“Is your hair real?” I have to admit I still find that question strange, but in Nigeria I do get it from time to time. People usually ask just before they ask if they can touch my hair, or just after they’ve touched it. The reason I react surprised every time someone asks, is that everywhere else, everyone assumes my hair is my hair, though since my hair colour is not very common, I do get questions asking how much I paid for it, which are equally amusing to me.
Real hair or not though, I love going to hair salons in Lagos. I like getting braids. And though my hair isn’t yet long enough that I can just use it to get the style I want, I can use extensions. Funnily enough however, when I do that, I’ve had women come up to me to tell me how lucky I am who has so much hair naturally. The irony.
Having my hair braided at a salon is a bit of an experience if that’s not what you grew up with, which I certainly didn’t. I love having my hair done, so that alone is my reason for going there. It just feels nice to sit down while someone else takes care of it and then come out looking and feeling great afterwards.
Then, it’s the atmosphere in the salon and the strange kind of bonding that happens there. Braids take long, though I’ve been lucky since my first set of twists only took 3 hours while the box braids took 4. I’ve known girls to sit in the chair for a lot longer than that. Still, it’s longer spent in a hair salon than what I’m used to.
The TV and radio are usually on at the same time, though not always. But it creates a very interesting mix of sounds. It also makes me feel like I’m at a party. That feeling is increased by the running around and loud chatter of women and men in different languages.
Often, my hair stylists have not spoken more than basic English, so we can’t talk very much, but we bond over singing instead. The last time I had my hair braided in Lagos, me and my two stylists where taking turns singing verses and parts of choruses to every song that came on the TV. I might never meet these women again, but for as long as I was there, it felt like I was among my best friends. It was so informal and fun. And you get quite comfortable with someone when they’ve done your hair and you’ve been singing together for four hours.
It’s not just the hair part I like about the Lagos salons. I love how you can get pretty much anything done there. At least in some of the big ones. Nails, tattoos and hair for both men and women.
If you’re planning a trip to Nigeria, go to a salon and experience it for yourself. No need to get your hair done. A refreshing manicure and pedicure is enough to experience the salon mood.