One of the many reasons I hated doing my hair growing up was that I had to go to the local hairdresser’s shop down the road. Why was this a problem? Because I had to go through the things I’ve listed below. I’m sure the people who also went to these types of salons will be able to relate.

Sitting on a very small hard stool 

I don’t know why they always made kids sit on those tiny wooden stools while the adults got to sit on proper chairs. Those stools were so hard that by the time you got up, your bum and back would ache like you’d been lifting weights. 

Putting your head between their thighs 

If this didn’t happen to you at least once as a kid, then you didn’t go to a local hairdresser. They’d shove your head between their thighs,  forcing you to breathe in the smell of their old, musty wrappers. As I’m writing this, I’m traumatised all over again. 

Using the three-tooth wooden comb to part your hair

Without even looking at the picture, I’m sure you already knew the comb I’m referring to. That comb was so sharp, it could double as a weapon. The worst part is that the hairdressers were never careful with how they used it. It’s as if they purposely wanted to rip open your scalp. Also, why did they always start parting the hair from the beginning of your nose? It felt like some sort of initiation.


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Damatol burning your scalp

The parting wasn’t complete until they used Damatol medicated hair cream to seal it. I hated that cream so much because it always made my scalp burn. There’s no way that that cream was good for the hair. 

Gist being given above your head

Mama Bola or Iya Saheed always had one gist about somebody in their neighbourhood or their group of friends. Unfortunately, they always had to give the gist while doing a person’s hair and being loud as hell. Sometimes, they would pause to properly give the gist, leaving you sitting there with a head of half-done hair. As someone who wanted to get my hair done as fast as possible, I cried every time this happened to me.

The hairdresser trying to control their annoying kids 

Every hairdresser had at least one annoying child running around and scattering the whole place. Every five minutes, you’d hear, “Abbas, will you stop that?!” Or, “Abbas, don’t let me come there and slap you!” Then at some point, Iya Abbas would have to leave your hair to go and beat, feed, or carry the child on her back. 

No light

I don’t know whether hairdressers had beef with NEPA, but they hardly ever had light. The struggle was real. Imagine being in a small space with many other people, your head in between a person’s thighs, hot cream on your head and forehead, and no light. It’s God that saved us from dying of heat. 

They’ll comb your hair like they’re upset 

It’s clear that these hairdressers had something against children. Why else did they comb our hair so aggressively? Then there’s the way they used to push our heads around as if they were playing basketball. Honestly, these new kids will never know the ghetto struggles we faced, and I’m jealous. 

They’ll pick your brain and edges 

It’s only recently that they started leaving edges while weaving hair. Back then, local hairdressers would pick the last strand of hair at the beginning of your head. Not a single “baby hair” was left outside. That’s the only way that they felt like they did a good job. If they could, they’d pick your eyebrows too. 

You’ll love this story, trust me: The Secret Life Of a Nigerian Hairdresser*



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.