Hey ladies so today I’m catching up with Nibi, owner of The Kinky Apothecary blog and store - The first kinky hair supply store in Lagos, Nigeria.
Hey Nibi, have you always been natural? If not when did you ‘go natural’?
I’ve gone natural (or gone BACK natural) twice. First when I was 21. I big chopped and loved rocking a twa for a couple of years, Then I started letting it grow out, although I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I struggled, but I refrained from touching the creamy crack.
I moved back to Nigeria for work in 2006, and though the comments about my hair rolled off my back, I found I just didn’t have time to look after it (mainly because, like I said, I had no clue what I was doing) so I succumbed to the dreaded texturiser, in an effort to make my hair more “manageable”. Well, of course this didn’t work. First of all my hair turned out stringy and limp, and then started shedding excessively and then breaking (because of course, I still didn’t know what I was doing). I hated it immediately, and made the decision to transition back. I did this mainly through braiding, but during this time I started doing research into natural hair care and this is when I started finding all the blogs and forums. About a year and a half later, I think, I finally chopped all the relaxed ends off. This was about 4 years ago, however the length of my hair doesn’t reflect the amount of time I’ve been natural, however, because I am a very scissor happy individual.
What would you say the ‘natural hair scene’ is like in Nigeria?
The natural hair scene in Nigeria is definitely growing, but we can’t deny that it is still in its infancy. When I first set up The Kinky Apothecary in 2010, I had a workshop with 30 people. Now we have a couple of thousand people on our mailing list, based in Nigeria and looking for products. It’s definitely been enough to take it from a hobby into a serious venture. I’m also not sure if I just hang out in different places, or if this is one of those cases where you just begin to notice things you’re interested in, but I definitely see more naturals out and about than I used to when I first moved to Lagos 7 years ago. I have customers who 2 years ago would tell me they were natural under their weaves, but would never leave home with their real hair, and now they are rocking twists and fros with confidence, and looking absolutely stunning.
But like I say, we’re definitely still very much in the minority. I still hear stories almost every day from customers who are scared to go to work with their own hair as they have been told to put on a wig or go home because their hair looked “unprofessional”. I know I personally wouldn’t have been intimidated if anyone had actually dared say that to me, but you can’t fault someone for being worried if they’re pretty much threatened with losing their jobs, and as a result go back to hiding their hair away (or even relaxing). I recently had a teenager write in and say she had an exam at school, and would be scored on her appearance. She was worried about getting a low score because of her natural hair. Normally I would tell people to rock their hair with confidence, but how do you say that to a teenager when you know her score will be affected, and this could have an impact (however small) on her future? Stuff like that actually does get to me. I can’t believe something essentially so superficial as someone’s appearance (and we’re not talking people looking unruly here, just people who have different tastes to societal norms) could have any bearing on their academics or career.
How did your family/friends react to your natural hair?
My family are totally easy-going, and there wasn’t any particularly strong reaction to my hair…apart from my Grandma. But she’s almost 87, so it’s to be expected. My mum loves it. I doubt my dad noticed until I started The Kinky Apothecary, and then he became interested in the business side. Ditto my brothers (I have no sisters). My female cousins are pretty much all natural now and are my biggest natural hair cheerleaders. I do get the odd snide comment from distant relatives, but nothing that particularly affects my life. My friends generally love it…or if they don’t I guess they keep it to themselves.
What would you say your go-to hairstyle is?
My braidouts, without a doubt. I’m not great at styling my hair (and I recently did a style challenge that proved this) so my favourite look on me is having my hair out and I love the stretch I get on my dense hair from a braidout. Recently though, I’m just so busy I don’t have that much time to spend on my hair (*weep*) so I’ve been rocking twists quite a bit… loose twists especially.
What’s your hair regime like?
This changes all the time, but at the moment the most convenient for me is the method named “The Breakdown” by “My Natural Sistas” on Youtube. First I finger detangle my hair using a mixture of water and conditioner in a spray bottle, and then put my hair into about 10 twists. I then either shampoo (with Bobeam bars) or cowash (at the moment I’m trying out Tresemme Naturals) with my hair still in twists. I rinse out my shampoo and then apply my conditioner with the twists still in, to very damp hair, squeezing to distribute the conditioner evenly. Then I cover with my cling film (I stopped being able to fit my hair under a plastic cap a long time ago) and may or may not use heat, depending on what I feel like. I leave it in for anywhere between one hour to overnight (again depending on how I feel, or how lazy I’m being). Then I rinse out, undo each twist and thoroughly detangle (sometimes with fingers, sometimes with a wide-toothed comb and sometimes with a detangling brush) with a slippery leave-in conditioner, then I seal, and either retwist to partially dry before I go back to style, or I apply my styler and then twist or braid. I generally pin the twists or braids up for a few days, and then twist- or braidout for the weekend.
Depending on what I’m doing, I may swap things around and detangle my hair then apply my deep conditioner before twisting, and leave it in for an hour or more. Then I shampoo, then I use a conditioner like Tresemme Naturals and detangle with my brush. I do things this way round if I can’t be bothered to hop in and out of the shower more than once.
Name 3 of your favourite hair products?
Me?? Narrow it down to just three?! Sigh. Ok, I’d say my favourite at the moment are the Bobeam Honey & Oats shampoo bars, Bee Mine Deep Conditioner…only tried this recently and love it…and Soultanicals Knot Sauce Leave-In. This stuff detangles and moisturises hair like a dream. LOVE it!
One piece of advice you would give someone thinking of going natural, especially those in Africa
Again with getting me to narrow things down, lol. So much to say on this subject, but I’d say the main piece of advice to anyone thinking of going natural is just make sure you’re mentally ready. Natural hair does take dedication, especially in the beginning when you’re still learning so much about it. And unless you’re going to keep your hair in a twa, it will probably take some work. No-one should go natural thinking their life is going to be so much easier, because generally it won’t be. Also it takes confidence. You’re more than likely going to hear some snide comments that make you question your decision, especially for those in Nigeria. But you do have to be able to roll with the punches otherwise you risk starting to believe what you hear and then you’ll never love what you see in the mirror. Finally, don’t go natural because you saw someone’s hair and loved it. Our hair is all so diverse, chances are your hair will be nothing like your natural hair idol’s. You need to learn to love what you have regardless… You have to transition your mind before you transition your hair. (I’m not sure who coined that phrase – sadly wasn’t me – but it is so apt!)
Here comes the cliche: our hair is all beautiful! From the loosest wave to the tightest kink. And whatever your hair type, there will be someone out there who wishes they have what you’ve got.
(Now was that one piece of advice or 3?)
Where can we find you?
Twitter (the easiest way to interact with me): @kinkyapothecary