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Curly Nikki

Black in Berlin…

By January 27th, 202173 Comments
Black in Berlin...
 
Why My Natural Hair is Unnatural in Germany

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.

Weigh in!

73 Comments

  • Eve says:

    I dare to differ in opinion, I am an African living in
    Africa, the first time I heard about hate toward ones hair and color was when I
    lived overseas. That’s also the first time I almost felt into the trap of self-hate,
    thanks God I refused the idea of self-hate. An ordinary African is hardly ever bothered by
    that, in most cases, it never crosses their mind.

    In my opinion people in Africa hardly care/or think of things
    like hair texture, or curle type. Yes, I live in African and meet Africans from
    other African countries too.

    Africans simply love hair styles, that’s all there is to hair
    in Africa. The truth however is that Africans, just as many of black people in
    the diaspora are not educated when it comes to handling their natural hair, yet
    our hair type has never been an issue to them.

    I personally wore weaves
    and all that, but it was never for the sake of hating my hair, but rather because
    I truly found my hair hard to handle, I was simply uneducated on how to deal
    with our hair. In fact hated weaves, yet
    I used them. I had an itching had from
    it, couldn’t swim on most occasions, the string will fall out in raster
    sometimes and so on, but still I thought it was best solution that time.

    Learning from naturals had just liberated me from wigs and
    weaves that I hated so much.

    One thing is however is true; with globalization, with in
    the last few centuries, ideas of self-hate had been also imported to Africa,
    the believe that straight hair is the right hair. All this magazines about
    perfect image of a black women with straight hair, perm business, skin
    lightening products…. In the past Africans were more about braiding natural
    hair into different styles, sometimes with little added strings of extension
    serving to enrich the style. And that’s what
    naturals are doing today, definitely an accomplishment for majority living in a
    world where subconsciously they were taught to hate themselves.

    Most African will admit today that their hair is hard to manage,
    however hate to the hair and our color is still foreign to many of us.

    For many girls returning to Africa feeling that their hair
    was hated in Africa , I personally think they have an imported insecurity about their hair as they have been used to
    the western image.

    Sometimes people look at you because they adore the hair or
    the way you treated them in an unusual style…that means no hate. And don’t forget
    ladies jealousy and envy expresses itself in many ways.

    Fact is; information like this, teaches us how to manage the
    hair and grow it longer for those who want long hair.

    I to apologies for my English.

  • Elaine says:

    I read about 30% of your article and I must agree based on what I read. Other black people unfortunately project their self-hate and/or perceptions of dominant white culture onto me. My sister for example dreads nappy hair but fortunately I'm aware of the history of processed black hair in America and have strong views on what it represents. For those reasons, I don't foresee myself ever processing my hair again. In fact, I prefer my natural texture…even when it's ultra nappy. There are those of us who see the beauty in our natural hair. I really do think it's takes self-awareness and confidence and experience to walk with pride.

    Living in Washington, DC there's far more acceptance however, in some circles other black people gauge why you chose to wear your own hair. The conversation is usually prefaced with a compliment to massage things. My mother even says things like 'as long as so and so's hair isn't too nappy' and initially I would cringe. She forgot my hair was nappy. Eventually I worked up the nerve to say, 'momma, that's what black hair does. it gets nappy. so nappy that you can't run your fingers through it, that it looks like bugs on top of our hair sometimes, so nappy that I pic it only periodically and must condition it with evoo before doing so.' She just sort of stared at me like I was crazy. Then I asked, 'what happened to the black power movement, with afros and kinks, what happened to us embracing our natural selves, we popularized it so much in the 60's and 70's that even white people wore them.' I really wish we could get back to that or at least back to seeing the beauty in our natural hair.

    And African braid shops are usually horrible. They prefer permed or straightened hair…What's the point in getting twist extensions if I've weakened my hair by straightening it? And I thought that maybe Africans…who don't have the history of American supremacy and racism might have a different pov, but no.

    I commend you for keeping your coils. People project their insecurities onto other people because they don't have the wherewithall to do what they want…but deep down I'm sure they admire natural sisters for doing what they don't have the guts to do.

    Peace and Blessings,

    Elaine

  • blackexpat says:

    I'm a Black American in Frankfurt and co-sign everything you said. I went natural 3 years ago and love it. People look at me and my hairdresser (who I haven't seen since-LOL!) was against it, but whatever. I'm never going back to relaxers. There aren't a lot of natural examples here, but my sisters in America have my back and I will rock this 'fro.

  • Samantha Chiamaka James says:

    In Lagos, huh? I was there about a month and a half ago and I'll be there again some time soon. I've never heard of natural hair meetups there, though (won't mind attending some).
    I have to say, in Lagos, there are still LOADS of curly hair haters. I have met the most there. There was on place that all through, one lady kept making nasty comments about how curly and thick my hair is.
    Things are changing, yes. I have seen a few more naturals there, but there are still LOADS of haters.

  • Rose says:

    Thanks for this article! It's true – every time I encounter a black girl here in Germany (and that isn't very often) she usually wears weave or has relaxed hair. I am a mixed girl from Berlin. As opposed to Elyris my mother is Middle Eastern with wavy hair. My hair was never unkempt or dry and always looked fine. She went through great lengths to learn everything about my hair and how to take care of it.

    But it wasn't easy around here with natural hair. Kids would make fun of my hair, I had no role models and the only standard of beauty that I knew of was the German one. Everyone had straight or wavy hair and I wanted that, too.
    But I am actually quite cowardly and couldn't bring myself to relax it. So I wore braids for a couple of years (my mom braided them – it took around five hours and looked perfect – I still wonder how she did it). After that when I was in high school I started using a flat iron. And there it finally was! It was shiny, pin straight and long – everything a girl can wish for.

    Two years ago I finally realized that I didn't want to hide my hair for the rest of my life. I stopped straightening it but it was already too late. The heat damage was horrible but I didn't know that then. I thought my curl pattern had changed naturally over the last few years and that I had 3 type hair now.

    I wouldn't have known that I actually had heat damage hadn't I decided to chop all my hair off (It was not really a big chop – I just did it because I thought it would look cool). Cutting my hair finally revealed my real curl pattern — tiny coils — and now I am really glad that I have the chance to grow back healthy hair!
    Websites like yours help me a lot not to make those mistakes again and take better care of my hair. So ,thanks!

    PS: The water is really horrible here. Every time I go on vacation I am flabbergasted by how soft the water is everywhere else!

  • nicki says:

    I don't really like the tone of this article im a black women born and bred in England my parents were also born here(my grandparents originally from the Caribbean) and i had no problem finding black hair products. i also do not live in London the area i live in used to have hardly any person or color till i was around 14 but i didn't actual mind that i was 1 out 3 black people in my class because my white friends treated me with no difference and i never got pressurized to have more straighter hair. it was actually other black people who made the negative comments to me and made me fill more uncomfortable being around them .however i do have some black friends and they are not natural but i do not care what they do with their hair its their own hair who cares what you do with it. i decided to stop relaxing not because i felt like i was self hating or felt like i had to conform i actually liked having relaxed her i just didn't like the chemical process which is why i am natural now even though i do dye my hair. so not every black women in Europe feel like they are pressurized to conform to the European standard and even if a person does conform who cares sometimes i straighten my natural hair i also have dyed my hair several colors at the moment im blonde/orange because i just love the standout different hair colors.

  • Jenn says:

    To Nicole: Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you continue to to write about your perspective despite a few strongly worded negative comments. You don't have to represent the whole of the black european experience in order for your article to have some validity and to educated others. Just wanted to throw some support your way and say thanks.

  • 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.

  • Viola says:

    thank you bookbutterfly. I'll be getting back to you soon!

  • chilid856 says:

    Has anyone in the European area watched FusionofCultures? She has beautiful thick, coiled hair. I hope I classified her hair right. Naptural85, her YT channel, is here in the states but she has been a great help to me also. I'm not on anyone's side but I believe that you get the side eye form the black community all over. I have had people say to I have natural hair. But I'm not as brave as you to wear it out. They wear weaves, braids. But them ask me what do I use on my air because their hair don't look like my hair, their hair is starting to thin and break. I tell them in a nice way that they hair can't breathe take a break from the weave and braids. I give them some pointers to the best of my knowledge, give them YT channels to watch, and even offer to give them a little of what I make at home to start them out. I only use my DIY shea mix, rose and lavender water, cheap suave conditioners, DIY shampoo, DIY deep conditioners. I'm on a budget and I find that DIY has helped me a lot with saving money. Because sometimes the natural hair products can be expensive, mostly the online products.

  • Elyris says:

    Well, it is possible (Amazon or Lexies curls), but the products are often significantly expensive. As an example: Last year I've been to Canada for a week and I've bought the moroccan argan oil conditioner from organix for like 3 something dollar at Walmart and on Amazon it was about 15 Euro (that would make something around 17 Dollar I think). I thought that this is ridiculous and stepped away from that. At Lexies curls they got more products, but mostly the more costy ones and to be honest I have to go on budget for what I do.
    For now I tried different conditioners (the only one ever mentioned on curly hair sites I can actually buy here is the Herbal Essences Hello Hydration) for cowash and found a shampoo made from 'healing earth', but it's not all too cheap either. Luckily I was able to get a good portion of shea butter online (NO chance to get that here) and some virgin coconut oil at a organic grocery shop (costy too). I mix those up with some 'almond body oil' from Kneipp (consisting of Jojoba oil, Almond oil, some vitamin E). I've tried to use conditioners as leave ins but it juts didn't worked, so ony use the shea butter mix on wet hair and that's about it.

    Thank s to you all for your kind words (and compliments about my english lol).

  • Hilary B. says:

    that's awesome that you now have a regimen that works for you. this was a great read, thanks for sharing!

  • Hilary B. says:

    your English is perfect! Thanks for sharing your perspective, it's great to read about how people are learning to care for their hair especially from a point of view that we often don't hear. Is it possible that you could get products from online? I imagine the shipping costs might be high though

  • BonnBonn says:

    I am extremely offended by your article. As a mixed German
    (Afro-Deutsch I’m sometimes called) that had lived in both Germany and the
    United States for a very long time, I know that I am gorgeous just the way I am. Yes, I wear perms
    and have ventured into weaves, but you suggest I do this because I want to be
    someone that I am not. We, as women,
    do things to beautify ourselves,
    depending upon what fits best. I
    think I look best with long straight hair, so I straighten it. Personally, I find
    your look unprofessional and not fit for the size of your face or its type. The
    woman in the pink on the photo- her hairstyle fits her slim face- but to each
    his own, right? Straight long hair fits
    mine. Since I’ve lived in the USA for quite a long time, I learned that men especially
    might find your look to be unaccommodating, but don’t bring your insecurities
    here to Europe. You mentioned being looked at about your hair. How do you know
    that is the issue? Just be the best you
    can be and fix yourself for the best. Don’t worry about others.

  • Nigeria Riggins says:

    thank you.. i got the same thing out of the article and I think Dee missed the point of thw article. for more clarification, i think "encouraged" should be replaced with "made aware of other possibilities". I didn't think this article was meant to be divisive among races at all though.

  • bookbutterfly says:

    check on the alverde brand from dm. They're doing some organic products at a reasonable price point.

  • bookbutterfly says:

    I think that may be so for the younger generation, but those grown African women are so ingrained that even if the information was there, they wouldn't necessarily change their minds.

  • bookbutterfly says:

    Hey Nicole, I saw that you posted this on your site last year. I read this last night and thought, 'Yay, someone's writing about Germany… [then] wow, what is she talking about?' I know you cannot write from everyone's perspective. And yes, Germany would be considered natural hair boondocks. But I thought I should point out a few things.
    1. Water hardness is not the same all over Germany. There are actually now hair products (eg. Guhl) that combat this. There are also water filters on the market.
    2. The lack of salons just means that a naturalista has to be more proactive in getting her OWN information – we do have Internet over here.
    3. The fancy products are available. Amazon delivers. Big shout-out to www.lexies-curls.de who ships in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
    4. Anyone can get their own mixologist on: All the apple cider vinegar, shea butter, and various oils are available now in regular supermarkets, organic food shops, asian or african shops (in German: drogeriemärkte).
    5. If you read German, there are quite a few new blogs like
    http://afrodeutschehairlichkeit.blogspot.de/
    and
    http://www.krauselocke.de/
    that are hip, young, and testing out products, reading through product labels and reviewing products available HERE for naturals. If you don't read German, well… you're missing out… not really, just get Google Translate running.

    I've lived here 10 years, and things have gotten so much better. Back in the day, I didn't care so much, I stuck to supermarket organic olive oil and cheapy conditioner for my twists, and my hair still grew. Which is why I'm not a big fan of getting relatives to send me hairproducts.

    So I have to knock you on that one though.

    On the other hand, you are dead on about those African ladies. They just have a different mentality about hair. Even 'diaspora' ways to tie a headscarf will earn you a side-eye. It's not my job to missionize to them. They're doing them and are happy with that, and I'm doing me and am happy with this.
    My white European friends and neighbours all compliment me on my hair, my styles – because most Germans (at least where I live) nowadays appreciate a naturalness (of personality, hair, etc) over something that looks fake and/or badly done.

    I personally think that in order to get on well in a new country/society, you have to let go of comparisons to your home country and try to come to terms with what you have in front of you. Constant comparisons only lead to homesickness. My philosophy is 'Home is good. Here is different, and can be good too, if I open my eyes to see it.'

  • Jennika McClean says:

    This is also common in the Caribbean. My parents are from Barbados and every time I go with them to visit, the majority of women usually wear their hair straight. I've been natural for two years and even got my mum go to natural as well (yey!). Since my mum has a different texture than I do ( she has curly, fine hair, while mine is kinky and coily) she doesn't get that much flack about her hair but I've received a few negative comments from family members. It was said in a joking manner but it's pretty much the the general attitude towards natural hair in Barbados. I haven't been back in a while so maybe natural hair is more accepted nowadays.

  • bookbutterfly says:

    I've lived in Germany for the last ten years, and no, I cannot cosign with you on this. Germany is sooo different from the States, and Berlin isn't really representative of the whole country. You should've stopped by SOUTHWEST Germany – we would've hooked you up. 😀

    I think it's easier to be natural here than have to try and maintain a relaxer or weave. I say this, because when your hair is natural, you don't have the stress of trying to find someone who can do your hair, and do it well.
    Being natural means I have a certain amount of flexibility – sure, I can splurge on a fantastic product that everyone is raving about. Amazon will bring it. (I also have to give a shout-out to www.lexies-curls.de who ships within Germany). Or I can let out my inner mixologist – most oils are available at the nearest supermarket. And the choice is getting better and better every week.
    There are also a few blogs: http://www.krauselocke.de/ , http://afrodeutschehairlichkeit.blogspot.de/
    Of course, they're in German. But you will find them if you look.
    At first glance, a lot of the people you'll see caring about natural
    hair in Germany online are the mums who have mixed babies and want to
    know how to care for their hair properly. These are the majority or
    folks doing the product reviews on what's available in Germany and how to get the much-raved about products over here. But the young girls (born here) as opposed to already indoctrinated Africans are getting into their natural hair. Trust me. I see it. They are sooo thirsty for the knowledge.
    About the water: Berlin is no indicator of water quality. This differs all over Germany. My MIL lives near Dusseldorf and their water is so soft they don't even know how to spell limescale. Where I live, it's so hard, that shampoos that combat hard water are actually doing quite well.
    I think the German natural hair scene is getting better and better – Just last year they had a huge natural hair show and Meetup in Stuttgart, with special Video Linkup with Naptural85/Whitney. I hear it was jam-packed. There are now natural hair role models in German society – off the top of my head, Ivy Quainoo and Joy Denalane. Of course it's not going to be the same as in the US – but I think it is unfair to make a comparison so swiftly.

    I hope some of the links I posted helped. Other German and Germany-based curlies.

    PS- so if there isn't an ESSENCE or Parlour magazine, then who if not we should start one?

  • bookbutterfly says:

    I'm with you. what do you need? Just email me and let me know how. bookbutterfly@web.de

  • J'round the world says:

    Thank you for your article! As an American natural living in Germany for the last two years I can both agree and disagree with several aspects of the article. The water here is horrible, the hardest water I've ever encountered. In the two years that I've lived here I've not encountered any shops that carry haircare lines that cater to natural hair. I order all of my products offline. There are a few African shops but they only carry perms, weaves, and wigs. Many of the African women I've encountered here style their hair in straight styles, either weaves, wigs or relaxers. On the other hand in my experience a good number of the German women of color (Not all of them are of African dissent, some are fathered by American soldiers, Jamaicans, etc) wear their hair naturally. Both my daughter and myself mostly wear our hair in its natural state and neither of us has had any negative responses or "side eye" glances… from the Germans. If we have had any strange looks they have come from other Americans, mostly blacks. I live in a relatively small city, especially in comparison to Berlin, but it has quite a diverse populous consisting of Germans, Turks, Asians, Africans, Americans, Greeks, etc. It does appear that the natural hair community is growing here as in America, just at a slower pace. I can only assume that as the demand for quality natural hair products grows so too will the supply. For the time being for those not prepared to shop online, the bio markts are a good place to start. While the products may not be specifically designed for kinks, colis, and curls, they are natural and some are quite good. They carry shampoos, conditioners, DCs, and hennas. Good Luck to all on your hair journey wherever you find yourselves!

  • Viola says:

    I am from South
    Germany and my parents are both of African descent.
    There are not many black
    people around in this part of the country. I've actually never had a black
    friend since I’ve never met one my age. The black friends of my family (who are
    immigrants from Africa) that I meet regularly hate my hair and tell me to
    straighten or braid it. So that's pretty much the only “black” feedback I get. I’ve
    received the whole bandwidth of possible comments about my hair from my white friends
    (hence all my friends).

    And to be honest
    I’ve never seen a black woman with nice natural hair around. I agree with … .
    Women in Germany seem to prefer unhealthy but (nearly) straight to healthy and
    nappy/curly.

    I would love to
    contribute to a change within all the European countries. That is why I’ve
    decided to start my own blog soon and try to share as much information ‘bout healthy
    haircare in Germany as I can gather.

    It is indeed not
    easy to grow up as a black German in an all-white society (people mostly don’t accept you as a “real”
    European) so I’d love to see our (European) community growing.

    Let’s start a
    little revolution on our own 😉

  • Lila says:

    As a Brummie, who has lived in London, I'm very, very surprised by the Londoners who can't find products or don't see naturals. I now live in Hull, Yorkshire and have no problems obtaining products. However, so-called 'black' hair products I tend to stay away from. For my kids' hair I use water and coconut conditioner (Asda/Tesco/Boots). For my hair I use Inecto conditioner or Tresemme (Savers/Home Bargains), Aloe Vera Gel (Holland & Barratt), Vatica oil and henna (local Indian shop) and sometimes Garnier Fructus Cement Gel (Tesco/Asda). When I do go back and visit family in Birmingham my PJism forces through and I buy all types of lotions and potions. But they never get used because they are too greasy, too heavy, too flaky….I let the kids use them on their dolls' hair.
    I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you have to shop around, read labels and foremost understand what your hair likes. I think my hair would definitely like the Shea Moisture products. And that's something we don't have in Hull 🙂

  • Simile says:

    One your english is awesome!!! Two I wish u luck on your natural hair journey!!! I used to live in giessen(sorry for the spelling) and Hanau I lived both places and although I was not natural at the time I agree it Was difficult to find hair product

  • Shishi says:

    Hi ya,
    I'm a German girl (25) and mixed. You are probably right, that being naturally curly isn't that common in Germany… but I think that more and more girls are going natural ( I big chopped at the beginning of the year and I'm happy but the awkward growth makes me and my hubby laugh 😀 )

    I have to admit the German natural hair community is quite young, but it's growing. We have quite good German natural hair blogs and vlogs…. believe me soooooo helpful.

    The biggest problem is, that we don't have a big variety of hair products for curly girls in our local drugstores and that's not only a problem at the country side… I live und grew up in Hamburg ( second biggest city in Germany) and buying hair products means spending a fortune on the Internet. And the alternative "Afro-Shop" trust and believe isn't really an alternative. You can find perms/relaxer, hair creams (non organic) and other bad chemicals.

    Best wishes

  • EriE. says:

    What a coincidence because I just recently took a trip to Germany this summer and stayed there for a month. I didn't live in a big city like Berlin, but actually in a really small town in South Germany. I arrived in Germany with my hair straight but after a few days my hair couldn't handle the rainy weather, so I left it natural for the rest of the month, and I had no negative backlash for my natural hair. I actually made friends from my hair being natural! But I think it was just because of their "curiosity" of my big hair. And most of this interest came from white people, I didn't see that many black people, especially black people with natural hair. I bounce between straight hair and natural hair, but I notice I receive the most positive comments when my hair is natural. But yet again, it is mostly from white people. It is really unfortunate that there is natural hair haters, especially when they are black.

  • Dee says:

    I must admit, as a mixed girl from Finland, I learned all I know about hair care from internet communities like this one. I have been natural all my life (had a relaxer once which resulted in frizzy fried hair), and like the girl from Germany shared, I too grew up without my father who is Jamaican.

    Non of my white family members knew how to manage my hair. This resulted in wearing my hair in a bun for about 15 years straight. It was impossible to brush, either the comb broke or it just brushed the top layer of my hair. I was 15 years old the first time I wore my hair out and curly, and it lasted for just a few hours until it became a frizz ball. At 16 I decided to make locks thinking I could finally get a break and stop worrying about how to manage my hair. I pretty much hated my unmanageable hair at that point. I rocked my locks for about a year, realizing it actually needed maintenance and I couldn't do it by my self (surprise). The saloon where I had had them made was in Sweden, and I couldn't manage going abroad everytime I needed my hair done. So I cut it all off.
    I have never had any hair role models in Finland. The few images of black women I see around here are all of women with weaves and/or relaxers. When I was younger I used to think these women wore their hair natural, and that I was the odd one out with thin strands of curly hair!! There are a few thousand black women in Finland. All of them are from african states and 99% wear bad weaves or relaxers. The few hair saloons owned by black people out here do not have staff who know how to cut or style natural hair, and shops called "African" or "Arabic" are the only places where you can find hair care products. I think i have tried every major brand out here and all of them fried my hair up. Yes, all products are packed with petroleum and sulfates…
    Now, after having created my own regiment and learned some techniques off of youtube, I have finally managed to grow my hair long for the first time in my life! I have resorted to ordering my hair care products online, because it is impossible to get good ones here (mind you, I live in the capital city). I get loads of compliments for my curls from locals and I try different styles all the time. So a big thank you to all of you who have shared you knowledge here.

  • Dee says:

    I must admit, as a mixed girl from Finland, I learned all I know about hair care from internet communities like this one. I have been natural all my life (had a relaxer once which resulted in frizzy fried hair), and like the girl from Germany shared, I too grew up without my father who is Jamaican.

    Non of my white family members knew how to manage my hair. This resulted in wearing my hair in a bun for about 15 years straight. It was impossible to brush, either the comb broke or it just brushed the top layer of my hair. I was 15 years old the first time I wore my hair out and curly, and it lasted for just a few hours until it became a frizz ball. At 16 I decided to make locks thinking I could finally get a break and stop worrying about how to manage my hair. I pretty much hated my unmanageable hair at that point. I rocked my locks for about a year, realizing it actually needed maintenance and I couldn't do it by my self (surprise). The saloon where I had had them made was in Sweden, and I couldn't manage going abroad everytime I needed my hair done. So I cut it all off.
    I have never had any hair role models in Finland. The few images of black women I see around here are all of women with weaves and/or relaxers. When I was younger I used to think these women wore their hair natural, and that I was the odd one out with thin strands of curly hair!! There are a few thousand black women in Finland. All of them are from african states and 99% wear bad weaves or relaxers. The few hair saloons owned by black peopled out here do not have staff who know how to cut or style natural hair, and shops called "African" or "Arabic" are the only places where you can find hair care products. I think i have tried every major brand out here and all of them fried my hair up. Yes, all products are packed with petroleum and sulfates…
    Now, after having created my own regiment and learned some techniques off of youtube, I have finally managed to grow my hair long for the first time in my life! I have resorted to ordering my hair care products online, because it is impossible to get good ones here (mind you, I live in the capital city). I get loads of compliments for my curls from locals and I try different styles all the time. So a big thank you to all of you who have shared you knowledge here.

  • roo08 says:

    " If the women you encounter want to wear their hair weaved down to the ground, no edges and all, that is their prerogative. As it is yours to wear your hair natural."

    I think the issue is when they wear their hair that way because they feel that they have NO OTHER CHOICE. That was the reality for many of us not even 5 years ago (or I can at least say it was the reality for me). I thought I HAD to relax my hair because my natural hair would be unmanageable.

    Of course, if it was easier, there are many that would still stick to relaxed hair if they had a choice but there are also some that wouldn't just as we see here in the states.

    At the end of the day, I don't think there's any woman on earth that WANTS to walk around with raggedy hair whether relaxed or natural. It's obvious it's due to lack of resources and education

  • gracie says:

    There's also nexrastore.com (who stock Oyin products) and gidore.com (who stock As I Am)
    HTH x

  • Alyssa B. says:

    re: Europeans(Germans, French, British, Swiss, etc. of African descent—->They do exist!!

  • Alyssa B. says:

    Yes , we can also argue that the term "African American" is loose. Many people who are labeled "African American" are not in fact American but because they are Black and Black(for some reason) equals Afro/African American. I think the author was just attempting to include all European born people of African descent.

  • Dee says:

    Why do people need any encouragement on how to wear their hair any other way than the way they want to?

    If the women you encounter want to wear their hair weaved down to the ground, no edges and all, that is their prerogative. As it is yours to wear your hair natural.

    To me, looking for encouragement anywhere than outside yourself is setting yourself up for failure. It is my opinion that opening yourself up to other people's ideas and opinion on things that are fundamentally nobody else's issue (not only hair, but any aspect of your life) is going to have you in a bad place in no time.

    So for me, I read something more than the preference or ignorance on how to style ones hair.

    To me this article represents the overall urge of people in general to pass judgement on anybody who feels/looks different or foreign to what they prefer or think is better.
    And that, is what irked me…

  • Bea says:

    We are on the move…
    The Natural Hair Community in Germany is on its way – natural hair events are taking place all over Germany. The community might be smaller than in your country…but as enthusiastic and determined to make a chance.
    Some examples:

    BLOGS:
    http://www.krauselocke.de/
    http://ani-versum.com/ (Austrian-based blog)
    http://afrodeutschehairlichkeit.blogspot.de/
    http://www.natural-hair-is-simply-passion.de/
    …to name but a few

    also SHOPS:
    http://www.lexies-curls.de/
    http://luckycurls.com/

    I say: German Natural Ladies! We are on our way! And WE also ROCK:-)

    Have a beautiful curly day

    A German Curl Girl – Bea

  • nicoleisthenewblack says:

    apologies if the tone bothers you but i suppose this is why we write. to have a dialog. i never called anyone backwards, just sayin. i just find it annoying that the same woman who tells me to fix it fix it, and that i need a perm has NO EDGES and a wack weave. her way doesnt work for her, so why would it work for me?

  • nicoleisthenewblack says:

    i wrote the article and there term was meant to be loose. i simply couldnt name every country in africa whose citizens i have crossed paths with while living in germany. secondly i dont look down on africans, its actually pretty ironic, the first sentence of piece states that i am the one who gets comments and stares because i am the nappy headed black girl not suitable for public viewing. cheers

  • nicoleisthenewblack says:

    hey i am the author of the article and i dont believe your formula is that simple. firstly the water here in germany plays a big factor in my hair health and there are not many hair care professionals that know how to our encourage people to wear their hair another way than straight.

  • Tieira Ryder says:

    I'm open to suggestions in coming together to promote natural hair on a larger scale!

  • Tieira Ryder says:

    Wow, had to re-share this on my blog. Someone has to go mainstream to support our cause. There are enough women on TV with straight up natural hair but not enough of us out there mainstream with natural hair. Going mainstream will show other young women that it is OK to have natural hair and that we can look good with it!!

    http://tieiraryder.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/and-the-hair-of-her-head-was-pure-like-wool-%E2%99%A5%E2%99%A5-like-the-gods-of-course/

  • link487 says:

    Nicole, thanks for this informative article!

  • Taylor says:

    Wow what a struggle. Thanks for sharing! (And your English is fine!) These stories really put things into perspective because this is not something I think about in depth (access to products, understanding natural hair care, etc.).

  • CurvyCurly says:

    Interesting article. Stick to it and continue to share your story. The more relevent information becomes available and if people continue to educate themselves about caring for their hair in it's natural state the more naturals you'll see in the future. Once the knowledge is out there and more people embrace natural hair, the higher the demand will be for natural hair care products. We all know companies like to jump on the gravy-train bandwagon and capitalize on a growing market.

  • foxyrou says:

    I agree! All you need is a good shampoo, conditioner, leave-in, oil, and gel. That's it! If you can find all of these things, you should be okay! 😉

  • Foxyrou says:

    Honey, your English is better than some Americans! LOL! I understood everything you said perfectly fine!

  • Miss Anne says:

    Oho yeah I see a lot of naturals… and i have access to a number of products. I just wanted to try the ones not available here so using the opportunity to get them. Pak's is so far away from me… I live in Surrey! But I have found a lot of products that are my staples now though. Thanks so much for the info! x Miss Anne

  • anonymous says:

    I agree with this article as I am an european (swedish) but I also think that this article has a smal negative tone. Yes all the things mentioned in this article is true but it's not that hard to live in a country with not the same axcess as america. People always compliment my hair for being "out there" and I don't mind because I know my hair is beutiful. The only thing I think is so sad with the natural movement in europe is not that we don't have all the products, events and other things that you guys in america have, it's more the thought of having afro/kinks or curly hair as something ugly that's sad in europe countries …

  • Jay says:

    Agreed! If someone does not want to have natural hair and want to look like a fool with their bad weaves you just have to let them. When I go out I don't be looking at the way other black people wear their hair it is THEIR hair!

  • Miss Anne says:

    Haven't heard of mariposa but I do know british curlies. Thanks a bunch!

  • Jay says:

    I don't know where you live in London but I see many many people with natural hair around. As for products there many places that carry products for natural hair. Pak's in Harlesden has plenty, I also shop at the 99p store. I buy the mess head conditioners and its awesome for co wash and detangling lots of slip! I also buy hemp conditioner from there and its great. You don't have to buy all of the expensive products from America to make your hair look good. You just have to experiment and research and you will find plenty of good products for your hair.

  • Nubiahbella says:

    Thanks Dee, I thought exactly the same when I read the article. it reminds me of the so called African-Europeans who looks down on African in general.

    Also there is no such of thing as African-European, this is such a loose word, they are Senegalese-French, Jamaican-British etc…

    To get back to this article, I just want to remember to people just because you have Black faces on your hair products it doesn't make them good ones. There are a lot good hair care lines, they might not be directly targerted towards" us" but they still work. Also a lot "natural" American hair care lines have pretty simple formulation, it;s not like Europeans are missing on fabulous ingredients they can't find elsewhere.

  • Dee says:

    The tone of this article bothers me.

    Now we have the "enlightened" African-Americans as opposed to the "backward" African-Europeans.

    Yet another divide…

  • Megan Montgomery says:

    I currently work with a coworker who is from Africa she is a female from Nigeria.
    She wears weaves all the way down her back I said hi to her she rolled her eyes at me and told another coworker that she did not like me because I am an African American who is Americanized I had straightened my hair for a trim two months ago. The other coworker is Ethiopian we are cool with each other and have been working together for years with no problems. She gives me attitude when I ask her something she even gives me side eye when I wear my hair curly. I wish someone could go and teach others about natural hair all races so they can know that perms, weaves, heat stying, ans wigs are not the only options. Besides in every race just about someone has curly hair, straight, wavy, kinky etc. I was in the store the other day and met a white woman with tightly curly/coiled hair about a 3c/4a like mines I was fascinated really! We both said we liked each others hair and purchased the same hair products: Jane Carter's Revitalizing Leave in and Shea moisture's curl and style milk at target. I told my mom she laughed at me and said I know because my mom (my grandmother) worked for a jewish family who had two daughters with tightly curled hair aka Jew fro people say now. (Disclaimer I am not a racist I like everyone). They asked her to iron I repeat iron their hair with an iron for clothes to make it straight because they wanted it straight like their school mates. My grandmother wore her hair natural her hair was 3b/3c down her back. This is how our hair grows out of our heads do not be a shamed of it, love it embrace it and work it!

  • Elyris says:

    Hello everybody.

    I am a 'mixed' girl (28), born and raised in Germany. I was born in a
    not all too big town in the far northeast at a time were the 'iron
    curtain' still was up and running.

    My look has always been an issue of some sort, especially as a smaller
    child,starting with not being white (I think there were no other black
    people around here until I was 16 or so). And of course my hair was
    always worth a comment or two (other children didn't wanted to believe I
    was a girl at Kindergarten and primary school, because my hair was
    short for example).

    My mum (the 'white part') never had any clue about how to care for my
    hair at all (my father – originating from South Africa – went away after
    my parents split up when I was like half a year old or so and I never
    saw him again, nor do I know him in any way – not that I feel bad about
    this, I have a great family).

    So my hair was natural, but in a desastrous state.

    And I wasn't happy at all with that situation. It was dry, brittle and uncombed (for real).

    As an addition my hair is nothing like 'mixed' at all. My mum is a
    naturally curly too, so instead of 'thinning out' the curlyness in my
    hair, it seemingly got worse (my mum told me the first thing my father
    said as he saw me the last time with a few months he was like "She's got
    weird hair!")

    So when I was 14 I think I finally went to a salon (the second time in
    my life so far, as there never was a reason to go to one) and ask for
    'straightening' my hair.

    You must know that really and honestly no one here knows how to handle
    such hair at all (they were really nice though and did their best to
    help me along).

    So I had relaxers like every 3 months from then on.

    This was actually the very first time in my life my hair got combed, so for me it was a kind of improvement.

    I always wanted good looking, healthy and yes, longer, hair. But somehow
    it never really grew long and only looked fly when I came fresh from
    the salon (still no clue how to care for it at all).

    So after many years of waiting, hoping and not knowing what to do I
    found the internet (thanks to the new broadband connection) and I read
    and read and learned and leared. I soaked up information on 'black hair'
    like a dry sponge water.

    So 11 months ago I got a big chop and I was so so happy. I felt good, it
    looked good and thanks to the new gathered informations I was even able
    to comb it and care for my hair properly for the first time ever.

    So now it grows and grows and at the moment I got quite an afro already.

    I am still struggling. I admit I am very lazy, I want it to be easy for
    me and I surely don't want ot invest 3 or more hours for a hairstyle
    that doesn't look as it should as I got no clue what I am doing and will
    be a mess two days later.

    So now it's just 'washing' and then I comb through with an afro pick
    (yay, I accidentially found some and bought two right at hand – all of
    what they got).

    Things surely aren't easy peasy as for example it is really hard to find
    products for my hair where I live (it's quite rural and farming land
    surrounds me and all of that stuff), the water is hard and the weather
    can be harsh (cold, windy, a lot of humidity in the air as we live right
    at hte shore here), I am still working on how to handle it and the next
    salon that maybe could know how is about 200km away).

    But I am working on it and I surely won't go back from here on, even if
    it's not always easy (and I still get these 'special' looks).

    Sorry if this was such a long post (and sorry if my english isn't the best, I am still working on that too).

    I just wanted to share my 'story' so far and say thank you to all those
    naturals out there that share their knowledge and tricks with the world.
    I learned so much and am still not done. I am happy and at times feel
    really great.

    Thank you. Best greetings and wishes from the far side of the world (when it comes to natural hair).

    🙂

  • mango says:

    british curlies in the uk and mariposa import in the netherlands are internt retailers that carry just about all of the natural US brands.

  • anonymous says:

    Some of my classmates were from Kenya, Nigeria, etc. Beautiful, beautiful women wearing some of the most awful wigs I have ever seen in my life.
    I just don't understand. If you have alopecia, ok then, but the wig thing is just as culturally entrenched in some African communities as the Jewish women and their "sheitel" (wigs).

  • roo08 says:

    things are changing in metro cities in africa. I've seen pictures of meetup in Lagos…I haven't been in awhile but that definitely was not the case even a few years ago….people's attitudes toward natural hair are changing all over the world…it's slow but the enlightenment is happening…

  • Miss Anne says:

    I just got my aunts son who lives in Florida to order some products which aren't available here in London for me. Poor thing… he'll be cursing me silently when he's done! I haven't found anywhere to buy As I am and Oyin handmade products so I made a bulk order of those to last me till the end of the year. Also added a few from Ouidad. And the list isn't over! LOL!

  • keisha billups says:

    When i first went natural, I got the most flack about my hair from black people. White people think its neat and they want to ask a lot of questions about it. I have an auntie who just doesnt understand it. I straightened my hair once and she was like "thank GOD you finally left that alone and came back" I was like no boo, it's just straightened. I will never have another relaxer. All the while she walking around with all kinds of breakage and uneven hair,scabs all over her scalp and still relaxing her hair. What sense does that make???

  • Miss Anne says:

    I can completely relate and agree with you on the curly haters!!! Lol! it's like a massive trend to have your hair relaxed and get weaves done all the time. I'm so glad my friends and family are supporting me…

  • Sue says:

    I live in the U.S. but I agree with you. I have never purchased, any of the "Natural Hair" brands, mainly because of cost, I'm a student. I use regular shampoos and conditioners, mostly those in the $2-3 range such as Aussie and Suave. For oils and butters, I frequent the grocery aisle, or purchase online. Coconut oil, Jojoba Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil and Shea butter are some of those I have tried, and they worked well for me. I think the biggest problem for women in Europe may just be knowledge and probably lack of stylists. I mainly do my own hair but ocasionally I have it braided or twisted in a salon.

  • Samantha Chiamaka James says:

    I currently have extensions in (twists with extensions added to them) and I usually have my hair like this for like 2 months a year (though sometimes, I have crotchet braids done for a month). I do this to let my hair be for a while and just rest and grow out.
    In England, I don't think there are half as much naturally curly hair haters as that of Africa. I recently was in Africa. Heck, I have a black parent and like in Africa, everyone (or most people) believe that the way to go is to get your hair relaxed. I hate it when people tell me what my own hair is like. They'll be like, "you can't comb this!" 'This' is the word they use to refer to my hair. "Your hair is so stubborn!" "Your hair is too thick!" OH MY DAYS! It's annoying! I'm like my hair, grows out of my head, I know how it is, it's not hard to comb, it's not stubborn (unless, it's a bad hair day and my hair just wants to joke around without a warning), yes, my hair is really thick and well….I love it! Most people would give anything to have hair as thick as mine! My own parents complain about my hair so much and my dad (the black parent) believes that unless my hair looks straight like mum's my hair's not combed x_X
    Anyways, I believe most curly and kinky haters are in Africa. The continent of the curly/kinky haired people. You'll be shocked to find up to 10 natural haired females there (during a 6 months long visit).
    I'm not saying that back here in England, there are no curl haters, there are, but in Africa, I've seen more.

  • Brooke B. says:

    It's hard not to be stuck in a hair rut when there's no one to inform you of the basics of taking care of your hair relaxed or natural. I'm sure it's easy to find literature, but you still have to be bold enough to step outside of the box of what's considered the norm. Where you're from can sometimes make or break the situation in this case being hair. I just hope that these women relaxed or natural can find a helping hand so that they can have healthy hair.

  • Miss Anne says:

    I live in London and transitioning at the moment. Finding products is so hard and most girls just have weaves and wigs. Like everywhere I look! I always look out for girls ad guys with 'fros and I've stopped a few of them just to tell them their hair is fabulous! My colleagues love my hair and can't really get the shrinkage thing and I thankfully have no pressure from any friends or family about relaxing my hair (my big sisters are natural and mum's transitioning too). Yay for us European curlies!!!

    Message to Nikki – please come to London and see us in Europe!!!

  • Missy says:

    Well, I live in the North of England and there aren't many black people in this area. However, I have been natural for 2 years now. I am a professional and try different natural hairstyles to work. My colleagues are usually fascinated and want to touch my hair as I am the only black person at work. They allow me to be myself. It's only when I'm in London that I feel the pressure with some many black women wearing beautiful, long Brazilian weaves etc. It's only in London that I get asked to relax my natural hair. On the other hand, I tend to spot other naturals in London. Also, I am able to buy products like tresemme naturals from my local Tesco, Asda etc. In a nutshell, I don't think that it is a general trend in European countries for natural hair not to be accepted.

  • Lisabeth says:

    Having natural hair and living in Europe can be a bit of a challenge but I've learnt to live with it. I chose not to straighten with chemicals or heat simply because it's more expensive and they are too few salons to cater for such processes.
    I've also learnt that simple is best and although I wouldn't mind having certain natural hair brands here in Europe, regular products work just as well. The gentlest shampoos, conditioners and hair masks do the job perfectly. Oils and butters are not terribly rare since health stores and online stockists can be accessed in most places. I braid my own hair and wear it out when I feel like it. Simple routines
    Nicole's right about using water filters. Harsh water can be found in quite a number of places and can be tough on hair and skin.

  • AnnabelTRP says:

    Also, I'd agree that products are limited in most of Europe (London and Paris, excluded). This presents a challenge, but it's not impossible to find suitable hair products. It just means reading labels, experimenting with things that haven't been reviewed on blogs, and DYI. On a positive note high grade, organic oils are usually easy to find.

  • AnnabelTRP says:

    I reside in neighboring Switzerland and it's pretty much the same thing. Most women, typically African but also some Americans, tend to slap on a wig or weave. As you mentioned, most of the weaves are done in a very unhealthy manner and one often sees fading hairlines on many of these women. However, on a brighter note, recently I noticed more people embracing kinky, coily, curly weaves and have seen a few twas. Love the style and hair of all three ladies in the picture.

  • Erika A. says:

    Living in Germany for 11+ years, I agree. There is almost no knowledge of how to care for natural hair (so that it's healthy) and products are very limited. If more ladies were informed, maybe natural hair wouldn't be seen as unmanageable.

  • BajanPrincess82 says:

    When I lived in Germany I either had to order producst online, try to find them in the PX, or ask my mom to send me care packages. NeeC1, you are doing a GREAT thing for your nieces and I'm so glad that their mother is on board as well!

  • NeeC1 says:

    I'm actually putting together a haircare package for my nieces – aged 13 & 14 – who live in Russelsheim. Their mother is Greek (but has lived in Europe all her life) and my brother is Black American. The girls were born in Hawaii, but have spent the last 12+ years in Germany. My (former) sister-in-law asked me to send them a few product samples because what they've been using is weighing their hair down and making it greasy. She found a few items on line (Mixed Chicks) that she thinks would work, but you all know how our hair is … one product size does not fit all, so I'm sending her a box of full-sized bottles of various moisturizing/detangling products. I told her, if it works, great … now you have a full-size, but if it doesn't, please feel free to gift the products to any other girl or boy with kinky/curly hair. My nieces are excited. They say they've had no issue with their "unruly" curly locks, but they would like to do more than just tie it up in a ponytail or bun. I understand the freedom they seek to let their hair do what it does! Thanks for this article. I find myself walking around the local area and wanting to walk up to a mother or young lady and offer them product advice (usually when I see hair that appears to simply need moisture), but I can only imagine how it would be in a place where our vast products and know-how are not available, i.e. Germany.

    ~NeeC1

  • Hilary B. says:

    those red frames are so cute! It's nice reading about natural hair from this perspective, as disheartening as the reality is. I think more women in general, would be confident enough to wear their hair naturally if they had the right information, if they recognized that kinky curly coily hair is manageable, and if they were in an environment that didn't reinforce the "natural" = militant and not conforming and out of control and whatever other narratives and existing stereotypes. I have found that the most critical and vocal people of natural hair tend to be other people of color. Internalized racism is a sad thing. thanks for the article!

  • Lola Alapo says:

    Thanks for sharing this and giving us a glimpse into the struggles of curlies in another part of the world. It's something I've experienced too as I've traveled through Europe and Africa. It is fascinating to me that some of the most critical comments come from black women. I admire your stick-to-it-ness and do hope you are an encouragement to other women of color there as you rock your natural curls. May you give them courage to do the same.

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