a pretty good idea of her strengths and weaknesses. With time I've come to understand what works and what doesn't and I'm fine with that. No I don't think I'll ever relax my hair again. I mean if I'm tired, all I have to do is wear a weave for a while and the weave can even second as relaxed hair for a bit. If I were to relax my hair, I'll never get it back unless I cut again which I'm not prepared to do and besides I want to loc my hair eventually so relaxing is totally out of the picture.

Photo courtesy of subject

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your experiences, Nono, and congratulations to your mum on her big chop!

Kinky Hair 101: Protective and low-manipulation styling

Most people reading this will already familiar with the concept of protective styling, what it entails and how you can benefit from it, but I feel it is my Corporate Social Responsibility to carry on with all the basics for any newbies who might happen to stumble across this blog. Hi there! *waves*

Anyway, I mentioned in one of my last few posts that I have benefited from not doing much with my hair recently. Time constraints have meant that I have not really had a chance to fuss with it much. I wash every 7-10 days as usual (sometimes stretching to 14 days). I then put them in fat twists, which I wear for a couple of days pinned up.
If I'm going anywhere where I need to look slightly decent, I distract with a nice scarf or other accessory.
When the weekend rolls around, I either undo and braid for a braidout, as illustrated in previous post, or undo and re-twist with product for a twistout, allow it to set at least overnight and then wear the twist/braidout for a couple of days until humidity has completely taken its toll. Then I put it in some sort of updo, like a bun or flat twists, for a couple of days until the next wash day rolls around.

Why have I benefited from this?
Essentially, what I have been doing is protective or low-manipulation styling. Most naturals with tighter, kinkier textures tend to benefit from leaving their hair alone. And the ones who have managed any significant amount of length retention tend to be in protective styles about 99% of the time. (Yes, I just employed a knack I have for pulling statistics out of thin air, but for example, check out Cipriana from Urban Bush Babes, or Mwedzi on Youtube)

This is because kinky hair is so fragile, that every time it is handled is an opportunity to damage it. Our hair therefore tends to thrive if put away, as you are preventing it rubbing on clothing or other articles. It is particularly helpful if your ends are tucked away as this helps minimize splits and knots, which would eventually need to be chopped out of your hair. 

Forms of low-manipulation or protective styling
As I mentioned, updos and buns are protective styles as they keep your ends tucked away and free from damage. Strictly speaking, twists on long hair are not strictly "protective" if worn down and allowed to rub on your clothing, however you do benefit from the fact that once the twists are in, you will not have to keep re-doing your hair and risk over-manipulation. 

Twistouts and braidouts even when worn loose are, in my opinion semi-protective styles, because from stretching your hair by twisting and braiding, you are minimizing tangles and also locking in moisture (which travels much more easily down a stretched strand of hair than a tightly coiled one), reducing possible breakage. (Although watch out for shrinkage in this humidity!)

For ideas on protective styling, look back at this post on youtube links. And take some time out to look through other videos for tutorials.

Protective styling may not suit everyone
As with everything, not all rules apply 100%. Some people, particularly those with looser curls, may not find protective styling necessary, and can wash and go to their hearts content. 

Others may have tightly curled hair, but for them retaining length is not a priority, and this is fine. 

I was much more strict about protective styling when I first embarked on this healthy hair journey, but have recently been far more relaxed about my hair in general. Sometime last year, I reached the conclusion that there is no point having all this hair if I can't show it off once in a while. So if I have time to play with my hair, I do tend to wear it out more often (my recent protective styling frenzy has, as I mentioned, mainly been for convenience). 

However I was very aware that this would be to the detriment of my length retention, and I definitely weathered a lot more damage than usual last year and had to trim more often, but I was o.k. with that. I draw the line at frequent wash and go's, however. 

So whether you protective style or not is your choice: it is just important to be aware of the trade-off, for most people, between wearing your hair out all the time and growing your hair long.

A couple of important things to think about when protective styling
1/ Again, I repeat: no two things work exactly the same for 2 people. So watch Youtube tutorials to get ideas, but at the end of the day, you have to figure out a routine that best suits YOU. For e.g. some people leave their twists in for up to 6 weeks. I have never dared to attempt going more than 3! 
Another example: when I began attempting protective styles, I would watch people with a looser texture on Youtube bun their hair wet, and I would try and mimic it. This didn't work well at all for my texture, and I have since found that for me, it is best to bun my hair when it is in twists, or when it is already stretched, e.g. an old twistout.
2/ As I mentioned in my braids post, there is no point in doing a protective style if any process of that style causes damage to your hair. For e.g. there is no point in blowdrying if you’re breaking it along the way, not moisturizing while it is in the style, or leaving the style in so long that your hair will knot, tangle and break as you’re taking it out.
Incidentally, Miss Fizz from Leave In The Kinks (protective styler extraordinaire) just did this post with notes on protective styling. Make sure to check it out.

Until next time!