Nadia Esi was born out of a salon experience gone wrong - can you tell us more about what happened?
Yes, Nadia Esi was born when I had a salon horror experience back in 2017. When I went to Ghana during the summer before starting university, I decided to end the trip by doing the famous Ghana braids that I always see on Instagram. As soon as the hairstylist started doing my hair I could feel my fragile baby hairs being pulled on, I knew deep down inside that this would end horribly wrong. Two weeks before starting university, I took out these braids and I wasn’t surprised that my edges were completely gone! As someone just starting first year you can imagine how desperate I was to find a solution to my traction alopecia. Luckily, before leaving Ghana I bought a handful of natural oils that I later used to save my hairline.
Would you ever try Ghana braids again? If so, how would you ensure it’s a positive experience?
I do not think I will try Ghana Braids anytime soon. My hairline has been through a lot, from chemically relaxing my hair from the ages of three to eleven, then having traction alopecia from the Ghana Braids; my edges need a break from any hairstyles that cause too much tension. As I continue to use my products to strengthen my hairline, it’s important to remove the practices that caused the problems in the first place.
Have you spoken to any women who share a similar salon experience to yours? What’s your advice for them?
Yes I have spoken to many women that have gone through the same thing or who have suffered from the damage of doing very tight ponytail and buns. My advice to these women would be to refrain from doing damaging hairstyles. A lot of the time women do hairstyles in the name of protection to retain length, however it is important to make sure that these hairstyles do not have adverse effects on the natural hair. For example, large box braids are a great winter protective hairstyle, but these cause tension on the hairline because of the tightness of the style, and the weight of the large braid can be too heavy for the hair follicles which can lead to hair fall. So why not try medium knotless braids? The use of natural hair at the base of the braid reduces tension, while the steady addition of the extensions make the braids lighter.
Overall, women should look at all the safe options available and choose what they like the most, also do research on the hairstylist to ensure that they know how to do hairstyles that actually promote growth or do not break your hair. Finally, if you have suffered damage from a bad hairstyle, your hair cannot grow back if you carry on with the same practices that broke your hair in the first place.
You left Ghana with oils that would later save your hair - did these then become the inspiration behind your own products?
I bought a handful of oils from Ghana such as coconut oil, castor oil, neem oil and more. Not all of the oils worked for my hair in the way I wanted and it took me months of extensive research to understand what works for growth and strengthen. When I finally found the magic formula I tested the products on my university friends and they loved how the product worked for their hair.
What steps did you take to test your products and ensure that they’re safe for use?
I asked microbiologists what they thought of my initial formulations and took the advice they gave me to improve my formula. Once I was happy with the formula, I got the products tested and and started selling to the public.
Your business has gone from strength to strength, even winning funding from Santander. How do you keep on top of Nadia Esi while being a 4th year undergraduate student?
It is very difficult to keep up with all all of the responsibilities I have being a 4th year student; however, having a timetable of when I need to study and sticking to these hours are very important to me. I make sure I spend enough time learning my content and once I’m done for the day I begin working on Nadia Esi, this includes posting on social media, packing orders and planning for the future of Nadia Esi.
I always communicate with my customers so they know who is behind the brand and what I do, so a lot of them are very understanding and very encouraging. Since my products are handmade many of them are willing to wait a little longer for fresh products but my turn around is always under a week, planning ahead helps a lot with this.
What’s your current haircare routine?
I try to wash my hair every ten days. My wash day consists of pre-pooing using Ayurvedic herbs mixed with conditioner to detangle and soften my hair before shampooing with a SLS and Paraben free shampoo. After shampooing I then deep condition for 15/30 minutes.
Throughout the week I moisturise my hair using my moisture mists, and sealing the moisture with my SOFT Serum. I try to minimise the amount of times I touch my hair by doing low manipulation styles such as a top-knot bun, two cornrows or a high puff.
I like to keep it simple because I’m juggling quite a few things and if I find that I’m too busy I just wear a wig for but for no more than a month and I take care of the hair underneath when I do so.
What are your favourite non-damaging protective styles?
I like to play around with all kinds of buns like top-knot buns, slicked back buns, cornrows and wigs. When I do any of these I try to minimise the use of gels that contain alcohol as they dry out my hair, and I try to keep the buns loose, reducing the amount of tension.