In a world of dramatically contrasting poverty and wealth, it's a rare common denominator: the one social status symbol of choice that cuts across Nigeria's vast class and culture groups is hair extensions. And the longer and straighter, the better.
They are so popular that few women in the buzzing commercial cities of Africa's most populous nation openly wear their hair in its natural, curly state. "We're never taught to look after our natural hair, and it's something you're supposed to learn as a child, the way you learn to tie your shoelaces," said Yemi Akinrinade, 28, who struggled to persuade her own hairstylist not to straighten her curls on her wedding day.
Another woman, a blogger known as Natural Nigerian, said women stare at her open-mouthed in salons, where Nigerian stylists usually try to drag their combs through her hair saying "sister we have to control this!"
Some Nigerians have reported that they have been warned to "do something" about their hair at work. Black women in the US and South Africa have pursued successful workplace harassment cases in similar incidents, saying it amounts to discrimination.
In Nigeria, that puzzles many. "South Africans like natural hair because they're not fashion-conscious," said a Lagos salon owner, Abogo Ugwokeghbe. "But Nigerian women like the latest fashion," he added.
Scores of them visit his popular DSalon Downtown chains to straighten their hair. Sodium hydroxide, the key ingredient used in the bi-monthly process, irons out even the toughest afro curls — but burns the scalp if left on too long. It's considered a worthwhile risk, with some perceiving it as a necessity in a hyper class-conscious society.
"No rich man will marry a girl with village [unstraightened] hair," declared Esther, 18, a rural migrant to the capital, Abuja, as chemical fumes wafted off the cream smothered on own scalp in the Natural Beauty salon, a four-seat outfit in a crowded market.
Another popular practice is the application of extensions known as weaves. Strands of hair are attached in a weave-like pattern. Market vendors generally claim to sell genuine versions of the most popular weave, known as a Brazilian — and made from real human hair.
Nigeria's love affair with human hair extensions emerged, via the US, back in the mid-1990s. Then, a handful of boutiques such as Aunty Funmi's sold imported extensions priced in dollars, highlighting those wealthy enough to afford them. Locals still call expensive extensions "Funmi" hair.
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So what do you think of this article ? If you are Natural have you ever been teased for it ? if you have straight hair are you sick of people telling you about their natural hair? However you keep your hair just be you .