Abigail Oyekunle – Braiding Expert: A Black woman’s guide for beautiful braids

Abigail Afroye hair
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Abigail Oyekunle created and runs her mobile hairdressing business called A-FROyé Hair. She specialises in braids, cornrows and crochet hairstyles, and recently launched The A-FROyé Hair Club which is an after-school programme, teaching young people how to braid. She took time out from running her business to tell Afrowoman Online how she got started and tips on keeping our natural hair and braids in the best condition…

How did you start your hair braiding business? Was this braiding your own hair and the hair of every Black woman close to you?

I was always interested in hair when growing up. I had a book with step-by-step guides on how to create different hairstyles, and I would always attempt to recreate them on my dolls and friends. When going to the hairdressers as a kid, I was very observant and learned how to do box braids (referred to as single plaits at that time) by simply watching. I then started practicing the style on aunties and friends who would give me a chance to. Over the years I continued doing hair on the side, but I didn’t feel super confident in my abilities. Consequently, I only decided to start showcasing my services about 3 years ago, once I’d built up enough confidence. I then decided to establish a hair business in 2020 after participating in a free business programme at UCL.

Firstly, I think it’s important to say that braids have been and forever will be in style! So, I believe black women will always experiment with braids.

Copyright: A-FROyé Hair

What has been your hair journey? Have you tried everything from relaxed, weaves and braids or always natural?

I’ve pretty much been natural all my life. I’ve always had a lot of hair too, so my hair was considered ‘tough’ when growing up. As a result, my hair was relaxed maybe three times when I was about 6 or 7, but my hair reverted to its natural state without any issues, thankfully! I’ve tried various hairstyles over the years, but my fondest memories are of my brother taking me to get my hair cornrowed in Hackney when we were kids. Since then, I’ve tried weaves, crotchet, and wigs, but my definite go-to hairstyle is braids.

How do you think the message and conversation about our natural hair and braids has changed?

I think there has been an obvious shift in the types of conversations being had about natural hair. We’re no longer hearing about how tough and undesirable our hair is, but rather how beautiful and versatile it is. We are now being taught about the value of embracing our natural hair, especially as a means of knowing and loving our identity. It’s also been nice to see how men have also embraced these conversations and now readily verbalise their appreciation of our natural hair.

I think there has been an obvious shift in the types of conversations being had about natural hair. We’re no longer hearing about how tough and undesirable our hair is, but rather how beautiful and versatile it is.

Have you seen a trend in Black women transitioning to braids and being more creative with their braids?

Firstly, I think it’s important to say that braids have been and forever will be in style! So, I believe black women will always experiment with braids. But what I’ve noticed over the years is, as more black women have started their natural hair journey, they are either getting braids for the first time, or deciding to get them done again after a very long period of time – like since they were kids!

Are there any popular braiding trends that you’ve seen and your clients are asking for?

Definitely knotless braids and all the different variations of it!

Is there a particular type of hair that’s more suited to braids?

For me, generally, the kinkier the hair, the better as there’s less slippage during installation. But, the style of braids certainly determines which hair type is better suited. For instance, if you have really straight or super coiled hair and you choose to get a large braided ponytail, then your ends are more likely to stick out of the braids. This can be rectified using gel to smooth the ends, but I appreciate that not everyone likes gel being used on their hair. So, I would advise that women check the suitability of their hair for a certain style of braids before getting it done.

How does braiding help a Black woman’s hair?

Braiding can help protect a black woman’s hair from drying out, from breakage caused by overmanipulation, and heat damage. However, care should be taken during and after your braids are installed because they too can cause breakage, especially along your edges if they are too tight. Additionally, when you consistently allow your box braids to hang loose, this can create extra tension around your edges. So, in order to gain the maximum benefit from wearing braids, I would advise to firstly avoid braided styles that you know will put too much tension on your edges, tie your braids back loosely away from your face (I’m guilty of not doing this, so this is a note to self), and allow your hair to breath for at least a couple of weeks before reinstalling your braids.

Copyright: A-FROyé Hair

How should we prepare our hair for braiding? Deep conditioning or trims in advance?

I believe to get the best outcome, your hair should be freshly washed (ideally the day of, or day before installation), well conditioned and moisturised. The key for me is to avoid installing braids on dry hair. Each hairstylist has their own requirements for how you should prepare your hair for braids, so it is important to always check what their conditions are in advance. Getting a trim prior to installation is certainly helpful, especially because it reduces breakage and makes detangling and parting easier. However, I don’t believe it’s always absolutely necessary because braids can be used as a means to hide and protect your damaged ends from further breakage.

How long should we keep our braids in?

To get good value for money and to avoid breakage, I recommend between 4-6 weeks.

What can we expect to see from you and your business in the future? Where can Black women find out about your braiding services?

Last year, I began The A-FROyé Hair Club, which is an Afro-inspired hair braiding programme for kids. The first programme was a great success, and since then I’ve also run a Father’s Day special braiding class for dads to learn how to braid their child’s hair. I’ve seen the massive impact this programme has had on participants so far, so one of my main goals for the future is to run more sessions of The A-FROyé Hair Club nationwide, to continue educating kids and adults especially of the black community, on the beauty of our hair! To follow my journey with this, or if you would like to check out my hairdressing services, you can follow me on Instagram (@a_froyehair) and FB (@afroyehair).

Tell us about your hair journey below – have you tried braids or thinking about trying it?

#Afrowomanonline #Afrohair #Blackwomenshair #Blackwomensbeauty

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