"Keep your head o, e never done. You know say your hair dew (due) well well." For those wondering, dew (due) is basically the Nigerian term for the new curly growth that is seen after a few months of not applying a relaxer to your scalp. I was 6-years-old when I got my first relaxer — ouch! Yes, I still remember the pain. That is way too early to get your child started on the creamy crack, but could you blame my mom? My 4c coils have been called a sponge, twine, barbed wire, you name it. 

The hairstylist would put petroleum jelly on my hairline and ears (not that that helped) to prevent relaxer burns. Before getting a relaxer, you’re supposed to avoid having any kind of moisture in your hair/scalp, but in the hot Nigerian tropics, who are we kidding? Add that to the fact that most hairstylists apply the chemical to your scalp as opposed to the new growth, and the fact that they use all the wrong combs, multiplied by the fact that they apply it to previously relaxed hair, divided by a sensitive scalp like mine and we have a burn.

And so, almost every month from then on, I would go through the same ritual. But here’s the crazy thing: After the lady had washed off all the relaxer, then oiled and blow-dried my hair, I would forget all about how my scalp was on fire less than thirty minutes ago, hence the wash. I would flip my hair this way and that, straight with the white girl swing. I loved it until I had to do it again.

***

With hormonal adolescence comes the urge to try new things, hair-wise. Your sisters know, your moms know and you know this. Over the years I have cut, shaved, dyed, teased, curled, crimped, texturized, braided, bleached and bonded my locks — even had them loc'd. But I can easily say that keeping my hair natural was one of the hardest things ever. As we all know, girls tend to take a little bit more of their dad’s genes than they’d like. So, I’m the daughter stuck with the man’s hair(iness). So when someone like me walks into a hair salon with my Afro and saying that I want to have my hair braided… Well, I will basically pay the salon’s rent for a month.

Anyways, as much as a lot of us ladies or guys would like to say it’s just hair, those strands of superficial assets/liabilities have taught me a thing or two:

1) Love your scalp and treat it with the utmost respect (I have cautionary tales for days, available upon request).

  • 2) Be comfortable in your own skin and I mean it. Sometimes our hair doesn’t turn out the way we want it to, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other things to attend to.
  • 3) Drink a lot of water. I’ve been doing this (sometimes unwillingly), and it has helped tremendously.
  • 4) I’ve learned that time management is the greatest hair care tool you’ll ever need. There was a point in my life where I’d spend upwards of three hours washing and conditioning my hair.
  • 5) Patience. Patience. I remember the first time I cut my hair (willingly). I felt like I’d just shot myself, and like it was never going to grow again. But it’s hair; if you have a scalp, it’ll grow. It’s just up to you to determine how fast you want it to.
  • 6) No pressure. Like literally. When getting your hair braided in Nigeria, you’ll meet some hard-handed people who think the task at hand is to see how much of your hair they can take home with them. Please place emphasis on the no-pressure, and save yourself the headaches and missing edges/hairline.
  • 7) Sometimes, supplements are just that: Supplements. If you don’t eat right, chances are whatever new, cutting-edge vitamin you’re taking won’t do anything.
  • 8) Have a backup plan. When I was younger and didn’t get a relaxer as often as I wanted, my relaxed hair would start falling off. Yes, falling. That was because I neglected it. So, always keep a scarf or a baseball hat handy.
  • 9) Other people’s opinions are just that: THEIR opinions. My family is the worst with this mess. Who can relate? They alwayyss have something to say about whatever it is I’ve recently done TO my hair — like I'm punishing it or something. Meanwhile, they don’t really understand that I’m doing it FOR myself.
  • 10) Curl envy is real. I know women can relate. I’ve been in a situation where a fellow customer in a salon just did not like me because of how big my hair is, like she flat out said, "Your hair is too big." Only in Nigeria.
  • 11) In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a Caucasian/Hispanic/Asian person wanting to touch my hair. I love the Solange song "Don’t touch my hair," but I mean, how else would they know what black hair feels like?
  • 12) Extra virgin coconut oil. Works for men or women with straight, wavy, curly or relaxed hair — facial hair, too. You’re welcome guys.
  • 13) Make your OWN timeline. Growing out any kind of hair is not a bragging right or competition. I’ve been natural three times, cut my hair at least fifteen times (okay, I lied, I don’t know how many times). It’s a lot of fun, as long as you decide what you want.
  • 14) The natural hair trend is just that, a trend. It was here in the '70s and '80s; it’s here now, and it’ll go away again.
  • 15) Love the hair you have. No matter how scanty or full, forward or backward, no matter the Color or texture. Love it because it’s yours.

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