An interview with Esohe Iyare, the author of Natural and Broke: A Guide
Writing became Esohe Iyare’s dearest passion when she was seven years old and a classmate showed her how to make a storybook with loose pieces of paper. Seventeen years later, Iyare launched her first e-book Natural and Broke: A Guide.
Natural and Broke: A Guide is Iyare’s first attempt at writing and designing a book. The struggle of hair care with limited disposable income and expensive long-lasting protective styles (like braids) can be a pain in the purse. For this reason, Iyare decided to compose a book for the young women and girls who are trying to care for their kinky hair in a world that makes it almost impossible.
When reading the book, sit tight for the jokes, sarcasm, memes and ultra-practical information about hair porosity, hair types, curl patterns, tips for length retention and the best homemade products for natural afro hairs.
sweet-thang got to chat with the Lagos-based writer about the ups and downs of her career and hair struggles, and how she defines loving your afro on a budget.
Maureen: Why was writing this book so important to you?
Esohe: Writing this book was my chance to relax from whatever else was going on in my life at the time. I would open my laptop, sit down at my desk and pour it all out. It felt good, and my favourite part was designing each page.
M: What motivated you to sit down and transfer all your knowledge about afro hair onto a word document?
E: In all honesty? Depression. Being low on cash can really mess with you, and then you go online and see people with luscious afros pouring endless products on their hair, and you just feel like you’re not doing your best. I had a lot going on at the time, and my hair was (and still is) the centre of my self-care. Taking care of my hair is taking care of myself. But then I thought about it and realised that I WAS doing my best. My ancestors didn’t have all these fancy products and they had great hair too, lol! So, to cheer me up I decided to write the book - and make it free - so I could uplift other spirits as well.
M: I first saw Natural and Broke on Twitter. What other methods or platforms are you using to divulge the e-book?
E: Mostly Instagram and WhatsApp. I did mini-campaigns asking people to sign up for the book if they’d like to. I sent messages to people who were in the same natural hair groups as me and asked my friends to share. Eventually, about 100 people signed up, which is not too shabby for a first-time author.
M: You wrote and published this book exclusively in the digital world, why is that?
E: Well, it’s the best way to get the word around fast. Plus, my target audience is broke! Nobody has money to buy a physical book, and I didn’t want the stress of physical books. With a digital book, I could allow my creativity to soar. See how colourful and fun the book was? I wouldn’t have been able to do that with a physical book as efficiently.
M: What is your main goal with this book?
E: I want young women and men with afros who are struggling financially to realise that they’re not alone. Just because you can’t buy every product doesn’t mean you have to give up on your hair. I want them to know that there is someone somewhere walking the same road as them.
M: What is the most annoying yet memorable moment you have experienced regarding your afro?
E: I think of it now and it’s so funny. When I was in my final year of university, I had spent the entire night deep conditioning my hair and doing a crown braid. I go to see my supervisor the next day and he says, “when are you going to make your hair?” It was so awkward because I spent time “making” my hair last night. Must there always be extensions? I wasn’t annoyed because I knew he meant well. And it is weird in my part of the world not to wear extensions often, so he was concerned that something was wrong. Now, I still hardly wear them. If you don’t like seeing my hair, that’s your problem darling!
M: What is your hair care routine?
E: Every week, I wash my hair with aloe vera or rice water, deep condition with ORS replenishing conditioner (I found the 1lt bottle for N3000 or £5) mixed with honey and sometimes aloe vera. I cover with 2 plastic bags, tie a scarf and go about my day (if in the morning, or go to bed at night). When it’s time to shower, I rinse it off and dry it. Then I do the LCO method (leave-in conditioner, cream and oil) and style.
The leave-in I use is Beautiful Textures’ leave-in conditioner, but it is much more expensive now than it used to be. I wanted to get Belle Starr's leave-in, but it was sold out. Luckily for me, I managed to get Dollar Curl Club products during a sale (I had to wait a long time so I could get free delivery because a family member was travelling back to Nigeria). And let me tell you, that leave-in conditioner is life! Plus, it smells like ice cream. I’m in love. Oh, and I clarify with Bentonite clay once a month. Great stuff that clay! My favourite oil is cold-pressed coconut oil, and my favourite cream right now is Miracle Hair Cream (produced in Lagos, and I’ve got a special plug).
M: Having 4c hair is truly challenging and can be frustrating sometimes, speaking from experience. What do you usually do when a hairstyle doesn’t come out the way you wanted, or the shrink ruins your plans of having your afro out and about?
E: 4c hair is a case and half! When a hairstyle isn’t quite looking right, I just turn it into a ‘fine-apple’. You know, that updo that makes your crown look like a pineapple? Yeah, you can never go wrong with that.
M: Do you think most black girls hesitate to go natural?
E: Sometimes. Maybe because they’re scared of the backlash from people around them, just like I was. Or they’re worried that their natural hair won’t suit them, or that it’ll be too hard to manage.
M: In the first pages of the book you thank your brother for supporting your decision of going natural. What influenced this decision? And how have you been feeling since you decided to go natural?
E: My brother has 100% had my back on this journey. In my second year of university, I started considering going natural because I saw Curly Nikki on Steve Harvey’s show and I had just read Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In all honesty, up until then, I didn’t realise that it was possible to not relax your hair. I thought relaxers = proper hair care. Of course, when I started talking about it, I got very HARSH feedback. People were telling me I was wrong and stupid. It was all really surprising because I’m like, I just want to try it. I guess they were projecting their fears onto me. Anyway, when I told my brother he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about and why I was letting people make me feel bad.
When I came home after the semester, he took me to a friend of his who was into natural hair as well. He left me with her for the evening and she was so sweet! She encouraged me to think about my decision and do what I wanted. She even gave me Giovanni Leave-In (the holy grail at that time) and a couple of other products to try out. That was my defining moment. It took me a while to shove relaxers out of my life forever though.
The word-of-mouth culture of hair care is a huge part of how 'natural hair communities' are built between Black women. We talk about our favourite products or Youtubers and learn about secret hacks and DIYs, and it provides an instant feeling of belonging. We asked Iyare to reach out to her communities and answer any questions young black women had regarding their hair care.
Paula Lucas, 23, 4c/4b hair type: I recently found out that the problem with afro hair is not the growth but in the hair loss. Afro hair grows but is ‘weak’ therefore it breaks easily. What are the best oils and products for hair growth?
Hey Paula! True, the problem isn’t so much growth. The kinks in our hair make it more fragile, as every kink is a potential tangle and breaking point. The only limits for hair growth are each person’s biological limits, which is not easy to tell. I believe that if you want to and are willing to invest in it, you can grow waist-length hair. Despite that, I can’t tell you what’s the BEST, but I can say that products containing ayurvedic plants have positive reviews for length retention: amla, aloe vera, fenugreek, etc. Good luck!
Vivian Frimpong, 22, 4b hair type: What is the most effective natural product to grow edges back?
Hi Vivian, most people with type 4 hair swear by Jamaican Black Castor Oil. I’m just trying it for the first time, so I don’t have an opinion yet. Many brands have growth oil. If you find fenugreek, castor oil, hibiscus or Bhringraj - go for it. Massage your edges with it daily and you should see results.
Mayla Santiago, 24, 4c hair type: My hair hasn’t grown in three months. I deep condition my hair every week and spray my hair with water, a leave-in-conditioner and a mix of oils (vitamin e, castor oil and olive oil). Am I doing something wrong?
Hey Mayla, I think the problem is that your hair is growing but you’re not retaining length. Check your other hair practices like detangling, brushing and styles you wear your hair in. Are you leaving your ends out a lot? In addition, if you’re experiencing a lot of breakage, try doing a protein treatment. Feel free to write to me about how it’s going, if you have follow-up questions.
Marina Salvarani, 22, 3c/4a hair type: Any natural remedies you recommend for excessive hair loss and to take better care of my edges? Also, how can I tell my hair lacks protein and how to deal with different textures on my head?
Hi Marina. For a natural remedy, try an ayurvedic hair mask. If you can mix amla, moringa, fenugreek, Brahmi, Bhringraj, shikakai, aloe vera powders or even just a few, I think they’ll do you lots of good. As a result, if your hair lacks protein, you’ll be experiencing a lot of breakage. Your hair will feel limp and if you pull it will break. I suggest you pay attention to where on your head they occur and note how each side responds to the product, that way you can be more strategic with the way you apply them. Hope that helps.
Click below to read Natural and Broke: A Guide
Do not hesitate in getting in touch with Esohe if you want to find out more about her book, upcoming projects and to ask her questions about your natural hair: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Maureen D'Almeida
Read more about her here