Nigerian Gele, its effect on Natural hair, and how to combat it

An average Nigerian lady, whether natural or relaxed, goes to owambe parties, either rarely, moderately or frequently.

In most cases, these parties require that you dress up and tie gele. The final look is always beautiful and a sight to behold, and it is one aspect of the western Nigerian culture that we don’t want to die down anytime soon.

Gele tying process during my introduction using Aso oke

Over the years, different types of gele materials have come in and out of trend, such as segoe, aso oke, Ankara, damask, etc. but one thing is very clear… none of these gele materials have every been friendly to our edges

Finished look
For the gele to come out nice, they must be ties very tight, before being sculpted and structured for a fine finishing. This then becomes a double edged sword of disaster. Firstly, the material is harsh around our edges, secondly they are so tight, that adjusting their position on the head is guaranteed to take some strands off along with them, a perfect recipe for traction alopecia and hair breakage. No wonder many of our party-loving Yoruba mothers have terrible edges. In fact, the popular Nigerian nickname for traction alopecia, Mama mi l’eko, was derived from the women. This is not surprising, seeing that many of them go for as much as 100 parties in a year.

So how do we overcome this problem, especially if you go for parties once in a while, and love to tie gele?

Well, you don’t need to avoid the gele, or the parties. In fact, you can turn this seeming bad omen for your hair into an advantage.

1. wear a satin bonnet or scarf on your head before tying the gele. This will ensure that your edges are protected from breakage, and your hair will retain the moisture you had earlier put on it. The only thing is that you have to tell the person tying the gele not to pull the scarf backwards in the process

2. Simply convert the fact that you have to wear gele to your advantage by going for the baggy method to stimulate hair growth. Just cover your hair with a disposable shower cap, plastic bag or saran wrap, and then tie the gele before going about your business. This way, you protect your edges, your hair is super soft and moisturized after take down, and you get to stimulate your hair growth… all done by your natural body heat.

So yes, tying gele frequently doesn’t have to be a death sentence to your hair and edges. Many unfortunate things that happen to us are largely due to ignorance. But now that you know, go on rocking that gele for the owambe party, and use it to your advantage.

*owambe: Yoruba word for big society parties, where people get to dress up in their native attires


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