Natural Hair in the Nigerian Diaspora...Aina

Hello peeps!

The week is really flying by. I thought "hump day" would be the perfect time to introduce our first Nigerian Naturalista of the year, Aina Fadina: model, business developer, and general mogul. Keep reading for her experiences with natural hair. 

Photo courtesy of subject

About me

I am a Nigerian/American Fashion and Commercial model, Aina Fadina. I also host and produce my online web-series iofafrica, currently in production. Finally, I do Business Development/ Creative Consulting for designers and e-commerce fashion sites. Oh forgot, I manage Dj Chief Boima. A Sierra Leonean/American DJ. I know...Wayyyy too many hustles. That's the Naija in me.

Photo courtesy of subject

I was born in Lagos, and moved to the United States in my pre-teens. Grew up between NYC and Philadelphia. Moved back to NYC 7 years ago.

Photo courtesy of subject

My natural hair journey

I have been fully natural since my sophomore year of College, 1999. (I am dating myself here). I went natural for a number of reasons: NOT because of any militant reasons, or that I didn’t like relaxers, or was trying to make any political statements. I hated sitting under hair dryers, the thought of going to sit at a salon for hours on my weekends, didn’t sit well with me, and needing someone else to help me maintain my hair.

Photo courtesy of subject
I used to bounce between braids and relaxing in High School. Once I got to senior year of high school, I wore braids a lot more due to my heavy schedule. Braids were easier to manage, and I needed my extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning. I knew how to braid a little, so during my sophomore year of college, I started doing my own micro braids, because I wanted to use the money my parents gave me for my hair towards my clothing allowance. So I knew I had more money to shop. So, it was simply out of laziness, pain of hairdressers, time, and vanity.  As my natural hair grew out, I began to appreciate my curl pattern, and started to learn how to wear my hair naturally. Also, living in Philadelphia, during the beginning of neo-soul music movement with Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, Music Soul Child, Bilal etc, I started seeing more black people wearing their hair naturally. There was a small community that was slowly developing, and it made my transition easier.

Photo courtesy of subject

My hair and my work

As a model, my hair changes sometimes daily. For example, when I started in modeling in 2005/2006, my hair was about a really good length. At the time, natural hair was not mainstream AT ALL. I was one of the only few girls that had natural hair working in high fashion. When I say natural, I mean natural hair like mine, not the one you could easily blow dry on the spot or bald.

Photo courtesy of subject
My first/only tragic story was in 2005, when I started modeling in Philadelphia. I showed up to a job (a fashion show), and this woman precedes to blow dry my hair (dry with the “white girl” brush). Let's just say she FRIED my hair. The next day, I went to Duafe Salon, a natural hair salon in Philadelphia, and got a cut. It was that damaged. I started bouncing back and forth between natural hair weaves, my own hair, straight weaves (flat ironing the front), and hairpieces based on what my clients wanted. Also, I had to make myself marketable as a fashion model and commercial model. In the fashion industry, black girls were either bald or wore straight weaves. I was able to pull all these looks off based on my flexibility with my own hairstyles. I know what client likes the clean look, what client the big edgy afro look, the cute commercial mini TWA, the client that loved the long weaves. I had a hairdresser that specialized in natural hair care, one that did my flat iron, and other that made my weaves/pieces for me. So, my hair changes based on what client I am working for. I had to study this. It is a constant battle, but it is part of the equation. It is my job, and I have to do what I need to do to maintain my profession.


Photo courtesy of subject

Has it affected me in getting jobs?  I am sure, but it hasn't stopped me from being a "working" model in NYC.  I try to show up so clients don't have to worry about “what to do with her”. Plus, my portfolio shows my diverse looks. I definitely see an increase in clients being comfortable with natural look especially when it comes to commercial work. So, let's hope it is just not a trend.

My natural hair and Nigeria

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When I came to Nigeria in 2006, the comment of my visit was "why don't you put oshe in your hair?” “You should relax your hair, your face will even be finer”. Just all sorts of nonsense. But in my recent visits, I see more people with natural hair, which is nice. It is a lot to deal with when it comes to the heat/humidity, but I make it work. I know when I leave the house, my hair will look a certain way, but 30 minutes later, and sitting in that crazy traffic, here comes mushroom hair. But I am comfortable with the look. Also, I am not going to a 9-5 job, so I don't really care what people think. It is what it is. Due to the limited luggage allowance, I can't carry my products with me. So I get products from Blush boutique, Victoria Island (My sister Bola's store) or get cornrows done there, depending on how long I am staying for. Sometimes I get my straight weaves too.


My natural hair challenges

It can be a little annoying because you can't just wash, pack, and go. It takes time to get in your groove and finding out what style and products work for you. But what I find is that it is a mental game. You have to be comfortable. Just deal, love it, and go. Also, I have become addicted to buying products, which adds up financially. And it makes working out a pain in the ass! But hey, you find a way to make it work. People think natural hair is less work, not necessarily. When you chose to go natural, you have chosen a lifestyle.

Photo courtesy of subject

My routine

When work is slow, I keep my hair at about 4-5 inches. I have a great hairdresser that gives me the shape that fits my face, and makes it easier  for me to style on my off days. It is cut in a "mohawk" shape, and that keeps it easy for me to maintain. I trim/maintain cut every 2 months. I do an intensive conditioning once a month at my hairdressers. I am a little bit more aggressive about conditioning in the winter.

Photo courtesy of subject
I try to use only Natural products. Not always successful especially with work. My at home routine includes to pre-treat the night before with a oil scalp treatment concoction ( Jojoba oil, Peppermint oil, and coconut Oil), then wash once a week with Alaffia's Shampoo (found at Whole Foods). I condition with Alaffia's Shea honey nourishing conditioner. I deep condition weekly with Shea Butter Deep Conditioning Treatment. I like the Alaffia line because it is natural and all fair trade, encouraging gender equality. I am all about social Entrepreneurship (this is my only political movement statement). I also sit under a steaming cap.

I towel dry, massage my scalp to ends with melted Naija Unrefined Ori (shea butter straight from the market), jojoba oil/coconut/peppermint mixture. Then I use Jane Carter's wrap and Roll all over my hair, section part, double strand twist, and make into small bantu knots for a few days, then take out the Bantu knots and wear in an afro.

I also Jane carter's wrap and roll to smooth my edges/baby hair as well. and if I want to wear my hair in a funky style the wrap and roll is great to shape and sculpt. Paul Mitchell’s foaming pomade is fantastic for styling as well. My hairdresser also uses Design Essential that works wonders.

When I wear my hair out, I put a leave in moisturizer, and I twist at night before going to bed. Invest in Silk scarfs/hair bonnet. Also, invest in silk pillowcases.

I do try to limit the amount of heat I put in my hair, because when I blow out/ flat iron straight; it changes the tightness of your natural curl pattern. It is all about using the right products, and the hairdresser understanding how to really care for natural black hair. Also, they can't use the same technique for people with bi-racial curls, looser Lebanese/Indian curl, Dominican hair, white people). Our curl pattern is very different, and they have to treat your hair individually.

Photo courtesy of subject

I also use biosil and vitamins (for healthy growth. It sounds pointless since I keep my hair short anyway, but I want healthy growth).
Photo courtesy of subject

My natural hair idols 

I am obsessed with Diana Ross. OBSESSED. Granted it is a wig, but DAMNNNN I love that woman. Have you seen “Mahogany”? That movie is all about hair and fashion. I will also say my dear friend Kemi Awopetu. I think Jill Scott is stunning. Solange is doing her thing. She has been able to create her own brand. Finally, my mom. Growing up my mom had a mini afro, and I have always admired her beauty and style. She used to rock her mini TWA fro with fly ass glasses, and funky ass jewelry.

Photo courtesy of subject
People have asked will I ever get a relaxer? For the right campaign the answer is YES. It is hair, I can cut it off, and it will grow back. I wear my hair naturally, because I want to. I am not trying to make ANY political statement; I just love being natural and living relaxer free. Sometimes it does hurt not to get that job because they don't want to deal with my hair, but it is the nature of my business. You win some, you lose some. Am I opposed to straight weaves? As long as it looks good, as natural as possible, and not crazy looking (for example the 36 inch Beyonce blond weaves?? NO, thank you). No one should walk up to me, and say, "ohhh you are a sell-out". People can chose to do what they want to do with their hair, and how they wish to wear it. 

Photo courtesy of subject
Hair allows you to be somewhat of an artist/artwork. You are a blank canvas, it is your choice to do as you wish, just make sure it looks good, looks healthy, and fabulous. Also, it is the easiest way to change your mood, and the quickest and cheapest facelift/Emergency surgery. Also, it has allowed me to  experiment with colors when it comes to make up, and wearing unique jewelry as well.

Photo courtesy of subject

For more on Aina, check out the Muse NYC website
Click here to download one of Chief Boima’s mixtapes

Since September, I've mostly...A (not so) quick update on my hair

I’ve found myself fielding questions about my "hair cut" ever since I made a perfectly innocent comment on Geri's blog not too long ago about lopping off 5 or 6 inches. The statement sent a few people into a bit of a tizzy as I guess most imagined I'd done something really daring. Sadly, it really isn’t that exciting, as most people who were at the L'Espace launch on Saturday saw, but I guess I’d better answer.
I always think I want really long hair. I imagine myself being at waist length. It gets to around BSL or mid-back, drives me nuts, and I chop off quite a bit. I go through this phase pretty much every year.  Beyond a certain length, my hair gets more time consuming and works its way through products like no man's business. I rarely ever wear it straight- in fact can't remember the last time I flat ironed- or even blown out, and it looks almost exactly the same length, just thicker, when in its kinky-curly state, so I wonder what the point is in keeping the extra inches, and using half a bottle of conditioner at every wash.
To stop myself from doing anything drastic this time, I put my hair in loose twists for a couple of weeks to keep it out of harm’s way while I tried to decide whether to stay long or get a really cool tapered cut. 

Loose twists
Typical loose twist updo
I always spend ages agonizing over this decision, especially when I see pictures like the one below, but then always end up backing out of doing anything particularly exciting. After all, who’s Madame Kinky without hair? So for a few months at least, the hair is still long(ish).

The cut I will be getting if I ever have the guts.
(source unknown)
I will follow this up with an in-depth post on trimming (and cutting), but for a brief overview: I normally get about one professional trim a year when I’m in the States for work or on holiday, and then until I have a chance to get another one, I trim my hair myself as and when needed. I also normally get my hair cut while in its natural state (usually from a Deva-trained stylist), and this also is the method that I use when I cut my hair myself. However as I was in the UK, and haven’t had any experience with any stylists there that I trust yet, I decided to blow my hair out myself and then get it cut by someone who would be good at dealing with straight(ish) hair. Always the best option for anyone who isn’t brave enough to cut their own hair (it IS quite hard to get the back of your head evenly, since you can’t see it).
I just walked into a regular High Street Toni & Guy and asked if there was anyone trained to work with afro hair, however I was always aware that I would take any of their claims of being afro hair “experts” with a pinch of salt (and in fact almost beat the guy up at one point for the way he combed it).

I asked him to trim my hair as it was, and he took off about half an inch to an inch, concentrating mainly on getting rid of the damage, and shaping my hair up. However, as tends to be the case, I got home, looked in the mirror and decided they hadn’t taken off as much as I’d wanted, and proceeded to take off another 4-5 inches all over, and was left with this:

Blow out post-cut (from mbl to just below apl)

To illustrate how rarely I wear my hair blown out, I didn't even find it comfortable leaving it out like that, and twisted a day later. My hair pretty much remained in a variation of twist styles until last weekend when I wore it out for the first time in months.
I need to improve at parting my hair for flat twists

I'd wash my hair in twists for the first 3 weeks. On the fourth week, I'd untwist, wash, thoroughly detangle and then go back into twists.

To keep the twists stretched, I'd apply my leave-in and sealant after washing, and then bun to dry. 

The satin scarf was to protect my edges while I slept (on a satin pillowcase)
So there you have it. Although seemingly drastic when I mentioned it on Geri’s blog, I didn’t do anything particularly exciting. I’m pretty much back to the length I was near the end of last year. I didn’t think it was particularly noticeable, but have had people comment on it being shorter since I got back to Lagos (especially with the shrinkage, but that's another story for another time).

And who knows. Maybe 2013 will be the year I finally get that tapered cut!

Expect more from The Kinky Apothecary in 2013

After an awesome launch at L'Espace on Saturday (I got such a rush from the sheer number of new and old faces that stopped by, I can't believe how quickly it all went), just thought I'd let you in on a little more of what we have planned for the year.

For everyone who's been emailing and calling and emailing and calling again ... you know who you are ;) ... we've finally updated the "Shop the Apothecary" tab with our price list unveiling the new products we have for you. We'll do a feature on each of them, but look out for:

  • Bee Mine
  • Bobeam
  • Naturalista Cosmetics
  • Neriah Naturals (Made in Nigeria)
  • A wider range of the brands we already stock
  • A much wider range of tools and accessories
  • The "Kinky Apothecary 100% Pure" range - new packaging (of which we're very proud) and a much, much wider selection of carrier and essential oils
  • Lower prices, particularly on our oils and butters

In addition to this, you can also expect more brands coming in, some of which are already winging their way on to our shelves; more frequent and varied events, the first of which is scheduled for next month; more bargains and giveaways... 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so make sure to stay in touch with us and check back often for updates.

Hope to see you all at some point during the course of the year, and be sure to check out the Facebook page later for a preview of the pictures from Saturday.

The Apothecary is about to get a little bit more exciting...

L'Espace, 19a Olosa Street, Victoria Island

Hello all, 

So I think I was suitably cryptic when I mentioned in my last post that I had a number of announcements to make. I think I've kept you waiting long enough now.

So what's been keeping me so busy over the last couple of months, and particularly in the last few weeks, is that The Kinky Apothecary brand is undergoing a bit of a revamp. This includes:

  • A modified look for the logo, which we will be revealing at the weekend
  • New label designs for our products
  • Much more product choice: we have expanded our range considerably
  • A much wider variety of carrier and essential oils
  • New lower prices on all the oils 

And, finally, the most exciting for us (this one is for the Lagos ladies)...

  • We're FINALLY opening our first concession. This Saturday. Whoop whoop!

Yup, you read that right. Yes, we've been talking about opening our shop for ages! Years, even. We've even identified where that shop will be. But this being Nigeria and things unfortunately not always working as they should, we've had delay upon delay. We realised though, that we couldn't keep people waiting for much longer while we sorted out our issues: one of the questions we get asked most frequently is where are shop is located. So after months of trying to get things moving, we've finally signed an agreement with L'Espace, awesome concept space on Olosa Street, VI, by the ladies who brought you LPM.

We launch this Saturday, so from this weekend, you'll be able to head over and pick up your favourite products yourself! (We will still be running a delivery service for anyone who prefers the convenience of ordering from home/their office) 

Details are as follows:

Address: L'Espace, 19a Olosa Street, Off Karimu Kotun, Victoria Island, Lagos
Opening Hours: Monday (CLOSED), Tuesday-Saturday (11am-8pm), Sunday (12-6pm)
L'Espace hotline (for enquiries): 07028028960

Of course I can never let any occasion pass without a celebration of some sort, so join me there this Saturday 19th from 1pm-6pm for the obligatory Kinky Apothecary glass of Champagne!

And just to make it a real celebration, we'll also be throwing in:

  • 10% off sales on the day* 
  • Free samples
  • Free gift for every 10th customer
  • Free product consultations**
  • Be the first to see and try all our new product ranges
  • And last but not least, be the first to see our new logo and packaging
So spread the word, pop round, bring a friend or sister, natural or not.

Again, just a quick word to ALL our wonderful readers, and our customers who keep us so busy. We wouldn't be here without you, and I really am grateful from the bottom of my heart!

Hope to see you all on Saturday.

*This excludes the "Neriah Naturals" product line
**Product consultations must be booked in advance. Please drop me an email at the usual address:, and I will slot you in.

NB: To prepare for Saturday, we will not be taking any more phone or email orders for the rest of the week. However, phone and email orders will resume as usual on Monday 21st.

Natural Hair Calendars: January

*GASP* HOW could I have forgotten to put up this month's calendar?

Too much happening behind the scenes. That's how!

We're going to be making a number of announcements over the next few days, so keep checking the blog, Facebook page and Twitter for an explanation on what has been keeping me so pre-occupied lately.

And readers in Lagos...keep this Saturday free. That's all I'm going to say for now.  

Download your January calendar (and any others you may have missed) to keep you entertained until I come back with more information.


Happy New Year from The Kinky Apothecary!

Happy New Year to all our lovely Kinky Apothecary readers! It was an extremely hectic, but absolutely amazing, Christmas for me in Lagos surrounded by family and friends, and then it was off to the wonderful city of Rio de Janeiro for New Year... where my phone became a casualty of the Atlantic Ocean, hence me not being able to post sooner.

The Kinky Apothecary resumes full service on Wednesday 8th.

We have a number of exciting new developments which we will be announcing over the next week, so watch this space. There are also going to be a number of offers which you definitely do not want to miss!

Really looking forward to what's in store for 2013, and wish you all a prosperous year.

All the best from us at The Apothecary!