Natural hair, natural beauty
African hair event renews pride in natural curls
ABUJA, Nigeria—Boluwatife Okun sat on a plastic chair in a booth lined with African print as one volunteer braided her natural hair into twists. About a year ago, Okun decided to “go natural” after several years of chemically straightening her hair.
“My hair was breaking with relaxers and it didn’t have strength again,” she said.
New to dealing with her naturally curly hair, Okun jumped on the opportunity to attend the first African Hair Summit in Abuja’s Sheraton Hotel on Friday. The event reflects the growing natural hair movement around the world, which encourages women of African descent to keep their afro-textured hair.
Okun and other attendees received a free hairdo at the Lumo naturals booth.
“They’re doing something unique and creative just so people know they can do something to their hair without using wigs or weaves,” said Fareedah Yahya, the founder of Lumo naturals.
Photizo Life Foundation, a nonprofit focused on mental and social wellbeing of the community, organized the two-day summit. Speakers and hair experts informed people on the health risks of using chemicals on their hair and encouraged them to invest instead in their natural hair. Several other booths displayed natural hair products and offered free hair consulting.
Adanna Enwezor, the manager of Photizo Life, transitioned back to her natural hair last year while she was pregnant for her second daughter. Enwezor said she dived into research and decided to go natural after some friends cautioned her on the effects that chemically straightening her hair could have on her baby.
“There’ve been a lot of fibroids linked to hair products,” Enwezor said. “We have high rates of fibroids in Africa.”
According to the Center for Uterine Fibroids, fibroids are more common among black women, who are often significantly younger in age at diagnosis.
Yahya, a biochemistry college graduate, also expressed similar concerns. Many hair products and relaxers are imported from other countries, and Yahya said they are not designed for African hair.
“The science of black hair is very different from Caucasian and Mexican hair,” Yahya said. “We’ve not taken the time to learn our hair, and that’s why we just slap relaxers on.”
This observation inspired Yahya to start her own line of hair products made specifically for African hair. She displayed several bottles of detanglers, shampoos, and conditioners at her booth and offered advice to people who stopped: observe your hair, find a product that works, and stick to a routine.
After years of scalp burns caused by relaxing chemicals, Ogechukwu Chukwuka recently decided to switch back to her natural hair. She attended the event hoping to get helpful tips, but also to learn more about investing in a growing market.
“I just want to create an opportunity for myself in the hair industry,” Chukwuka said.
More home-based hair products are springing up as people increasingly learn of the health risks associated with chemical straightening. But the growing trend is more than a movement, Yahya added.
“I don’t call it a movement,” she said. “I think we’re going back to our roots.”
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