Check out my holiday gift selection in the Essence Magazine Ultimate Gift Guide!

Do you ever wonder what a good gift would be to give a fellow Naturalista for Christmas? Or perhaps you just want to treat yourself?

I was SO excited to have been asked to take part in this feature talking about my top natural hair gift picks, alongside a number of my favourite bloggers including our very own Geri (yes, I'm claiming her now! She's "ours"!!!)

The good news for readers in Nigeria? A number of the items I chose, and some chosen by the other bloggers, will be available on the Kinky Apothecary shelves in time for Christmas, and the rest will follow soon after. Hurray!

So take a look through the gallery and start compiling your wishlist. There are some awesome suggestions on there.

(Photo was taken by my dear friend Trey Mujakporue. Check out some of his work here)

Kinky Hair 101: Travelling with natural hair

Hey guys. I'm still trying to get over the fact that we are almost at the end of November, and in the blink of an eye, 2012 will be over. Here's wishing everyone a happy and productive last few weeks of the year!

With all that's been going on, and not really having an opportunity to post much, I haven't totally forgotten that this is meant to be an informative blog and it has been a while since you've had a “Kinky Hair 101” post. I have a few drafted up, and figured now is as good a time as any to get them tidied up and on the blog.

Before I launch into anything very detailed, I thought I would start with this very quick one since I recently got asked a question about it, and it's also quite relevant to my current situation. I've mentioned I spend a lot of time on planes due to the work I do, and have been doing so more than usual recently. So I thought it would let you in on my natural hair travel trips.

1/ As I discovered the hard way, dry cabin air can leave your tresses feeling like wire wool, particularly after a long-haul flight. To counteract this, I normally try and squeeze in a deep conditioning session a day or 2 before I'm due to hop on a plane. I also try and schedule it so my hair will be mostly dry before the flight, as I hate flying with wet hair. 

2/ For the same reason, I never, ever travel with loose hair. For me, the ideal is to travel in twists that I plan to keep in for the duration of the trip, chunky twists that I can twist-out when I land, or if my hair was already in an "out" style before the trip because I didn't have time for a wash/DC session, I make sure to moisturise profusely, seal the tips adequately, and tuck away in a bun or similar updo. I tend to accessorise all of the above with a silk or satin scarf (also prevents your hair rubbing against the plane seat when you sleep). The first and last time I flew with a loose twist-out, I vowed never to do it again: my hair was embarrassingly brittle for days afterwards.

A typical travel style for me
3/ I try and prevent having to spend too much (or in fact, any) time doing my hair while I'm on a trip, so I try and pick low-maintenance or transitional styles. Twists for the duration of the trip are ideal, as I mentioned. Transitional styles such as twists for the first couple of days, followed by a twistout, and then a bun or updo for the last few days and journey back are also a good option. If I'm going on a short trip, I try and avoid things like braid-outs, where I'd need to spend time every night re-braiding to re-set the curl definition, or wash and go's (a rarity for me anyway) where I'd have to rewash or rewet my hair often.

4/ I don't like lugging an arsenal of products as I like to keep my luggage quite light. So I tend to select products that can serve multiple functions so I can get away with packing 1 bottle in place of 3 or 4. I find the Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner works well as I can use it as a daily moisturiser, but if I ever find myself having to wash my hair, it also works well as a cowash and as a rinse out conditioner (similar multi-purpose conditioners are ones like the Giovanni Smooth As Silk, and Tresemme Naturals, and I decant whatever conditioner I choose into smaller bottles before I travel). I also always take an oil that can be used as a sealant AND a scalp oil, so I don't have to pack both separately. My travel oil of choice tends to be Castor. 

So there you have it. Short and sweet, but absolutely essential for me if I don't want to spend several days afterwards trying to get the moisture back into my hair and knots out of it.

Natural Hair in the Nigerian Diaspora...Ronke

Hi all,

Hope everyone had a fab weekend and is ready for a productive week ahead. This week's Nigerian Naturalista is Londoner Ronke Lawal, Founder of RSL Management Services, a marketing and PR agency based in London. When I first set up The Kinky Apothecary 2 1/2 years ago, I was featured on BGLH, and through that was contacted by a number of people, Ronke being one of them. She's one of the few I've remained Facebook friends with, although we still haven't gotten round to meeting up in person yet. We must rectify that soon!

Photo courtesy of subject

Photo courtesy of subject
Why I decided to go natural 
I've been natural for roughly 12-13 years. Relaxer was never really my friend. The breakage used to be ridiculous and to be honest it just never suited me. There were a few occasions when I'd relax my hair and it would be like "wow so lovely and glamorous" especially after a good retouch but after the first week or so it was just silly. Plus even though relaxer was supposed to be the main-stay as a lady in our household, actually taking care of it in terms of a healthy routine was not something really discussed. We could never afford to go to the really good hairdressers either so to be honest it was inevitable that my hair would not be happy with the chemicals. It was interesting to see/hear the reactions from friends and family though who were waiting for me to relax it again....they are still waiting. It's so bizarre given that it's hair that grows out of our heads, and surely we should all decide how we wish to style or wear it. I suppose culturally that is something we need to get over: full acceptance of the full scope of our hair's capabilities no matter how one chooses to style it. 

Photo courtesy of subject
My hair and my job 
For the past 3 years I have been the CEO of the Islington Chamber of Commerce which was extremely demanding. I have had to attend a high number of meetings and public facing forums and was quite often the only black woman there. I would change my hair style a lot so it got to a point where people would ask silly and quite frankly awkward questions. Wearing my afro out would probably get less comments than my weaves, though the afro-kinky twists may have had a few concerned that I had become a "rasta". You must bear in mind that even though this is 2012 the English establishment is not as diverse as one would hope. I tend to wear styles that I do not have to concern myself too much with though, as I am often too busy to take care of my hair and do not wish to be defined by it. As long as it looks good then I'm good!  

Photo courtesy of subject
My experience of being natural in Nigeria? 
I've been to Nigeria since I went natural, but I had a protective style of cornrows for 2 reasons: firstly I'm exceptionally lazy when it comes to my hair and did not want the stress (plus I wanted to get it done in Nigeria - some of the best braid stylists in the world) and secondly because I was going with my mother and she was panicking that I would rock up to Lagos with an afro like an "unkempt heathen". Quite bizarre but that's Nigerian mothers for you!

Photo courtesy of subject
Photo courtesy of subject

Challenges encountered since going natural 
When it comes to hair styling I am pretty lazy, I love rocking new styles but to be honest I just do not have the patience so this has been a great challenge to me. Which means more often than not I will rock a protective style or a weave particularly as I can be so busy with work and business.

Photo courtesy of subject
My routine 
I tend to leave my hair out for about a month between weave or protective styles now (for about 2 years though that was not the case: I'll be honest, I let work take over so was weaving it up all the time). I wash and condition and use good shea butter based products. I have also discovered the benefits of using pure oils like Coconut oil and castor oil. I plan on getting a steamer too when I can, as I know how important that is to hair health. I am more concerned with my hair health than its growth at present, so anything I can do to maintain its health is paramount. 

Photo courtesy of subject
My natural hair idols 
EEEEKKK! I'm never very comfortable with the term "Idol" - purely because one has to gain full self-acceptance and inner peace with one's own beauty before looking towards others. I do admire those people who have maintained their integrity in the public eye though, figures like India Arie, Janelle Monae etc. I would love to pinpoint more corporate, public-facing executives who embrace their natural hair or at least go against the status quo in some way. Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence Magazine is one such example. Interestingly enough she recently gave a speech where she commented that people often ask her why she doesn't change her hair style more, to which she stated that she is more than simply her hairstyle, that her work and her passions go beyond this. I love that! 

Photo courtesy of subject
If you'd like to hear more of what Ronke has to say, check out her website:, and blog:
Thanks a lot for giving us your views, Ronke.

Natural Hair in the Nigeria Diaspora...Stephanie

Hey all,

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. This week's Nigerian Naturalista is Stephanie, from "Shakara Natural Tips". Here's what she has to say about being natural:

Photo courtesy of subject

My name is Stephanie and I am chief editor of Shakara Natural Tips. Check it out! I am Nigerian but currently residing in Canada.

My natural hair journey 
I've been natural for a year now. I went natural a few times in the past but did not understand how to take care of my hair. I didn't know there was a process to caring for it. About a year ago I got a phone call from my eldest sister, she gave me basic tips on how to care for my natural hair...that's how the journey really began. It's an amazing experience!

Photo courtesy of subject

On why I decided to go natural
Chemical relaxers, heat straightening and weaves were ruining my hair, especially my hair line. I can remember thinking "something's gotta give!" Last year September I made the decision to go natural completely. I must admit, like anything in life, it was challenging at first; but it's become easier with time.

Photo courtesy of subject

Other people and my natural hair
I have't been to Nigeria since I went natural. When I do, hopefully it'll be positive. However I still experience people giving me unsolicited advice. It's my hair not theirs and it's important to be sensitive to others before speaking.

My routine 
It's actually very simple. I co-wash every 7-14 days and shampoo/cleanse once a month. I protein deep condition every 4 weeks. I'm always on protective styles, twists, bantu knots, etc (which I wear for 3-4 weeks, so my ends are always safely tucked away). I've also learnt to balance protein and water based moisture treatments. I like to henna every 4-8 weeks, because it conditions, thickens and strengthens hair . Lastly, I LOVE DIY recipes so half of the products I use...I make! 

Photo courtesy of subject

My natural hair idols 
There are so many, this list doesn't even come close... CurlyNikki, CharyJay, Tony Daley, Ysheena So Curly, The Hodgepodge Files, Frostoppa, Naturally Free to be Me, etc!

What inspired me to start Shakara Natural Tips? 
More like who....My sister (Tokie). I've always loved to write, I've also won recognition from various institutions for I'm really into fashion, beauty, hair and make-up. After a 5 year writing hiatus my sister made certain I began writing again (of course about the things I'm passionate about). I owe her a lot, she's the brain behind SNT.

Photo courtesy of subject

Thanks a lot for talking to us, Stephanie, and shout-out to your sister!

PS: You're going to have to teach me to part my hair as neatly as you do with your bantu knots!

Kinky Shorts, by Geraldine The Great: The Classic Pomp

So although I made it through the "30 days" challenge unscathed, and had to admit that even MY seemingly beyond-help styling skills had improved somewhat, it may have been apparent that most of the styles I came up with were a fluke, and I certainly could never recreate some of them, let alone teach anyone else to do them.

So... and you've probably already heard rumblings of this on Twitter and on her blog because a certain someone got over-excited and let the cat out of the bag (pointing no fingers!!!), but the lovely Geri of GTG has kindly agreed to step in and save the day with a regular style feature for The Kinky Apothecary. Hurrah!

The Classic Pomp

You know you've seen it before.
It's one of those styles every naturalista has tried or aims to try at least once.
  It's a clever way to protect your hair while still remaining stylish and fresh; plus, it's length friendly!

What you'll need:

Bobby Pin
Cream Moisturizer or Leave-in
A light oil

Step 1:  Ready your loose hair for styling. 
Moisturize and seal it with an oil if necessary.

Step 2:  Divide your hair into two major sections, and clip.

Step 3:  Further divide the back portion into two more halves.
Then, roll each section towards the center (crown) and the front of your head; tuck, and pin.

Step 4:  Roll the remaining front section under, and towards your forehead. 
Secure with a pin, and that's it!

An easy style that will offer both simplicity and polish to your hair.

What do you think?  Have you tried the classic pomp yet?

Well I attempted something similar in the 30 days challenge, but I'm definitely going to give this method a try.

Thanks Geri, we are so excited to hear more from you and look forward to many more tutorials. 

If you can't wait until the next one, ladies, head on over to her blog for more awesome features, product reviews, tutorials and generally awe-inspiring hair shots!


In August I mostly... 30 days, 30 ways recap

In July I set myself a challenge of coming up with a different hair style every day for 30 consecutive days. In August, I did it. Most of the styles may not have required the highest level of skill, and it may have taken me until November to actually post them, but the point is, I did it.

I did this to get myself out of the styling rut. I was getting very bored with my same old twist/braidout worn loose every single day. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do semi-decent styles, and encourage myself to vary my look a little bit more. I wanted to show that it is not that difficult if someone as hair style-challenged as I am can think of and do 30 different styles in as many days, no matter how hit or miss. Finally, I wanted to show that contrary to the general view in Nigeria, natural hair is NOT boring/messy/unprofessional/unstylish/inelegant.

It was a real hassle sometimes, for a few reasons. 

First of all as those of you who know me well know, I generally HATE posting pictures of myself hence my general struggles with this blog (I last changed my Facebook profile picture 4 years ago). 

Secondly, I HATE projects of any sort. Projects, challenges... basically anything that needs seeing through to the end is a struggle. I hate setting a challenge and sticking with it to the end. I'm always extremely enthusiastic in the beginning, and then halfway through I become annoyed, feel trapped and am almost resentful of all the people who didn't promise to take a picture of a different hairstyle every day.

I need to do things like this more often and get over it.

In any case, this challenge has taught me (or rather confirmed to me) that:

1/ Anyone can style- it may not look exactly like what you’re trying to emulate, but you just have to put your own spin on things and rock it with confidence. Most of the styles I came with took 10 minutes or less.

2/ There is no need for lengthy wash processes all the time. You can sometimes skip stages in between.

3/ Protective styling does NOT have to be boring.

4/ Our hair is SO versatile.

5/ If I want to go into this self-photography thing full time, I should learn to pay attention to things like background, and not post pictures of myself framed by grotty hotel shower curtains.

6/ I definitely do NOT want to go into this self-photography thing full time.

PS: Someone buy me some new earrings please. Sheesh!