Natural hair in Nigeria...Meet Fiona!

Ok now I'm on a roll. I considered spacing out the posts so you'd have something to look forward to, but couldn't help posting this feature. The straight-talking Fiona (aka Fi Fi, amongst many, MANY other nicknames) is one of my oldest friends, and one of the first people I knew to go natural, way before it became the in thing.

In her own words... 

Photo courtesy of subject
My name is Fiona but I have become used to all the weird and wonderful variations that my friends call me including Miss Kinky Apothecary herself!

I'm Nigerian and Irish: Dublin-Itsekiri-Urhobo but I consider myself primarily Nigerian as it is where I was born and raised and where I spent my formative years. 

Vintage Fifi (photo courtesy of subject)

On how my hair is received by others 
My honest opinion is 'who cares?' My mother and father hated my locs with a passion and practically offered thanksgiving when I cut them. When I had my hair short and curly, my dad whispered to me "I don't like this style. Do you even comb your hair?" Ultimately, my head, my hair, my business!! I understand that some people may have issues at work but as long as your hair looks tidy and professional, I see no reason why anyone should be upset with you wearing your God given follicles!

Photo courtesy of subject
My early views on natural hair
I have always loved natural hair. I think the main reason for relaxing my hair in my teens was for ease of maintenance in boarding school. What a joke!! blow drying, tonging, teasing, wrapping...where was the ease of maintenance? Natural hair takes work as well but it's mine and I love it!

My natural hair journey
I've been natural for 15 years, with a short 1 month backslide back into the creamy crack, about 5 years ago after cutting my locs off. I was hypnotized by all the bouncing, wavy hair. I distinctly recall thinking "Oh cheeeeeese and crackers!!" as they washed the relaxer out. It was definitely not a good decision for me.

Going natural wasn't a conscious decision. After my A-levels, I went to Greece with some gal pals and my short and sassy relaxed hair (which has ALWAYS been resistant to the creamy crack), reverted back to its curly state from the humidity. All the tonging and blow drying in the world had no effect, so I embraced it.

I'm on a constant hair journey! I love playing with it, cutting it, growing it, seeing what I can do with it. It's a part of me but it isn't all of me. I am finding that the older I get, the less tolerant of certain products and lifestyle practices my hair (and skin) has become. 

Photo courtesy of subject

My big chop experience
My hair reverted on its own when I was 18, so there was no real ceremony. I did however make the choice to shave my head completely a few years ago and boy did that cause a lot of drama. I hadn't realized how attached other people were to my hair. I received phone calls and text messages from friends and acquaintances telling me that it was a mistake, I would look like a lesbian, other people would pay money to have my hair and so on. A truly bizarre experience. The shave itself was fantastic and liberating. I became very aware of parts of my face that I hadn't really noticed before and strangely enough was frequently stopped in the street and complimented on the new do.

Before the shave (photo courtesy of subject)

Big shave (photo courtesy of subject)

Fade after shaved hair started to grow back the second time (photo courtesy of subject)

Current regimen
I am re-locing my hair again but my routine is mostly the same as when I wore my hair out. I co-wash with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose once a week and do a clarifying wash once or twice a month, followed by a deep condition. Before locing I would gently finger comb, then use a comb to tease out the tangles from tip to root with the conditioner in. 

Now I let the conditioner sit whilst I go through the rest of my shower routine, then I make sure to thoroughly massage my scalp and rinse out each loc to avoid build-up. My hair has finally rebelled against castor oil, so I no longer use it. I'm fond of olive as a sealant. I also like to make my own leave in conditioner/reviver sheen spritz with a little aubrey organics, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, honey and distilled water. 

Photo courtesy of subject

On being natural in Nigeria
I'd say my experience has been largely positive. I do get silly statements like "You are so lucky you have good hair" or "It's the oyinbo side of you that allows you to rock your hair in its natural state", "You are lucky your hair is soft". It's all rubbish really. My hair is a vicious jungle! I lose pins in it, break combs, brushes and fully expect one day to lose my fingers!! As for curl patterns, FORGET IT!! I have at least four different structures going on. Good hair? It's all about learning what works for you and going from there.

The natural hair scene in Nigeria
The natural scene is definitely on the rise. It's exciting how many people are willing to embrace their natural selves. I have no issues with relaxers and weaves, what worries me is the ladies who haven't worn their hair natural in years because they don't feel comfortable or don't know how to. We are lucky that we live in an age with a wealth of information online. There really is no excuse for not doing the research. The first time you relaxed your hair you were not automatically uploaded with all the 'how to' knowledge. It's trial and error, it's a journey, I challenge everyone to learn a bit more about themselves through a natural hair journey. You can always go back to the weave every now and then but GIRL your hair is a part of you. Would you say: "I don't like my arm, I'm gonna cover it up and never let it see the light of day"? 

Blow out on natural hair (photo courtesy of subject)
Natural in Nigeria Vs the rest of the world
The main difference for me is the in-access to natural hair salons or shops that sell a large variety of products for naturalistas. Kinky Apothecary is definitely doing wonders to bridge that gap. There are hair salons that claim to cater to natural hair but more often than not they are still lacking in some basic knowledge. For instance after a lovely deep condition, a hair technician began ripping my hair from root to tip and grumbling that it was too thick. I tried (really tried) to calmly tell her that she was shredding my hair and had to do it gently in the the other direction. I was curtly told "Madam this is how we do it here and none of our customers have ever complained".  There is definitely a HUGE gap in the market for TRAINED natural hair technicians in Nigeria. 

Photo courtesy of subject
Thanks for saying it like it is, Fi. (And I'm still cracking up at "Cheese and crackers"!)


  1. Well, she's simply stunning!

    Love the way her personality crackles off the page too!

  2. wow! she's so right! we really do need natural hair technicians!whenever I go to salons (probably because i'm too lazy to wash) I more often than not organize a lil seminar on basic natural hair care techniques if they are willing to learn something new. if not, I run away as fast as I can, fro flapping in the wind!
    Some people just assume I have good hair and help me draw my family tree to include non existent biracial ancestors!
    we do have a long way to go...but more importantly,we've started moving!

  3. Gorgeous! I love that she's done so much with her hair - locs, short, shaved, blown out :)

    My cousin did something similar - she did a big chop (she had very long relaxed hair) and EVERYONE including the stylist told her she was making a big mistake. She ignored them... and she's still natural :)

  4. My hair was starting to rebel against castor oil too, until I started mixing it up with jojoba oil to thin it out and make it less sticky. Now my hair loves it.

  5. What happens when ur hair rebels against castor oil?