Ms Mayowa Allen is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mothers and Daughters Salon, a.k.a MODS Salon. In this interview with JANET ADEYEMI and KELECHI CHUKWUMA, she talks about natural hair, what to know about it and tips that can help one through the natural hair journey.
With your rich experience in the business of hair making and styling, can we hear your thoughts about natural hair and what people should consider before a natural hair journey?
Natural hair, basically is the hair that comes out of the root of your scalp. It is also the God-given hair.
Over the years, in Africa specifically, we have continued to find ways to modify what comes out of the scalp. We want the hair straight because we want it to be like those of the white people.
For the new ‘natural hair community’, what we’ve found is that some people have different hair textures, some people’s hair are thicker than others, some have finer hair while others have coarse hair.
You need soft hair, which is a sign of healthy hair for a natural hair journey. However, even if one’s hair is coarse, it can be softened.
To soften it, give it the right treatment and no matter how coarse, thick or the density of the hair might be, it can still be softened when you use the right treatment.
So, if you want to go natural, you have to know whether the treatment you are going to use is good and must ensure your hair Is healthy. However, if your hair is not soft then it is not healthy.
What group of people cannot grow/maintain natural hair?
‘You hear some people say my hair is so thick, I mean, I can’t go natural’. That’s not true, there’s nothing like that. You can have fragile hair or thin hair and it will still be hard. It’s not about how coarse or how full your hair is. If your hair is not soft then it is not healthy and if it’s softened you can go natural.
Some people believe dying one’s hair causes breakage. What’s your take on that.
If you dye your hair, it means that your scalp is exposed, so chances that your hair will get damaged is higher. So, it’s advisable to do a treatment every two weeks after dying your hair because you have exposed it to chemicals. However, when you use the necessary treatment your hair won’t break.
Let’s talk about hair stretching. Some say when you stretch your natural hair it exposes it to dandruff etc. What do think?
The natural hair has shrinkage, that is it is naturally curly. It is the way our hairball is shaped and that makes hair come out curly.
What you mean by stretching is to make the hair straight. Stretching can be done in different ways. If you do it with the right chemical treatment it will not revert to the curl it had before.
Another stretching you can do is with thread when the hair is wet. You can thread it and the hair will stretch.
Many feel that threading is outdated?
It isn’t in the natural hair community. We still do threading to style the hair, we still do threading even without necessarily blow-drying. So, when we say stretching, we can blow-dry as well to stretch the hair to make it straight and that is just temporary and when you do that you have to put things in place like heat protector, to ensure the hair is treated before you do that. Do the necessary things you need to do and do not make the heat too high.
You talked about using the right product on your hair, these days a lot of people come on social media with different concoctions such as rice water, avocado, coconut, and say they’re good for hair treatment. Do you believe in these concoctions, do they really work?
What happens is this, people that make hair products put the products through the test before they say the product is good for the hair.
The disadvantage of doing it at home (DIY) is that you don’t know if it’s going to work.
If you cannot determine the right pH, for example the avocado you’re mixing, how long it has been in the fridge, how long it has been out, if you cannot do the test to see the effect it will have on the hair, then you cannot guarantee that it will work for you. So, someone can do it and be like, “oh it worked!” It’s just a fluke. For another person, if the mixture measures up to the right pH for her hair then it will work. But someone will do exactly the same thing and it won’t work because she has not been able to test the product she is going to use for her hair. It is a lucky venture, there is no science to it.
We can’t say this will work or this won’t work, that is the disadvantage of DIY. We encourage you to use a scientifically proven product
Let’s take it down to the business of natural hair. How did you start up, why did you go into this business?
I started the business because I wanted to go natural. I will go to a salon and they will tell me, let’s retouch your hair and I will be like I don’t want to retouch my hair and it didn’t make sense to them. So, I decided to open a salon to cater for my natural hair and as at that time, natural hair salons were few, I think it was only Kemi that had opened one then.
So, I started with my hair, we experimented, I brought more people in and then over time, it grew to what it is today. What we found out was that it became a trend and more people got into natural hair.
The thing is that not everybody knows how to handle natural hair, it is a skill you have to learn. So, that’s how we started and we have been developing ourselves in the last seven years.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
The pandemic did affect us because we had to shut down for some time, but what we did was to contact our customers and we were doing some home services during that period. We had to go to people’s houses, reduce their price in order to cater for our staffs, putting them into consideration. Also, our rent was still counting, so we had no choice but to continue the business.
You talked about home service and we are aware of the insecurity in the country and other stories out there, doesn’t that make you skeptical about doing home services?
We contacted our well-known customers, we only do home service for people that we know, they send their details to us, we verify and we go.
How long have you been in this business?
I started my natural hair in 2013, and I started my business in 2014, so I have been in business for seven years now and still counting.
Can you say that the natural hair business has been lucrative?
Well, I will say any business you put your mind to do, that you work hard at, and try to develop yourself at every stage will work. For me the business has really worked, I am committed, so whatever business you try to do and give it your all will work.
What is the first advise you would give a person who’s new to the natural hair community?
The first thing is to cut out the permed hair, because the way to deal with permed hair is different from that of natural hair. So, I encourage people to cut out the permed hair and start afresh, if you leave it, your permed hair will not be healthy, the same with your natural hair.
Are there products that should be avoided as a newbie to natural hair growth?
One thing about natural hair is that some things might work for you but it will not work for someone else, so people will say they use Shea butter and insist you use it, or they say use that product. So, when you start your natural hair journey, test different products except relaxers of course.
Would you say the CBN restriction on the dollar has affected the way you do business?
It has because we have inflation, our transportation has gone up, the price of foodstuff in the market has also gone up. So, I look for a way to pay my staff well, if not it will affect the business. The price that people use to make their hair has gone up because things are expensive, the dollar rate is alarming, even hair color too is expensive, including other hair products.
How can we maintain healthy hair without breaking the bank?
You have to wash your hair regularly, apply conditioner, live in conditioner and hair cream every time to ensure the hair is well moisturized.
Moving away from natural hair, let’s talk about national issues. What is your advice to women doing business in today’s Nigeria?
My advice for them is to stay focused, get the knowledge that they need, because nobody knows it all. If you find yourself in a situation where you are struggling, get the knowledge and do better, look for how to develop yourself, if you see anybody doing a master class in that field, gain knowledge, find a way to evolve.
What is your take on insecurity in Nigeria?
It’s true we see things happen all over social media, we have to be cautious, people should make sure they don’t expose themselves to a situation where bad things can happen to them.
Politics in the country is in a wonderful situation right now. What do you think would work?
I remember I really supported Buhari, I was looking for a change and something different. We are where we are today and everybody is trying to adjust to what we have seen so far, I think that in Nigeria we do not need democracy. I feel like we are not educated enough to make a decision, we need a military regime, someone that can think through issues very well and help the country to advance. Someone who has a good mindset and integrity.