Hello! Introduce yourself, please.
Hi, I’m Hadassah, a Nigerian microbiologist by day, blogger by night (I’m the author of nappilynigeriangirl.blogspot.com), hairstylist on the weekends, an artist in between, fashion enthusiast, natural hair lover and wrapping it all up, God fearing. I’m full blooded Igbo from Anambra (Igbokwenu!!!!) and reside most of the time in Northern Nigeria.
Have you always worn your natural hair natural?
Yes, I’ve always worn my hair natural. I grew up in the North, Kaduna to be precise and while growing up, it was common to see people with natural hair though it’s changed now.
Has it been difficult maintaining it?
I have fine highly porous hair that’s prone to dryness and breakage. For the first 11 years of my life, my mother was in charge of my hair care. My parents had a no relaxer policy until we were old enough to decide which wasn’t till we got to senior secondary.
Every second week on Saturdays was washday for my two sisters and I. She would shampoo (with Petals Shampoo and scrub our scalps vigorously…we felt the tingle everytime!), condition (with Petals conditioner), comb (using the ever present light blue wide tooth comb from roots to tips…luckily the conditioner would have done its work!), towel dry (with our heads bouncing all over…lol), grease (using Indian Hemp hair cream), comb again then make about 6-8 braids for stretch. On Sunday after church, she would either thread our hair. The next weekend, a braider would come to the house to braid our already stretched hair.We were very partial to Hausa/Fulani braiders because braiding was painless and they were really gentle. When you say ouch, they’d adjust their hands. I can’t say the same for the Yoruba and Igbo braiders we had though…lol! They didn’t really care much if it hurts unless my mum was around…lol! With this routine our hair thrived! My dad was especially proud of our long, thick hair and loved to ask us the names of our hair do!
When I started secondary school, I was responsible for my hair care and that of my sisters. I pretty much followed my mum’s regimen except I was gentler with detangling. We were given enough pocket money to experiment with hair products. I became (and still am) a product junkie! I would buy any shampoo, conditioner, hair lotion I saw advertised on T.V. and in fashion magazines I was crazy about. I think that was really when I began to notice how products had an effect on hair. Some shampoos were drying (my mum’s trusty Petals was among them), some made hair thicker (I noticed this with Motions products) and some were just perfect (Johnson’s Baby No more Tears was a favorite).
Everything kind of changed when I got to senior secondary school. It seemed that to be the ‘It’ girl, you had to have long straight hair. Natural hair was seen as childish. I didn’t really care because I was that annoying child that asked lots of questions and if I didn’t get a satisfactory answer, I wouldn’t budge! My parents always talked to us about peer pressure as we got older and telling me that ‘I had to relax my hair because it was a sign of maturity’ was hogwash. It wasn’t easy though…I was constantly being compared to my younger sisters who decided to relax their hair. What favoured me was that my hair was the longest.
It was during one trying period that I discovered heat styling to straighten my hair. I noticed one particular girl with notorious long straight and less greasy relaxed hair comi
ng out of a salon. As soon as she left, I ran in and asked the stylist to do what she did to the girl’s hair on mine. After refusing a relaxer (I was scared of pain and burns) she suggested straightening my hair with a blow dryer at high temp, a round brush and some grease. That was the moment I realized the real versatility of natural hair. I could switch from coily to straight anytime I wanted.
Fast forward to University (Abuja) when I was really on my own… I couldn’t find the products I Iiked (expensive when I did) or a stylist I trusted. I bought a flat iron to cut down on the cost of straightening and it soon became an addiction. My hair became heat damaged and was breaking off like no man’s business. My turn around period for ‘conscious healthy hair practice’ was after I washed my hair one day and the curls wouldn’t bounce back!
I big chopped then, did my research and started again. With straightening (until I discovered heat protectants) and braiding(I loved my hairline) out of the way, I was kinda stuck with ‘out’ styles. I rocked wash and go’s, buns and puffs. I experimented with beautiful updos and learnt how to twist my hair. At the end of the semester, I would fix a weave in the current style and go home. Then braid in Kaduna before returning to school.
Apart from returning to natural hair, have you incorporated a more natural/healthy lifestyle?
Yes I have. My mum ,as a nurse has always been conscious of what we ate. That didn’t mean boring food. She couldn’t do that because I was a picky eater and I loved colors So she’d make sure our meals had red, green, orange vegetables and fruits. I think ‘conscious’ healthy eating for me was a result of serious demoralizing acne I had as a teenager. I noticed that certain foods aggravated it such as carbonated sugary drinks but if I had a diet of natural, whole food with lots of fruits and veggies, my skin cleared up.
Till today, I don’t take carbonated drinks but prefer water, yoghurt and fruit juice (preferably freshly made). This is a bit of a problem socially because you’ll always be offered Coke, Fanta etc and most hosts feel offended if you say you want just water and it looks pretentious if you request for juice or yoghurt. I’ve tried to manage malt drinks on such occasions which I prefer in cans (to take away) or if presented with the bottled one, I take my time drinking it so I’m not offered another. It has become a lifestyle for me.
Do you think there’s a link? Would you have incorporated those changes if you had not gone natural?
I think there’s a link between having natural hair and incorporating a natural/healthy life. Though being natural wasn’t initially why I opted for a healthier lifestyle (skincare is), it’s one of the reasons I’ve kept my resolve. I do notice changes in the thickness, growth rate and health of my hair when I eat more protein. In University, I didn’t eat as much vegetables and fruits as I was supposed to because I ate out. I noticed my hair wasn’t as supple and shiny as it used to. It was like the quality of my hair diminished despite an improvement in hair care products (Organics, Aussie Moist, BlowFish etc) and practices, so I decided to adjust my diet and see if there’ll be improvements and there was. The new growth was healthier, curlier, shiny and supple. I had to trim my hair again. I learnt how to use my hair, nails and skin as an indicator for good health. I watched what I put on and in my body. I researched and learnt how to read product labels in my hair and skincare products especially after I noticed rashes while using sunscreen to escape the burning sun in Abuja.
How do you manage to have natural hair and remain professional?
I learnt that your hairstyle and dressing influenced the way you were treated by conservative professors as a student and in the Nigerian setting, that meant your hair had to be smooth and neat. So I learnt not to take full afros to see my professors and styled my hair in neat buns and pulled back twists. When I really worked for the first time last year, I began to experiment with styles suitable for the work place. The Director I worked with was a conservative but stylish woman. She was very professional and principled and liked those working with her to be so. By observing her reactions to my hair style, I was able to learn what styles were suitable for the office environment. Apart from weaves and braids (which I rarely did because the weather is too hot for all that), I did different buns, twists and tried fingercoils for the first time. All were admired.
My epic office fail was when I tried a braid out. I usually do that on the weekends but I thought I had mastered it well enough to keep it neat and ‘weave like’. I was so wrong..lol! My hair which was fine as I left the house was a hot mess when I got to the office #humidity!!!! The Director had to make a comment for the first time. She told me she didn’t think it was casual Friday yet. I read between the lines! Luckily, I always have bands and a satin scarf in my bag so I did a quick bun!
Do you have a healthy goal (hair, nutrition, exercise)?
My goal is to just listen to my body and give it what it needs to work well. I make sure I drink enough water, eat a balanced diet and exercise…does running up and down the stairs everyday count? I think I burn a lot of calories trying to beat traffic too…lol! Maybe I’m not committed to exercising because I’m naturally skinny and don’t want to be all ‘muscled’ up on top of it but I dance a lot…that’s like aerobics, right? As for my hair, use my satin bonnet more and keep my hands out of my hair! #seriousHIHsyndrome
Based on all you know now, what would you do for your children?
Well, for one thing my children by God’s grace will have a healthy head of natural coils. My son will sport a coily teeny weeny afro ( I won’t be one of those crazy mamas that bantu knot, braid and bun their son’s hair….I guess I’m conservative that way..lol!). I now know suitable hair products for most hair types, better methods (no greasing scalps) and unique hairstyles I can do on the girls.
Definitely no relaxers until like my parents did, they are old enough to make their own choices (with guidance) and can stand by it. My sisters relaxed their hair. One is doing fine (she tries to use kids’ relaxers and is careful of ingredients in hair products) and the other decided to return back to natural after noticing that despite all the care while relaxed, her hair wasn’t thriving. She tried texlaxing, it didn’t work out and now she’s fully natural, she says nothing and nobody’s opinions can make her go back. She retains more length now.
Nutrition wise, they’ll definitely eat a balanced diet! My mum taught me how do make veggies appealing to children. For them, taste and appearance matters. I read somewhere that in an experiment, children left to select different foods from healthy options to the snacky ones managed on the whole to eat what was suitable for their body within the month of the test. I think I agree. I won’t ban junk food, it only makes them want it more, I’ll just expose them to healthier treats like my mom did! 🙂
Any words of wisdom or advice for others?
I know in Nigeria, natural hair isn’t mainstream and not fully accepted as professional especially when it’s out but I think just like some hair colours and crazy weaves that our relaxed sisters can’t rock in the work place, there are some natural hairstyles that shouldn’t be worn to the office. Hair should be neat and smooth. Gel especially aloe vera (for those worried about product buildup and such) can be used to keep flyaways in place. You can hold it down with a satin scarf and take it off when you get to work for a more polished look.
Embrace shrinkage! I believe it’s the hair’s way of protecting itself.
Also, learn to listen to your hair, your skin, yourself. God designed us perfectly with everything we need to thrive and be the best but most times we let external influences derail us from our real selves.
And finally, a big THANK YOU for featuring me and for providing a wonderful resource for natural haircare and healthy lifestyle.
Awww, thank YOU! Hadassah, for taking the time to share and for being part of the natural journey and a resource that Nigerian women can rely on.