Wunmi: My Natural Hair Journey


Introduce yourself My name is Wunmi and I am one half of the koili team. I am a 27 year old Polish-born, South Africa-based Naija girl. I spent the first 7 years of my life in Warsaw then the next 5 in a town called Ile-Ife (which means house of love) in south-west Nigeria. My family then moved to South Africa and I have lived in Cape Town, Johannesburg and now, Pretoria. 

Did you transition or big chop? Share your natural hair journey with us I have been natural most of my life although I relaxed my hair for 4 years in high school then transitioned after. Growing up in Poland, I was the only black girl in my school but I didn't feel uncomfortable having a hair texture that was different to most of my classmates. I suppose I just accepted that I was different and there wasn't much else to it. My mum would put my hair into six plaits with colorful bands and clips and I loved the end look even though she always pulled very hard!  When we moved to Nigeria, she would take me to the market where we had a hairdresser who would weave my hair into all sorts of styles and also used wool sometimes. I loved when the wool was taken down and I could see how long my hair had grown and what it looked like stretched. Then at 11 years old,  I went to a secondary school in Ile-Ife where all the girls were required to cut their hair as it was perceived to be neater and more manageable. I remember going to the salon and instead of exploring a new style with my hairdresser, sitting in the unfamiliar barber's chair. It broke my heart to see my hair falling to the ground as he worked but I didn't let it show on my face. I laughed with him and my mum when they said I looked just like a boy. 

When we moved to South Africa and I started high school, I was so excited to see that I could have braids, twists and the weaving again but I also noticed that most of my classmates had relaxed hair and I begged my mum to let me have the same. I suppose that unlike in Poland, I wasn't as different to these girls and I wanted to fit in more. She gave into my nagging and over the next four years, I relaxed my hair and would also do braids and weaving styles. My hair had always been very thick in Nigeria and probably shoulder length just before I cut it for school. But it became very thin once I started relaxing, especially close to my nape. It would break very easily and seemed to stop growing. One day in 2004 as my mum helped loosen my braids and we again marveled at how much breakage we could see in my ends when compared to my lush new growth, my mum suggested I stop relaxing all together. I think I agreed because I didn't want to feel the burning sensation of the chemicals that day but I stuck with it and haven't relaxed my hair since. 

This, however, didn't mean I was comfortable with my natural texture. I stuck with weaves and braids through varsity. I could count the number of times I would leave my afro out and the attention I would receive -both positive and negative- would make me so uncomfortable that I wouldn't show my natural hair for another year. While I could see my hair was growing, I didn't know how to deal with the constant tangling and dryness I faced so keeping it hidden became the routine. Then in late 2012, I googled black girl with long hair and viola, the famous blog came up. I read more and more blogs and also started watching You Tube videos. These helped me address questions from how to wash my hair to how to detangle and style. When I went to Nigeria, I also bought large quantities of shea butter which became my staple moisturizer and sealant.   I became more exploratory with styles and began to understand my natural hair better. 

How would you describe your hair texture? My hair would probably fall in the 4a to 4c category depending on where you touch and feel. My crown and front area tend to be much softer with a clearly visible coil pattern while the back and sides are thicker, much denser, less defined and more coarse. The back area tends to get dry faster while the front stays moisturised for much longer. 

Describe your style regimen over the course of the month and the rationale for the various styling decisions? I try to deep condition and wash my hair every two weeks although I do get lazy at times. I then spritz with water during the week and apply my koili butter every second or third day, depending on when I notice any dryness.  That's pretty much it! I was not kidding when I said I was a low-maintenance kind of girl!

What does wash day look like for you? Wash day normally starts on Friday when  I pick up a deep-conditioning pack from Clicks and fortify it with olive and coconut oil. I apply this to my hair in sections, wrap in a plastic bag and leave it to soak in overnight. This combination makes my hair soft and tangle-free while washing and later through the course of the week. I then shampoo and condition using the Aussie Moist range with Macademia oil in the morning and use the Tresemme Moisture Rich Conditioner as a leave-in. I prefer using my castor and avo kɔɪli butter right after washing due to its deep conditioning properties then switching to the marula and jojoba variation during the week as it is somewhat lighter for my already thick hair. I could easily take half a day to wash and style my hair in the past but I have managed to cut this down to 2-3 hours now-still a bit of time but a worthy investment in my mind. 

Describe your favourite go-to hairstyle for days when you don't have a lot of time to style I live in buns and puffs all day everyday! They are easy, takes less than 5 minutes and looks chic and neat at all times. Because I am Muslim, I have also recently started covering my hair in hijab which has greatly reduced my styling times. But I still try to make an effort and keep my hair looking fresh while also exploring different quick styles. 

How do you combat shrinkage (if you do)? Shrinkage used to bother me greatly when I was in varsity but now I find that I don't mind it at all as I know my hair is healthy and growing even if it looks like I shaved 90% of it off after washing :) I, however, twist or use wool to stretch my hair right after washing as this makes my styling much easier during the week without excessive pulling to get my buns and puffs in place. 

What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require extra care and attention As highlighted above, my nape area tends to be very fragile and my hairline tends to suffer when I do braids or weaves. I use more of my castor and avo kɔɪli butter to deeply nourish these regions and stimulate hair growth after any (mis)adventures. 

What are 2 do's for your texture? Spritzing with water and using my butter generously. 

What are 2 don'ts for your texture? Over-shampooing and sleeping without a scarf over my hair tend to leave me in a dry, tangled state 


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