Leggy said something…

…That confused the hell out of me:

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding something here, but the last time I checked, between having natural hair and having relaxed hair, it was only relaxed hair that actually involved doing something.
Also, I find it rather strange when people (especially and most particularly Nigerians) claim they look horrible with their natural hair (low-cut or otherwise).
I have said before, and I will say again, that most Nigerians have no idea what their natural hair looks like. Sure, you can argue that a lot of us went through the Secondary-School-Low-Cut system, and so how can I be saying this, but at the same time, I don’t think I would be wrong to say that at the very least 96% of Nigerians in Nigeria (and possibly at least 85% of Nigerians outside Nigeria but in regular contact with Nigeria as an entity) treat natural hair as though it were Caucasian hair.
What do I mean by this?
I think it would be correct to say that:
Most Nigerians think natural hair is “strong” and therefore tend to use extra force when combing it.
Most Nigerians comb natural hair when it is dry.
Most Nigerians comb natural hair every day (or at the very least, every other day).
Most Nigerians think that not combing hair is an infallible sign of dirtiness/bad hygiene.
Most Nigerians put mineral oil on natural hair (those jars of Apple hair cream anyone??? Or even the blue Bergamot hair oil has mineral oils in it)
Most Nigerians apply excessive heat to natural hair (Blowing out anyone? Who hasn’t seen the columns of smoke rising from the hand dryer at Follicles when the girl is stretching out your hair)
Most Nigerians wash natural hair often.
All these things are things that you should NEVER EVER do to natural hair, yet most Nigerians upon encountering Natural hair, rush to do them IMMEDIATELY and WITHOUT REMORSE.
The result is that with the exception of our Fulani friends, Most Nigerians have never seen their natural curl pattern. Most Nigerians have never felt their natural curl pattern because they are too busy trying their best to tame, compel, and subdue the animal that they imagine natural hair to be.
Now, these are all generalizations (hence the word “Most”) but at the same time, as a Nigerian I think these are pretty damn close/good generalizations. Why? Because all of them are true to a very great extent.
Now to my point. Leggy is expressing a fear of going natural because she doesn’t want to “comb her hair and moisturize it” or “touch hair oil”. Now I am going to make a gross assumption here, and Leggy and anyone else is free to correct me if I am wrong, but I am going to assume that the hair oil Leggy is referring to here is the kind of hair oil that ‘Most Nigerians’ are familiar with (in other words, it is packed full of mineral oils).
Assumption aside, Leggy’s fear of natural hair is worrying (and perplexes me) because it is based on false information.
Problem: Leggy is assuming:
a – that she will have to comb her hair if she goes natural
b – that combing her hair while natural is going to be unpleasant
Here’s the thing. Part of the point of being natural is NOT combing your hair so that you can see what your REAL hair texture and curl pattern are. Sure, you will have to detangle your hair once in a while, and sure there are certain hairstyles that might require you to comb your hair first, but for the most part, if your hair is natural, you DO NOT HAVE TO COMB YOUR HAIR.
Back to the assumption. I am assuming that Leggy intends to put loads of mineral oil in her hair in the name of moisturizing. I could be fucking wrong but that is why I’m letting you know that I’m assuming.
Mineral oil is the kiss of death for natural hair. It’s horrible, it sits on your hair, it makes your hair all kinds of greasy and doesn’t do shit to help it. If there is one thing Nigerians adore, it is piling shitloads of mineral oil in their hair. How is this relevant? Well if Leggy does decide to stop relaxing her hair and she then proceeds to use mineral oil (with inevitably bad results) this might lead her to believe that natural hair is unmanageable, or doesn’t grow.
I think that a lot of the people that claim that natural hair ‘isn’t for them’ are not making an informed decision. An informed decision is one where you know all the possible outcomes of all the choices you have.
If you have never tried to nurture your natural hair (and done it the proper way) then you cannot make an informed decision about being natural. You just cannot because you simply do not have the information.
Which is why I get annoyed when some of my friends say things like “you’re so brave to have natural hair”, or “I could never do what you’re doing” or “Natural hair won’t fit me” or “I don’t think I was meant to have natural hair (this one is especially retarded)”. First of all, most of the people saying this have no idea how to take care of natural hair. Their only impulse when it comes to natural hair is to subdue it by all means possible, which frankly, will get you nowhere fast.
Being natural is the default Nigerian condition. There is no other ready-made option. Relaxer is the one that requires effort. In order to have relaxed hair you have to be active about it. That is not to say that one is necessarily passive about their natural hair, but the level of activity required to nurture and maintain natural hair is no greater than the level of activity required to nurture and maintain the rest of the body normally.
Relaxed hair on the other hand is extremely unmanageable, involves pain and bodily harm, requires constant maintenance, gives very little to no love back for all your hard work, forces you to modify your lifestyle significantly for its sake, and basically acts like a spoilt toddler with a tantrum.
Caucasian hair is the strongest of all hair types. It can endure atomic bombs and still come out throwing punches and giving you the finger. African hair is the most fragile of all hair types. Any amount of stress can cause it to break or just plain give up. Yet because of its appearance African hair is unfairly labelled tough, hard, strong, stubborn, etc, and treated accordingly.
I don’t even want to go into all the social and mental baggage and drama surrounding Nigerian attitudes to natural hair. I’ll leave that for another day, or maybe I won’t talk about it at all because I’ll just lose my temper. This post is just about the technicalities of natural hair.
I didn’t write this post to call out Leggy. I wrote this post because I think that as far as natural hair goes, Leggy isn’t making an informed decision/statement about it, and quite possibly, neither is JuiceeGal (who announced that she was reverting to natural and from whose blog the Leggy comment comes) who also expressed undue worry about her natural hair.
Ultimately, everyone does whatever they want to do, but I think it is important to know all the facts first before deciding that something is not for you. I am just concerned that most of the Nigerians that share Leggy’s sentiments about natural hair don’t know enough about their natural hair to even legitimately have that sentiment in the first place. I don’t claim to know all there is about natural hair, but I do recognize that I definitely know far more about my hair than I ever did when I was fifteen or all through boarding school (when I had to have short hair anyway).
In boarding school I did my hair no favours. I combed it dry without fail every day and then I slathered on “hair cream” which was mostly made from mineral oil. During the breaks I would go to hairdressers that would complain bitterly about my hair and then use blast-energy blow dryers to stretch it into submission. They would then rub even more mineral oil into my poor hair. Let me say though, that the Nigerian educational system is also to blame, as well as Nigerian teachers and school administrators. Even if I had known better in boarding school I still would have been forced to damage my hair. In most boarding schools, those who do not comb their hair are instantly labelled dirty, unkempt, and generally get into trouble and/or are punished sooner or later. Students are encouraged to comb their hair with smaller and smaller combs as this “effectively” gets rid of the kinks which are considered rough-looking.
I could do ten whole posts about the self-defeating effects of Nigerian mentality on natural hair but not today.
I just think it’s important to arm yourself with all the relevant information about your natural hair and your possible texture and curl pattern before writing it off.
Below is a picture of my hair uncombed (I’ve posted it on this blog before) as well as very useful resources for all things natural.





And for inspiration that hits very close to home:

A Nigerian with the most absolutely luscious, long, beautiful natural hair.

There are 18 comments

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  1. TayneMent

    I will admit that before I moved in with a friend of mine, I had no idea what having and maintaining natural hair entailed. I have learned a lot but it’s still not for me. I wear my hair in weaves and braids and can’t remember the last time I relaxed it. I can understand why you felt the need to address the issue, it can be frustrating hearing an opinion that might be ill informed.

  2. sugabelly

    @Lady X: you can basically use anything that is organic and mineral oil free (or anything that you can eat) e.g shea butter, mango butter, coconut oil, palm oil, natural (hand pressed)groundnut oil, tea tree oil, henna, and so on.

    Also, detangling your hair (when done properly) doesn’t hurt. You just soak your hair in water and make sure it’s as full of conditioner as possible, and then you take a wide tooth comb or brush and comb/brush through it in small sections from tip/end to root. Once the (wide tooth)comb can slide through all your hair, you’re done.

    No tears, no pain.

    @yinkuslolo: I think Lady’s just honestly asking.

    @TayneMent: if you can’t remember the last time your relaxed your hair, doesn’t that mean your hair is natural?

  3. L-VII

    Hmmn, this was a wonderful read, as usual.

    My hair is relaxed, it has been since I was 11. I remember I used to cry when it was combed, it was big and ‘tough’ as my mother would say. I relaxed it and I have had to cut it every few month since. Because no matter how careful I am, I know that my hair is not supposed to be in the state it is in.

    I am seriously thinking of going natural and it is nice to read some up on way to look after one’s natural locks.

    I like the way your hair looks uncombed. Btw, I disagree that African hair is weaker than European.

    (I am not saying this on some ‘black power trip’) I truly believe that sub Saharan Africans have been endowed with the most amazing versatile hair. European hair can basically be worn in one way… I cannot even begin to list the styles we can get our hair into.

    Anyway, good job!

  4. Today's ranting

    I admire your passion for natural hair. I agree with most of your arguments about having your natural hair.But why do you still braid your hair sometimes? At least, the attatchments you use in braiding it is synthetic and unatural.

  5. sugabelly

    @yinkuslolo: I didn’t write this post in anger… if that’s what you’re getting at.

    @LV-II: Thanks (for complimenting my hair). Actually, African hair has been scientifically proven to be weaker than Caucausian hair (because of its structure).

    Caucasian hair strands are round and straight so they have a lot of strength, but African hair strands are flat and have many kinks.Each of the bends that form a kink represents a stress point where the hair could break. That is why African hair breaks more easily (and is therefore more fragile) than Caucasian hair.

    But you’re right though, African hair is more versatile than Caucasian hair. It can be used to make more styles.

    @Today’s Ranting: Braiding your hair (with attachment/extensions) is a really easy way to protect natural hair (see what I said about natural hair being fragile). Especially if you live in a very cold place like I do, to NOT braid your hair is asking for your hair to get damaged by the cold.

    Also, because natural hair is so fragile, constant manipulation can cause it to break. If you want to grow out your hair then it is advisable to touch it/manipulate it as little as possible, so you can see how braiding with extensions is beneficial to your natural hair – you braid your hair and forget about it for a couple of months, plus the extensions protect your hair from daily manipulation and other friction from when your hair comes into contact with your clothes, your dresses, etc.

    You can also wear weaves over your natural hair if you want to grow it out.

    I never said there was anything wrong with wearing weaves. What I DID say was that there is something wrong with the fact that 90% of the Black women that wear weaves always wear weaves that are NOT in their natural texture (i.e. majority of weave-wearing Black women choose to wear STRAIGHT weaves as opposed to kinky weaves that would look like natural hair)

  6. Myne Whitman

    Nice info up there. Chris Rock has a new funny documentary out titled, Good hair. Bottom line is black women spend too much time and money on their hair and non-hairs. Chill people, ntural or relaxed, take care of your hair. It’s not a big deal.

  7. leggy

    lol..this was quite a funny read…imagine coming on sugabelly’s blog and seeing..’leggy said something’..i was like what did i say this time kwa?lmao.
    anyway,ummm…i have unrelaxed hair and i braid it…ive not relaxed my hair since january and you know that by now the roots and pretty much all of my hair is natural.
    i hated the hair oil in nigeria,it was disgusting,had a strong smell,irritating on the hand…im sorry,i just plain hated it.
    i hated having to come out my hair each morning..which to be felt strong…i cut my hair for 6years so you will agree with me that it was def natural hair.
    no offence,but it was hard to comb out and i just couldnt wait to relax it or soften it and start braiding my hair.
    now i do admit that i have no expertise towards this,but i still stand by what i said about admiring people who have natural hair cos i feel its too much work.
    and as per the relaxed hair being too much hair…you rarely see me with my hair i always braid it,which means i wake up every morning,pack it and go off to school.
    i couldnt wear a low cut…cos seriously sugabelly i was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ugly.seriously.
    and i went to the same school as zara from leave in the kinks..even though she was in a class way higher than mine but…….you can ask her how ugly our cut hair was.

  8. Siddon Look Mode Activated!


    Thanks for this post.

    I have natural hair, too, as did my half-Ghanaian, half-African-American roommate when I was in college. She wore hers with no attachments or braids (or maybe once in a blue moon she would have some braids in), and it was always neat and fabulous. I still wear mine with braids and I’ve been doing so for about a year now.

    The first time I relaxed my hair, I was 18 years old and didn’t have as thorough a knowledge of chemistry as I needed to understand the extreme changes black women were forcing unto their hair by adding that noxious ‘relaxer’ stuff. Fortunately, my mother insisted that I keep my hair natural until I entered university. At university, I quickly learned about the chemical process involved with ‘relaxing’ hair, and very soon found out about the absolute agony it can cause sensitive scalps. Once I tried the relaxer business a couple of times, and ended up dancing like MC Hammer from the pain of burns on my scalp, I abandoned the entire project and decided to live happily ever after with my natural hair. I never really liked the relaxed hair, with its oils and bases and creams that seemed to clog up my scalp and suffocate my very being. To say that I was delighted to be freed of the relaxing burden would be putting things mildly.

    My plan for the near future (2010) is to start wearing the hair without all these braids. I have never had a weave, and I have long wondered why some black women not only wear straight weaves, they often wear blonde or brunette weaves, hair colors that are rare exceptions amongst black Sub-Saharan Africans.

    In any case, hair remains a sensitive issue for many black women and as long as European ideals of beauty remain the standard around many parts of the world, we will continue to see black women with multi-colored weaves atop their heads.

    Nice blog, nice post. Enlightening stuff!

    Thank you,

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