black women with natural hair in europe
Natual and lovin’ it in London. (I’m on the right)

Generally speaking, Afro-Europeans see my natural hair as something that needs to be fixed with perm or covered up with a wig and this kind of thinking frustrates me. Living in Berlin I can honestly say that I miss seeing women wear two strand twists, afro puffs, dreadlocks and other natural hair styles. Apart from the occasional American tourist,black women in Europe typically rock straight hair, weaves and extensions. I imagine the pressure for a women of color to appeal to the European standard of beauty must be stifling in Germany.Ironically, that pressure doesn’t come directly from the Germans themselves but from other Afro-Europeans.

I experienced similar peer pressure in America when I went natural ten years ago. The most vocal critics of my decision were my black family members, colleagues and friends. The naysayers took their own insecurities and misconceptions about natural hair and tried to pass them off as the overall perception of the dominant culture. I see the same behavior here in Germany but even more so, as if to wear your hair in its natural state is an indicator of being “too black to handle” or unwilling to conform to the German way of life.

The pursuit for long, straight and “manageable” hair sometimes creates casualties. Not only does the quest take its toll on the tender psyche of young German colored girls but concern for overall hair health is thrown out of the window. The primary motivation of many is to cover up, not cultivate their hair so little time is spent learning how to keep their locks growing healthily. When I take a quick visual survey of Berlin’s colored girls, I often see missing edges, fried ends, matted extensions and poorly executed weaves. I do not have hard statistics but I am amazed at the number of side-eye-worthy heads I have seen during my time living and traveling around Europe. The women here seem to prefer “damaged yet straight”over “healthy and nappy.”

There are a few contributing factors to the state of black haircare in Europe, beginning with black women don’t make up a significant percentage of the population. The small brown numbers result in less demand for products which leads to less hair care techniques and tools, leaving stylists being years behind their counterparts in places like America. There is almost no pressure tohave any representation of black women in the media due to the low buying power of the black woman in Europe. There are no magazines like ESSENCE and few websites like Parlour Magazineare published in European languages. Many women don’t have high expectations for their hair because they don’t see many examples of black women, never mind black women with healthy hair. Environmental Factors such as climate and water can also be damaging. Berlin has some of the hardest water I have ever experienced, it’s loaded with calcium and other minerals that leave my hair dry and damaged. It took me months to sort out the right routine for my dry scalp (hint: water filters are awesome).

Black  natural hair care in America is not perfect but it is light years ahead of Europe. Outside of major cities with larger black populations like London and Paris, black women in Europe rarely take advantage of their hair’s versatility and usually linger around the straight end of the spectrum. Permed hair, weaves and extensions are not bad but they seem to be the only options many women entertain due to limited education about natural hair.

Be sure to check out my weekly featureand the rest of the great content over at Parlour Magazine


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19 Responses to Black in Berlin: Why My Natural Hair is Unnatural in Germany

  1. Oneika says:

    It's true that I have seen some JACKED UP weaves here in London! It's definitely for the reasons you've mentioned. I wanted to get my locks maintained but the few salons I found were charging wayyy too much money.

    I also wanted to comment that as a Black Canadian, I have noticed that hair care products that cater to Afro textured hair are scarce in Canada. We just don't have the range and variety that you do in the States. I'm from Toronto and remember that any time I would go to the States with my mom that the FIRST thing we would do was load up on hair care products to bring back to Canada with us.

  2. Nikki says:

    It's unfortunate how few products there are…glad I found your blog though! via twitter (AsWeTravel). Always good to see a fellow American living in Europe! Especially proud to see some diversity living in Berlin!

  3. When I first started my quest with going natural it wasn't a big thing on the east coast of the U.S. so I can say that I do understand what you are saying even though we are miles and miles away. Now there are so many products I had lost control with being a pj until I locked it up. I have to say it took me close to 30 years to love my natural hair and I will NEVER look back! It was a liberating experience for me and I am glad that I finally kept my promise with myself and my husband.
    I found a natural hair site based in the UK a year ago it is called The Natural Lounge for any of your readers that feel helpless like I did in the beginning. Of course, there are numerous natural hair sites on the web but at least this one can help some women in Europe with local products. I will have to agree with you on your comments about why Black women in Europe are still wearing their hair chemically altered. Hopefully one day they will take the blinders off and realize that their crowning glory was not meant to be tamed!
    I am a little late here with finding your blog and videos but your bookmarked now. I love your blog and youtube vids keep up the good work. You are inspiring me to plan a trip to Europe sometime in the future!

  4. I'm mixed and I have a head of crazy curly hair, and I'm not a fan of straight hair. I see a lot of black ladies here (in Nürnberg) with straightened hair and it's just a little sad. I had to get my hair trimmed so I went to another black lady that spoke English and her suggestion to me was to restructure my hair to make it more manageable. I was like- nahhh I'm good, I love my naturally curly hair, although it definitely is tough to get good hair care products here without going online. I love that you talk about this topic, it is something I'm learning here.

  5. @nikki welcome! and thanks for commenting. there are quite a few americans and loads of diversity. my friends alone comprise of peeople for like 20 different countries. it's totally bananas

    @sunnie ooh i should check out the natural lounge, i used to belong to a site called nappturality. It's great that is local and can advise on products. being natural in america is not the same as being natural here. the reaction from the men is also different here :) welcome really glad you found me!

    @elliegoestogermany wow restructured, that is a new one! afro germans come up to me and touch my hair and make faces like 'oh this is not good, perm it, fix it, what is this, is it braid, time to takei t out or it will fuse' i am like chick, where are YOUR edges you need to be checking for those!

  6. V.X.R. says:

    For what it's worth. If anyone is in Amsterdam, the De Pijp is a neighbourhood where there are beauty supply shops with haircare products galore. Name the product you can find here.

    Going with the fro!

    V.X.R.

  7. Dee123 says:

    Hi thanks for the article! Is there any good salons you would recommend in Berlin? I am 10 months natural ( did the big chop a week ago). I am living in Austria (and there is no good salons out here). I would love to get some color and maybe a shape up. Thanks in advance!!

  8. Yvi says:

    I have been living in München for the last 5 years and have been natural the the 2 years. Whe I first moved here, I looked forward to my trips up to London to see a decent stylist to relax my hair. In München, hair stylists that give a good service and does not charge an arm and a leg are far and few in between.

    Since I have been natural, I do everything myself. I stock up on products everytime I go home (NYC) about twice a year and it suffices. It is a shame that a lot of the natural hair products could be sourced from Africa directly (like shea butter, oils, etc.), but just not found in vast quantites here. Mostly I find relaxers of all kinds and sheen sprays. One day, they may catch up here, one day!

  9. lila says:

    I agree with you on the straight-over-healthy thing (in a lot of cases) and we don’t have the variety of products that you can choose from in the States. But I have to agree with some of the girls that the tone is infelicitous.
    We are not light years behind you. I honestly don’t believe that we need products especially formulated for “black people with curly/nappy/African hair wanting to go natural”. The products you can get in an ordinary drug store are fine as long as you pick the right ones.
    What bothers me the most is the section about the “contributing factors”. I think you are completely on the wrong track. You have larger buying power because there are more black people in the States by absolute numbers but still you are a minority. The demand for products is equal (why would there be less demand??) we just purchase different ones.
    The water quality differs from city to city; you can experience soft water in most parts of the country. Of course I know that as a foreigner you only get a small and not so deep insight into the different European societies but you should reconsider your thoughts before you post them.

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks for commenting on the blog directly. I stand by what I said in the article, which I am sure is no big surprise. The light years ahead comment refers to not only products. This isn’t simply a product discussion. Do you have any idea how much Black women in America spend on their hair alone a year? Srsly it is a multi billion dollar industry, and everyone is cashing in on it. So I’m afraid you are point flat out wrong, in that regard. The demand is NOT equal.
      Reconsider my thoughts? It’s an opinion piece, LOL…on a personal blog. By nature it’s based on my experiences and personal observations, and by no means presented as fact. Disagree if you choose to but please don’t attempt to give me advice on how I and when I should post them especially if it’s on my own domain. If you have an issue with it being posted on the curlynikki site, take that up with the editor.
      Cheers

  10. flygirl says:

    Hi all! I’m in Frankfurt and one of very few I see around here with natural hair. I get all my products shipped from friends back home in the U.S. or London. I get all my info from youtube tutorials.

    I started transitioning when I got pregnant because I didn’t want all the chemicals. I later read that relaxers cause fibroid tumors in Black women and I never went back.

    I’m really hoping the natural movement takes off here in Deutschland.

    Let me know if there are ever any natural gatherings! :)

  11. carla says:

    what a lively discussion. i pray that natural hair takes off here in Germany. most black women look so sad under those bad weaves, wigs etc… natural hair means health to me inside and out. products we can make ourselves, a few essential oils, tree oils, just look in the fridge ,i.e eggs, avocados. i rarely buy pre-packaged hair products anymore.

  12. Hello,
    I recently came across a post that you had written about being Black and natural in Berlin. I have recently moved to Berlin from South Africa and have really struggled to find products and locticians in this city for my locks. I am wondering if you have any recommendations and perhaps even forums where such issues are discussed.

    I thank you in advance.

  13. ijeoma says:

    The whole problem is the so called “Afro Shops” down here in Europe, the are not selling Natural Hair produckts, rather they are busy selling Extensions and Wigs. They are so many Blacks Ladies who care for their Natural Hairs, and ready to buy the good produckts.

  14. Kirsys says:

    I am from USA and I’ve lived in Italy, Florence to be exact, for the past 2 years. I understand very well what it is to be in a country where our hair natural hair seems unnatural. I have not been able to find any products that work for my hair and it is a struggle. I would have people send mi products but is very inconvenient here with the postal services so, I am kind of forse to make some of my own products and improvise because it si hard to find some of the ingredients Any way I do hope that the natura hair community expands in Europe. If any one reads this post who lives in the Florence Italy and know anything about natural hair products please let me know. Thanks

  15. Shell says:

    Congratulations on your awakening. You are inspiring others….now. Before then, you were like all of those who felt under pressure to rock straight hair. So it’s just an issue of TIMING. The awakening is slowly coming to Europe. The US promoted straight hair before and many of us Americans looked down on females with braids. I remember getting teased in High school for wearing braids. My community kept asking me how I wash my hair. So let’s all be gentle on ourselves and each other. No one can look down at anyone. It will all happen in due time. Let’s be supportive and respect the pressure that people are under.

  16. Shell says:

    P.S. As an American living in Belgium with 4a fine low porosity dry hair (the worst according to some of my african-american friends), what has saved my hair journey has been to get products shipped (yes expensively) from the UK. For example, I buy from a site like http://www.britishcurlies.co.uk. Occasionally, I order directly from my favorite brands: Curl Harmony (the Deep Intensive Repair conditioner), the Anita Grant Mango butter). From the local health store, I buy favorite oils and aloe vera juice. I use the Jessicurl Cleansing cream.The Youtube videos keep me connected to the U.S.

  17. rhema says:

    I’m moving from the UK to Munich in a few days. Coming from Birmingham (very culturally diverse with plenty of options for black hair-care), I’m not really sure what to expect! Any help/tips/advice would be much appreciated.

    I have to say, I resisted the temptation to wear braids as I move to Munich just because I didn’t know what to do with my hair. So glad to be rocking my fro – it actually feels so good not to hide my hair away under extensions. This is the first time I’ve done it, so I’m pretty chuffed 😀

  18. […] December 6, 2014 admin Leave a comment   Why My Natural Hair is Unnatural in Germany by Nicole of Nicoleisthenewblack.com […]

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