Hey! Introduce yourself (or like my Nigerian folks like to say, let us meet you!)
Hello! I'm Vanessa, a 20-something year old Pilot, Amateur Chef, avid novel reader and Cat lover shuttling between Lagos, Jos and Port Harcourt
Vanessa rocking a high puff
Have you always worn your natural hair?
Not really. Like most Nigerian girls of my generation, I wore unrelaxed hair until after Secondary School graduation, then I relaxed it. I didn't relax because I had identity issues like some in the unrelaxed hair 'community' like to make relaxed girls believe, but because it was normal. Everyone did it. Frankly I liked unrelaxed hair and my Mom hasn't relaxed hers in forever. But I did it because that's what everyone was doing. And yes, I also like relaxed hair but caring for mine was herculean. I did take good care of it, but my hair never relaxed well and my scalp burned easily. It was always a perm, THEN a flat iron, then heavy maintenance in the dry climate of Northern Nigeria where I grew up. Then during my National service, I had a bad perm. My long, beautiful, silky hair became dull, lifeless, and started to break off and I got bald patches too! I told myself, ''I'm not really doing myself a favour. It's not like natural hair is bad. Mom's is beautiful. I could try it, the relax again later''. So, I cut it all off, and started afresh. I was going to wait for it to grow for a year or so, then try my hand at relaxing again.
Then it happened. I fell in love. I rocked my my shaved head, then my fro, wore my wigs, I easily did my hair by myself. I damaged it a billion times because I maltreated my poor tresses, but I was having fun. Then she grew longer and became impossible, So I had to get my relaxer. A few days before my appointment at the salon, with my relaxer in hand, I was browsing the web, searching for ways to care for the relaxed hair better, to prevent the same accident from happening again. I came across info on Unrelaxed Hair Care. I was intrigued. I was already into finding natural alternatives for everything else and I'm a health nut, and I love a good challenge. So I decided to give it a shot a second time.
Though I have a love-hate relationship with my temperamental Empress, years later, I've never looked back.
Has it been difficult maintaining it (e.g. people’s reactions, finding products, styling it, getting help with your hair).
When it comes to people’s reactions, it has been mixed. It was not until recently, with long natural hair, that I got compliments from Nigerians for its beauty. Nigerians will always appreciate long hair. But other races have always liked it. But is has never bothered me. I do things like these for myself, and most of my loved ones like it, and those that didn't (but now do) didn't even try to criticize me because I'm a bit eccentric, and they just felt it was me being me. I have even inspired lots of women to stop relaxing. But I do get lots of stares when I wear my hair BIG. I do have to wear it 'small' though at work because it will get in the way and be a hazard.
Products? I have always been a bit of a mixtress. Like I stated earlier, I've been looking for, and formulating natural alternatives for everything possible, from food to cosmetics of all kinds to drugs. I even concocted hair care products for myself and friends when relaxed. So even if I didn't get what my sisters abroad were using, I would find a way to cook up mine. I actually found Natural Nigerian online when looking for a way to concoct the Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula's natural ingredients. Since then I've been hooked. But that doesn't mean that if I come across a wonderful product (especially those with wonderful hard-to-find ingredients) I won't purchase it.
As for styling and getting help with my hair, only once did I let anyone else touch my unrelaxed hair. It was for a photo shoot at my modelling agency, and I was required to have an elaborate updo. Let's just say, that was the end of my modelling career. I had to do another big chop. I resigned. I lost so much hair that I have never ever allowed anyone else style it again.
Apart from returning to Natural Hair, have you incorporated a more natural/healthy lifestyle?
No. I've always been health nut. I grew up in a family of health nuts. And everything we use has got to be natural, except in cases where an effective natural alternative cannot be found, and even then reluctantly. So nothing in that aspect has changed.
How do you manage to have natural hair and remain professional?
Aviation is all about safety. As long as a Pilot isn't a hazard or doesn't look unsafe, anything goes. If I have my twist-outs down my face, covering my eyes and obscuring my view, I won't be allowed anywhere near the helicopter. But if it's away from my eyes and ears and generally stays out of the way, nobody cares about how you wear your hair.
What is your current regimen?
My regimen is extremely dynamic. It changes with location, season, and availability of products. All I did was understand the Science of my hair, and I work with it. But the basics are the same- prepoo, shampoo, deep condition, style, and a once a month do a strong protein prepoo.
I do a strong protein prepoo once a month: both hydrolysed (to fortify the hair from the inside) and unhydrolyzed proteins (to protect it from the outside). For example, whole eggs, SAA, hydrolysed Wheat protein, other Amino Acids, Milk Protein, Molasses and regular mayonnaise are used. I do add avery little protein to my prepoo each week though to fortify my hair for the washing process.
Weekly, I prepoo with things like Ghee or unsalted butter, a humectant, my butter mix(Cocoa butter, Shea butter, EVOO, EVCO, Avocado oil, Ben Oil) for at least 3 hours (sometimes overnight if there's time). I shampoo only with Black soap. Then deep condition with a mix of only penetrating ingredients; things like Agave nectar or Maple Syrup, EVOO, EVCO, Avocado Oil, Ben Oil, etc added to a deep conditioner. I rinse it out with ACV solution, Then I style with a mix of enriched leave-in conditioner, butter mix and gel/setting lotion.
I dust every three months, clarify monthly, massage my scalp with essential oils twice a week, wrap my hair at night in a satin scarf and sleep on a satin pillowcase. I try other products, and do not use all the aforementioned at once. It might sound like much, but I do enjoy grooming myself, lol.
Do you have a healthy goal (hair, nutrition, exercise?)
Honestly? Long beautiful hair. Really long. I want to stop at 36'', so I'm halfway there. I already take good care of her and keep her healthy.
As for my body, I really need to start working out once more. I used to work out 2 hours daily, now it's less than an hour a week. Though I've put on a few pounds, that doesn't bother me as much as the fact that I miss my ripped look.