Going natural and switching to safe synthetic is a huge transition for me, my being wholly natural doesn’t stop at hair, but everything – food, creams, soaps, perfumes and working towards make-up. I now have “bad chemical-phobia”. My transition started in my room, one July morning after being exhausted with the chemicals I was using to clear my sand/sun fly bites that I got in Benin where I was visiting my cousins. So here I am in the 21st century trying my best to avoid chemicals, which is very difficult.
In the olden days, our ancestors did not have half of the modern health and skincare knowledge we have now but they lived longer because they did not expose their body to harmful chemicals. They trusted black soaps and good natural substitutes for bathing, palm kernel oil, shea butter and the rest for moisturizing, they did not eat canned foods and they left their hair the way God made it and took good care of it. Fast forward to the 21st century, where with all the discoveries and modern health care equipment people still die of diseases that could have been avoided.
Now, I’m not saying science has not helped us but I would rather substitute my chemicals for organic/natural products that are easy to understand and do not need a chemist to decode for me.
Being natural has made me more aware of the damage that our daily activities cause to the environment. It has made me appreciate plants and their usefulness more. Bitter leaf that grows almost everywhere in Nigeria cures malaria, yet people still die of malaria in the country. I try to avoid canned foods and sodas as much as possible. When I eat out (I rarely do) I ask about the food preparation (yes, you have that right, let the food vendor give you attitude and roll his or her eyes. You’re paying for the food). Which is very important because the battle to make food sweet has led us to “white maggi” and whatnot.
In Nigeria, where refusing refreshments (carbonated drinks, alcoholic drinks) from a host may be perceived as being rude, instead of refusing outright, I opt for water. If I want something colourful to drink I make fruit juice from fruits because the packaged fruits juice aren’t so good (a story for another day).
As a person who has decided to go natural, I’m fully aware that not everything natural is safe and good but I know for most of the time, it is a safer option to industrial chemicals. For example, calabash clay used by pregnant women for morning sickness (nzu in Igbo, ndom in Efik) has been discovered to have high levels of lead and arsenic. For the very good and useful natural products like banana, palm oil, taking it in excess will be very detrimental to one’s health.