Natural hair in the Nigerian Diaspora... Joanna

Hey peeps,

Another "Natural hair in the Nigerian Diaspora" feature, and another forum friend of mine. Joanna's comments and responses never failed to crack me up on the hair boards. Read on and you'll see why!

Photo courtesy of subject

Hello! Ekaaro eveyone! I am Joanna. I am just your regular UK natural, 20-something years old, physiotherapy student at Nottingham. I love food, often have my nose in a book, am a Japanophile (language, anime, culture, food), a massive GOONER and I have a thing for natural hair.

I am a Londoner born and bred, but left my city to go to University in Nottingham. Both cities actually have good natural hair scenes. In Notts, it's usually the non-student, older population that tend to be natural. The Black students I see around often have weaves or extensions (possibly natural underneath).

I am Nigerian, repping Edo State.

I haven't been to Nigeria since I went natural. I wish! I was meant to go last Christmas, but flights were too expensive by the time we started looking. I WILL go sometime next year.

My big chop
Photo courtesy of subject
My last relaxer was early September 2010 and I big-chopped May 2011. I transitioned by wearing my hair in small braids (no extensions) for 3-4 week stretches. I was meant to transition long-term, but boy! That breakage and tangling was not something I could handle! I toyed with my scissors many times, but I told myself I wasn't allowed to chop until graduation, then I said not until 1-year post-relaxer, then I said I should at least learn to flat twist or cornrow first, then I said bugger it!

I found I was always dreading wash days and was probably neglecting my new growth in order to avoid my relaxed ends. They needed to go and just like that, on a random Wednesday evening, they were gone! I phoned my sister to tell her and went to get myself some Haribo sweets to celebrate.

I chopped really unevenly because I couldn't see the back so went to a barbers who (ignoring my quiet, bashful protestations) blew out my hair and clipped off enough to make it even. I had thick, coarse but soft naps on naps on naps. I loved my hair immediately.

Why I decided to go natural
It was so weird! I wasn't even thinking about changing my hair, but I have skin issues (dryness, excessive shedding and flaking) and I was on a random forum when someone advised me to use shea butter on my skin. Shea butter sometimes seems to be the mascot of the natural hair 'movement', so in my research I happened to come across sites where people were talking about using shea on their natural hair. Kini??? Natural hair?? Adults?! My heart skipped a beat, pearls were clutched and as well as buying some shea butter and black soap for my skin, I started investigating how people were managing the natural thing. 

I have always loved afro hair! When I was in primary school I was one of the few Black girls who didn't have natural hair (*cough*jheri curl*cough*), and I was always jealous of the other girls. My hair has been the sworn enemy of combs throughout its metamorphosis from natural to jheri to relaxed, and the sound of hairbands snapping and comb-teeth breaking and flying must surely feature on the soundtrack of my life! I remember once sitting ashamed in a salon as one of the hairdressers ventured out to the shops to buy a new hairdryer since my FRESHLY RELAXED HAIR had just destroyed one. I didn't hear anything about 'good hair' or 'bad hair', but my hair was always described as tough or stubborn or difficult; so I therefore believed I, personally, would never be able to go natural. 

But I continued to read blog after blog, forum after forum, story after story and many people were saying they too were sure natural hair wouldn't work on them. Others had thick, coarse hair that broke combs too! I was determined to at least try given that I loved afro hair so much, but I still kept putting it off as I wasn't sure how to transition at Uni when I was meant to be finding a husband, ermm, I mean, getting a degree!

It was a trip to Wales with my friends that did it. We all swam in the pool, we all relaxed in the steam room/sauna yet I was the only one that came out looking like a hot mess! No more. I got one more relaxer because I already had an appointment and that was the last time I entered a salon. 

Photo courtesy of subject
Natural hair challenges
I haven't encountered any personal challenges really. My dad was shocked when I told him on the phone at first, but I sent him a photo and he thought my little afro was cute. Everyone else has either been positive or silent which is fine by me!

I have serious shrinkage, but I quite like shrinkage. It fascinates me. What I don't like are tangles, single strand knots (SSKs) and dryness. 

For tangles, I keep my hair stretched after detangling and use conditioners with slip.

For SSKs, I know I must not wear wash and go's, but I bet you can guess what style my hair is in now... 

For dryness, my hair needs to be moisturised daily and prefers not to be 'out'. I'm still battling this one tbh, and my hair will occasionally be dry and I won't be able to put my finger on why. The LOC method (using a Liquid/Leave-in, then Oil, then Cream) seems to be helping.

Oh! Another challenge is that with my baby-face, natural hair makes me look young. I don't wear make up which doesn't help. A few weeks ago someone guessed that I might be about 15. She told me that guys would be scared to talk to me unless I got a weave (she liked my hair, so it wasn't spite). What a dilemma, eh?!

My regimen
Ooooh lawd! A routine?? Moi?! Error, error! Does-not-compute! I am a self-confessed product junkie. I have many brands I like and like to experiment so I'm always changing what I do. 

Photo courtesy of subject
However, in these 13 months I've been fully natural, I wash my hair around every 5-14 days (depending on hairstyle, lifestyle and environment) with one of the various BoBeam shampoo bars. I love these bars and they have made my washing experience enjoyable. They will forever be in my arsenal. I wash my hair in sections.

Conditioners are my boo thang and I couldn't tell you I always or even usually use a certain one. I have liked ones from Curl Junkie, Qhemet Biologics, cheap £1 shop ones (VO5), regular drugstore brand ones (Herbal Essences, Tresseme Naturals), Darcy's Botanicals, Mozeke, Aubrey Organics... etc. I will detangle in the shower while my rinse out condish is in either with my fingers or a wide-tooth comb. Sometimes I detangle with an oil pre-poo.

I won't use a rinse out conditioner if I'm deep conditioning (about twice a month), of which my faves are from Curl Junkie, Shea Moisture (Purification Masque) and Bee Mine.

For some reason, even though I detangle with my rinse-outs, my leave-in conditioners tend to be slippy. Faves here are from Koils By Nature, Qhemet Biologics, Curl Junkie, Kinky Curly, Darcy Botanicals and BASK.

My hair loves aloe vera, so my daily moisture spritz features aloe and water and sometimes Taliah Waajid's Protective Mist Bodifier.

I also love oils and butters and am too ashamed to list all the ones I've tried. I need to use them up before they go rancid!! If I spilled them all, the fall out would rival BP's oil spill! Lol! I will say though that coconut oil as a protector (i.e. for a pre-shampoo, pre-henna, pre-swimming) cannot be beaten and I'm particularly fond of Koil's By Nature's butter, Qhemet Biologics' Amla and Olive Heavy Cream and their Castor/Moringa oil.

Sometimes I use oils to do the Green House Effect overnight and my hair loves this. It's moisture city afterward!

Stylers I'm a bit iffy about. I don't use gels although I have a few samples of gels/gel-type things that I've not gotten into yet. My issue is I wear smallish twists 70% of the time and I don't do twist-outs with them, so I don't really need definition and my twists don't unravel. I have twisting butters/creams from Qhemet (wonderful), Mozeke (ok) and Darcy's (ok), but I believe I would get similar results with just a leave-in topped with oil or butter (or Darcy's Coconut Cupuacu pomade).

I also love Ayurvedic type hair treatments. I strengthen, condition and dye with Henna, condition with Amla, Brahmi and Maka and cleanse with Tulsi and Shikakai. I make hair masks out of clays like Rhassoul and Bentonite and ready made masks like one from SheaButter cottage. I like special herbal tea rinses too (BoBeam and Chagrin Valley) and when I'm back home from Uni I will buy some dried herbs to use as teas for the bath and for my hair. There are also a few UK brands I want to try buying products from. Because I need more stuff obviously...

As I said, I'm usually in twists that are small enough to wear for 2-3 weeks. I wash while in those twists and will take them out when I miss my hair or it looks rough from the washing.
I have tried more interesting styles involving flat twists, but my hands and brain are not wired up properly so I end up failing. I do and will keep trying though!

I also wear yarn braids/genie locs when I have a physio placement and I know I will be busy. I'm thinking that I will wear these over winter too, since last winter which was my first as a natural my hair struggled with being out in the cold. Poor baby! *strokes her head*

However, nothing is as glorious as my afro whether picked-out or naturally curly (wash and go). If only tangles didn't exist. My hair is now long enough to wear puffs, but is too thick to be contained by any one hairband I've tried (unless I style when wet or really coax it into the hairband using a brush - not things I'm prepared to do), so I sometimes wear it in two afro-puffs.

I trim my own hair when I please. I was scissor happy at one stage and was trimming every couple of weeks (=zero growth), but luckily I've lost my scissors in the jungle of my room. Also, I've discovered my hair is quite badly lopsided, so maybe I should get a professional to trim it! I never straighten my hair. For trims or styles.

Photo courtesy of subject
Natural hair idols
Oh dear. This could be as embarrassing as trying to pin down my regimen. Ok, I probably couldn't count on all my fingers and toes the number of Fotki ladies I follow. If I add in blogs, then someone else needs to provide their digits for the count. Bring up youtube and you lose me in a forest of fingers and the stench of cheesy toes becomes too much. Let's not count. Let's preserve my dignity by saying my idol is anyone I see with pretty hair (if they have a means to follow them), regardless of texture or with knowledge to impart and that is a lot.

I am disorganized, not photogenic and not possessing of a camera so I don't have a blog or Fotki. I'm around, stalking people on forums, Fotki and blogs going by the name of Jo Somebody. So if you see a comment by someone by that name, it's me! If the comment is stupid, it's not me. It's an impostor!

Just one more thing...
Re-reading my answers I realise it sounds like I have a *ahem* little bit of a 'problem', but I love natural afro hair and I am enjoying my hair 'journey'. I don't wear make up, nor do I like shoes or bags, so I use that excuse whenever I add some conditioner to my basket. Hehe! Natural hair really is beautiful, you can have fun with it and change it up as often, as easily and as cheaply as someone changes up their weave. It can be professional, simple, outrageous and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. If you have spent 20 years of your life wearing relaxed/pressed/weaved/wharreva hair, then give the natural hair a fair chance and be patient with it. But enjoy it too! If it turns out to not be for you, pele... but it's cool! Shebi you are beautiful if you love, are loved and are happy? And if you're happy, I'm happy!

Thanks for reading! Now, can anyone give me any advice as to how I'm gonna sneak all my stuff back home from Uni without getting a rollicking...?

Photo courtesy of subject

Don't worry Jo, we won't be staging an intervention just yet. Thanks again for doing this. Literally loved every word you had to say (except for that "unphotogenic" comment. Tut!)

NB: Joanna mentioned Ayurvedic treatments and the Green House Effect in her interview, and I will be doing posts on both of these soon.


  1. Joanna is HILARIOUS!!!!!

    I loved and am now singing "soft naps on naps on naps"...
    Your hair looks lovely, healthy, full and thick! you've made me brave enough to go and Henna! I like the cute little *Fro-Bows*!

    And I entirely agree with coconut oil for pre-swimming and I like to mix in a lil castor oil to thicken it.

  2. Thanks Flo! Please-o! Prep your hair for the henna with coconut oil if you can and use a moisturising DC afterwards. I do henna for the colour mainly, but it strengthens my hair like nobody's business and really minimizes breakage.

    Thanks for featuring me TKA!

  3. OMDayz!! Jo Somebody! I always see your comments around and then click furiously on your name, in frustration obviously. Please get a blog! This interview was both hilarious and enlightening!

  4. LOL!Jo has an admirable sense of humour!.. I feel you girl! I'm a product junkie myself...I can hunt down almost any product almost anywhere in's that bad! Lol!
    love the interview!

  5. Jo somebody. LOL You have really nice hair.Thanks for the inspiration namesake. I'm on a natural hair survey. I miss my natural hair.

  6. Lmao ..... Jo sombody, love your hair and your sense of humor

  7. Lmao. ... Jo somebody, I love your hair and sense of humor