Natural Hair in Nigeria

To sum up my experiences as a Nigerian (in Nigeria) who has decided to keep her hair in its natural state and refuses to chemically straighten it, I believe I would be having things much more difficult if I gave a damn what other people thought and said. Yeah it sucks to have random people making comments on your hair when you’re walking down the street. It is also annoying when people have this shocked look on their faces when I tell them that I do not relax my hair and to be really honest, I miss the days when people thought my hair was so cool, different and special because it is an afro*.

Now that I’m back in Abuja, I get people looking at me strangely, calling my hair ‘rough’ and ‘jaga jaga’ (pidgin for unkempt) and asking me when I am going to ‘do this hair’ (and they usually mean ‘relax’ as in ‘when are you going to relax your hair?’). After a few weeks of these reactions, I found that I was eager to put my hair in braids, extensions or some other style just to get away from all the trouble. It was annoying and at first I did think that the view of most Nigerians was not ‘disciplined’ but now that I have been here longer and had this long conversation with my cousin, I have learnt that they do not necessarily have a problem with natural hair itself but with afros specifically. In other words, natural hair is okay if it is cut low or if it is ‘hidden’ in braids and weaves but you dare not expose your huge afros as they are unruly and unsightly.

I personally do not understand why anyone would look at an afro and think it is ugly, unruly or unkempt. To me afros are beautiful. I admit between people asking me all the time when I am going to ‘do’ my hair and my cousin going in detail as to why the average Nigerian does not like afros, I was willing to compromise and make sure that my hair was in braids or twists whenever I left the house. However when my hair was in twists, people took to calling me Asha (a Nigerian musician who has locs) and telling me that I look like her which I do not appreciate because I do not look like Asha. Furthermore it is a bit irritating to be told you look like someone else simply because of your hairstyle. (Are they saying that all dark-skinned women with their hair in twists and locs -most people here can’t tell the difference, look alike?)

Before I headed to the NYSC orientation camp, I went to a salon near the estate I live in to do my hair. I ended up wishing I’d just stayed at home. The women who fixed my hair in extensions were good at what they did but I was not too happy that my hair had to be blown-out, stretched till it was as straight as it could be without a relaxer, before the ladies started braiding my hair. Now I am sure for the most part, Nigerian women are used to going to the hairdresser’s to get their hair done. Still, I felt as though my hair was man-handled as usually I do my hair by myself and I am usually super careful with it.

A few days ago, I decided that I was going to start ignoring any negative comments directed towards my hair. I don’t know if I made this clear previously but I am not used to people reacting negatively towards my hair so I was willing to reduce the comments by putting my hair in braids, extensions or twists as much as possible. Yet I have made up my mind not to conform (a rebellion of sorts), I decided that in order to counter any stereotypes about afros, I would keep my hair in an afro as much as possible while I am here. Long live the afro!

*I really loved getting compliments because of my hair, I still do. Another thing I like is people touching my hair, before you raise your eyebrows let me explain ^^. It would be annoying if some stranger came up and shoved their hands into my hair because it is an afro. Before I made the decision to quit chemically straightening my hair, I was wary of non-Black strangers wanting to touch my hair as I had read about it online and as of today, that has never happened to me. The only people who had the right to touch my hair while I was in the UK were my friends and they always asked before they did. I’d be pissed if a stranger felt it was their right to touch my hair.

41 responses

  1. Let me say it, the vast majority of Nigerian women really do not like natural hair. The reason why low cuts are acceptable is because they disguise the ‘ugliness’ of curly hair. I find it so refreshing when you find the handful who do appreciate it and understand that our hair really is just the default and is gorgeous as it is.

    Keep your head up, we know it is cute!!

    • you’ve hit the nail on the head, the reason low cuts are acceptable is for the exact reason you’ve mentioned.

      thanks Jc, afros are cute. i’ve made it my mission to grow my hair out now just in the name of ‘rebellion’. i’ve always trimmed my hair short previously.

    • You are so right, why is it that Nigerian women hate their natural hair. Many of them have beautiful textures of natural hair that they don’t even know about. Sadly enough it all gets burnt out with improper use of chemicals.

  2. I am sorry for what you’re going through friend! It’s cultural I guess, I’ve got some Naija ladies here and they are wowed at the different things that I can do with natural hair.

    Things will change with time.

    • thanks! and you’re right it may be cultural. ha i wish i knew those 9ja ladies. the few female friends i have who are natural and like natural hair are all abroad.

      and i had no idea you had natural hair! i do hope things change with time.

    • lol that’s cool. no one in my family would ever consider natural hair. in fact just yesterday i was told that rational people do not let their hair grown naturally or do dreadlocks!

      and thanks for the link. you know me too well :D it was interesting but i think the convo is closed. i couldn’t find a link to listen though.

      • oh my gosh! that’s awful..lol

        then again, while my mom has embraced double strand twists, and/or leaving it curly she always makes the remark “Well thank God that having hair that looks like a bird’s nest is in fashion!”

        smh, Africans…lol

        here is a better link, you should be able to click on the Thursday link on the side and get the show, (until Thurday that is). It was a bit lack luster, but helpful to hear what Africans living in Africa think.

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/africa_have_your_say/default.stm

  3. Some amazing comments here: ‘Rational people do not let their hair grow naturally’ Wow!! I’m a huge fan of natural hair – always have been and always will be. I am mixed and even my Jamaican grandma dispaired at my not wanting to ‘cream’ my curly locks to kill the curl and make my hair ‘dead’ stratight LOL. One of my best memories is telling her one morning (twice so that it sunk in) ‘Nanny if God had wanted me to have straight hair, he would have given it to me’!! I agree long live the afro! While I am all for ‘freedom of choice’ to dress hair as one pleases I find it very sad that little girls are not given the choice to embrace their natural ‘fros and their natural beauty (thus creating a life long obsession (and neurosis in my opinion) with long and straight hair). I have told my own daughter from an early age it is more important what is in her head than what is on it :-) It was beautiful to see Nneka in London this week with her beautiful natural self! see my ode to the ‘fro

  4. I know this post is old and I don’t know if you’ll see it, sha here it goes.

    I don’t really get stares or comments when I rock my natchy hair here (Naija), though I haven’t rocked it in the workplace yet. Maybe I’m just oblivious and people that are close to me know better well except for my mum.

    Most Naija hair salons cannot deal with natchy hair, it sucks but it is up to you to guide them. If you want to braid your hair, do calabar the night before, so when you get to the salon there is no need for it to be blow dried. Also take your own products, even your comb sef. Another thing is that you have to be forceful, tell them you don’t want heat in your hair, shikenna!

  5. am on my NYSC and work in a bank, you need to see the looks i get went i work my out for some weeks. i had to start wearin protective styles, am on a wig now just got out kinky braids. i believe the more we naturals educate other the better will be appreciated…

    • i think working in bank is one of the worst places to work in terms of freedom in your appearance. you know some people just don’t want to be educated and i’ve learnt that it may be better to just leave them on their own.

      you’re doing your nysc? i’m doing mine as well though i haven’t started working yet, i’m really curious how my hair will be treated in the work environment but i don’t think my workplace would make a fuss.

  6. great post. and yes, definitely, always, LONG LOVE THE AFRO!
    i think many african americans, like myself, becoming natural, some of us think that it’s one of the most African things you can do, it’s getting one step closer to the motherland, in a sense. and then many of us come to find out that Africans handle their hair just like most African Americans handle it-relaxed or straightened.
    it’s pretty sad, actually. the effects of colonialism and how it’s damaged our concept of beauty, that is.

    • it would have really been wonderful if the afro was more accepted in Nigeria. to be honest the way natural hair is regarded differs depending on the part of Africa (e.g. i’ve discovered that natural hair is more accepted amongst southern Africans).

      the interesting thing about African American choices in becoming natural is that most African hairstyles have been influenced by African American hair for decades. it’s because of this that i firmly believe that when natural hair becomes the accepted amongst African Americans, Nigerians would immediately go the same way.

  7. crap, im natural and im spending the rest of my summer in nigeria…im scared haha. you’d think because its the homeland, natural hair would be considered normal. i hate how westernized everything is.
    but i LOVE you’re hair :)

    • at least you’re here just for the summer. how about relocating back here for the next of the foreseeable future? :D that would be a nightmare! it’s okay to be Westernized, i think just as long as you don’t accept colonial mentality

      p.s. my hair is not in any of the images that accompany this post.

  8. My God! Thought i was the only one. I am so sick of this whole natural hair staring business. I moved back to Nigeria from the U.K in 2008. I have been to the salon only thrice. The first time i came out an a headache. Twice, i wasnt satisfied. I do my hair at home. I live in Abuja and i am hausa. My hair seems to defeat the whole hausa fulani concept of having “GOOD” hair. You should see people reaction when i take off my scarf and then the rubbish advice starts. When people with the advice, i switch off and go to my happy place. I just don’t get it. Don’t listen, be yourself. If it makes you happy. Then ignore everyone.

    • wow, i go to the salon a few times and luckily for me i’ve never left with a headache even though the women there don’t really know how to take care of natural hair. i’ve learnt that if i want to go to salon more often then it helps to actually tell the hairdressers how to take care of natural hair. i live in Abuja as well but i just manage with random comments. no one bothers me with hair comments any more they seem to have concluded that i have accepted ‘new found (i.e. Western) ideas’ ever since i went to the UK.

  9. One more out bust. When i freaking twist my hair. They are twists not freaking DREADLOCKS!!!!! And so what if i dread my hair. Nutcases (sigh)lol!

  10. HI BEAUTIFUL ONE!
    I WANT U TO KNOW THAT LLEAVING YOUR HAIR NATURAL MAKES U UNCOMMON.U SEE IN LIFE U DO NOT FOLOW A TREND BECUASE THE MAJORITY DO. FOR ME UR HAIR IS BEAUTIFUL, D FACT DAT IT SI BLACK TRILLS ME ALSO.
    LISTEN, NEVER E……..VER U FEEL INFERIOR ANY WHERE OR LET ANYBODY TALK U DOWN BECAUSE OF YOUR HAIR. U SHOULD ALWAYS BE PROUD THAT 1) UR BLAK 2) UR A WOMAN 3) UR NATURAL……..IT MAKES U STAND OUT.BESIDES I WANT TO BELIVE UR BEAUTIFUL FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
    HOW MANY TIMES HAVE U SEEN A WHITE WOMAN DOING STUFFS TO CHANGE THE NATURE OF HER HAIR TO BE LIKE OURS(THE BLACK AMERICANS AND AFRICANS) ? THEY APPRECIATE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN THEM FOR A HAIR AND KEEP N MAINTAIN IT! BUT NIGERIAN WOMEN HAVE SOLD THEIR PRIDE TO BEING ARTIFICIAL AND LOOKING FAKE! IT IS PEOPLE LIKE THIS THAT SHOULD BE FEELING INFERIOR NOT PEOPLE WHO HAVE DESCIDED TO KEEP THEIR NATURAL HAIR( LIKE U AND ME)

    I’VE NEVER RELAXED MY HAIR FROM BIRTH TILL DATE. IMAKE MY HAIR MYSELF AND AM PROUD OF IT..I MEAN I HAVE GOD TO THANK!
    I’VE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCE LIKE YOURS WITH PEOPLE COMENTING AND STYLIST COMPELLING RELAX IT & MANHANDLING NATURAL HAIR IN NIGERIA TOO, BUT I BELIVE WITH TIME OUR WOMEN WOULD COME TO UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIAT THE BEAUTY OF KEEPING NATURAL HAIR.
    WHAT MANY DON’T KNOW IS THAT MAINTAINING A NATURAL HAIR IS EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE THAN BUYING THOSE STOCK OF ARTIFICIAL THINGS THEY CALL HAIR!
    KEEPING NATURAL HAIR SHOWS YOU ARE NOT CHEAP BUT EXPENSIVE LADY!

    IF U DON’T MIND I WOULD LIKE TO MEET YOU IN OERSON.SEND ME UR CONTACTS…email, mobile number or address.

    i want u to know that you’ve inspired me and many others today by just being you and keeping your naturality! pls i would need more guidelines from u as to maintaining it and to hear more of how you’ve come this far, cos mine hair is not as long as yours for now!

    laurina.

  11. One more thing, to be honest i have met people who really appreciate me for who i am(as in my hair for leaving it natural)

    Another thing u must be aware of is whoever u would finaly “tie the knot” with i.e marry must, 1.truly appreciate u for whom u are and not try to change u.Advising u to change the nature of ur hair is no different from telling u that d fact that ur complexion is black is awful or it’s not in tend, therefore u should start using bleaching creams to become fair complexion like the whites. GOD MADE U D WAY U ARE, UR BORN WITH UR COMPLEXION LIKEWISE YOUR HAIR! SO DOING STUFFS TO CHANGE UR NATURAL SELF MIGHT IMPLY U ARE SAYING GOD IS A FOOL OR HE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE FOR CREATING U D WAY U ARE!
    2. appreciate ur hair and see u as a brave and unique woman for choosing to be natural and leaving hair natural.

    TO D GLORY OF GOD, am not married but one of the things my man loves about me is the fact that my hair is natural, he encourages me to keep it …infact he say he prefers it the way it is….natural…full…thick…….a good texture…very black…and long.

    U CAN BE SURE THAT OF MY KIDS(WHEN THEY FINALY COME) WOULD BE NATURAL, WELL KEPT AND NOURISHED…….AND ENVIED OR BETTER STILL ADMIRED BY OTHERS.

  12. I’m a dude and I’ve always wanted an Afro but my Nigerian parents won’t let me. Btw I also hate it when ppl think they have the right to touch my hair just because it’s different.

  13. I feel u dear…. sigh…. we are so blinded with being Western we 4get wot our hair should really look like and call those who have it eccentric.

  14. I would love to appreciate efforts made to promote natural hair growth in Nigeria. The truth, am not left out of the stigma of,” babes yhu no go relax this hair?” But they don’t understand. Am tired of losing my hair, I never liked scanty frail hair (relax hair). I love it full, somewhat dark brown, strong n full. The thing now is how do I take care of my medium long hair. I have left ma hair without extensions n or braids or even a scarf. What do I do? Cos I want to show off my naural hair (sad face)

    • There are lots of blogs out there dedicated to styling natural hair. Personally I keep my hair in twists most of the time even though this prompts people to tell me it looks like ‘dada’. For styling ideas and inspiration, I suggest you check out Black Girl with Long Hair and follow up from there, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do much styling to my hair.

  15. I would love to appreciate efforts made to promote natural hair growth in Nigeria. The truth, am not left out of the stigma of,” babes yhu no go relax this hair?” But they don’t understand. Am tired of losing my hair, I never liked scanty frail hair (relax hair). I love it full, somewhat dark brown, strong n full. The thing now is how do I take care of my medium long hair. I have left ma hair without extensions n or braids or even a scarf. What do I do? Cos I want to show off my natural hair (sad face)

  16. You are inspiring and I have just decided to go natural with my hair. No one needs those damaging chemicals anyway.

  17. Hi!!
    I’m so late. I hope you are wearing out your hair by now. Like you, I’m in Abuja and had the same problems last year. Most of the wahahla comes from fellow ladies…as for the brothers they are either indifferent or intrigued. Most times my fro gives me more attention than I want. Stay strong and don’t let the nay sayers get to you. Love your Blog!!

    • I don’t wear my hair out these days, it is mostly in twists but I’ve grown tougher skin :D You’re in Abuja? Awesome! We should have a natural hair meetup or something similar. I completely understand, it’s women that ask me ‘why don’t you do your hair’, I have no idea what they mean by ‘do’, I spend hours ‘doing’ my twists! Thank you.

  18. I’m a nigerian and I decided to go natural 2 months ago, I chopped off the relaxed portions and stil have about 4 inches of natural hair, my problem is getting styles to wear the hair in, I dnt know if the kinky curly curling custard will work for me, please has any nigerian used it and got good results? Cos the application videos I’ve seen are of biracial women. Also anyone knows where I can get d products in lagos? I’d also like to kno hair products that could give me curly hair. Thank you.

  19. Wow I don’t know if I am discouraged or warned. I’ve been to Nigeria several times, but my hair has always been done in Weaves or braids. In the US, I usually get a blow and press by dominicans or twists. I am wondering if they have that in Lagos or Abuja. Are there any salons that really work with natural hair? Is it realistic to have pressed hairstyles in Nigeria. I dont really want to wear only weaves or have to keep my hair in an afro or twists.

  20. I am a Nigerian with natural hair, I’ve done the whole perming thing for years I am in my late 40’s, I love being natural, learning to love my natural hair!!!!

  21. I am very late entering this conversation. It is 2012. I am a graduate of Howard University, here in the USA, a Black University and it is very sad to learn that Nigerians, a huge African Nation, are having colonial thoughts towards natural hair. Are you saying to me that in an African Nation, colonisim prevails? How tragic. When are we as a nation whether we are abroad or in Mother Africa going to shake the shackals of what europeans want us to be…reflect their images back to them. Now, you may say it is ironic because I do chemically straighten my hair that I say this, however, I say this because as much as National pride, we as women should also have the right of style. Design and fashion are very important to me, but as well, I do not want my choices based on colonialism. If I see a sista with natural hair, I admire her choice and I do not denigrate it by saying…it looks unkempt…of course unless it was smelly or something. BUt natural hair is not what did you say that told you…jaga? Perhaps after discussing it with your cousin, because of Nigirian politics, they see it as some threat that again, National pride will prevail and that leads to other more radical forms of thought. A “fro” as we call it in the States, historically meant the unleasing of revolutionary actions on the part of the Black Community. Keep your natural State my sista and teach your people back home. Black is beyond beautiful!

  22. Hello,

    I know this post was a while back but here is my comment nonetheless. I have natural hair, have had it since 2004. I live in SA so it’s no big deal but in naija…. gosh. My biggest critic is my mom, she didn’t understand why I would want to have such ‘untidy’ looking hair.

    She has come to understand now though, I think the reason for the negativity in Naija is due to the fact that it’s not in fashion yet. It’s funny how women will put on weaves that look like natural hair/Afro than grow their own (that is more beautiful). I am so glad that there are like minded folk out there and I believe that if we don’t succumb to the pressure to relax with time, everyone will go natural.

    Stay natural and God bless.

  23. plsss help dear.what products do you use for moisturising and conditioning your hair?and do you deep condition your hair.if yes with which products because am about to go from relaxed to natural.please help.thanks

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