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!