Hair & Beauty

Published on January 22nd, 2012 | by thevyne


The International Hair Struggle

By Leila N.

Throughout my many travels to Europe over the past 7 years, I’ve learned that many black women struggle with finding good hair products or a great hair stylist they can trust. Having lived in Barcelona, Spain, I personally struggled with maintaining the healthy beauty regimen I adopted in The States. I realized how hard it was to find quality beauty products, especially because there wasn’t a beauty supply store in every corner. So I put on my entrepreneurial hat and created Isabis Beauty, a social commerce website where women worldwide could “Share Beauty. Shop Beauty.” I wanted to create an online hub where women of color all around the world could share beauty advice and shop for these products.

I vividly recall one of my experiences soon after landing in sunny Barcelona. So eager to explore the city, I dropped my bags as soon I arrived in my small studio apartment and hit the streets. First stop: the beach. I played in the sand and swam with no regard for my fresh perm! Second stop: dinner date on Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Barcelona. When I got back home from the beach, it suddenly dawned on me that my hair was looking a hot mess (to say the least)! I needed my hair done now and fast but, like many expatriates, there just wasn’t enough room in my luggage to pack my entire beauty regimen. I came with what I thought were essentials:  my “never-fails-me” hairbrush, “morning fabulous” satin scarf, and a small bottle of Kemy hair oil. So my plans changed. Revised second stop: beauty supply store. After Googling for a while, I found a shop in one of the ethnic areas in the city. While perusing the isles, I found repeats of the same 3 products: Dark and Lovely, Dr. Miracle’s, and Indian hair in bulk. Pressed for time, I went to a European beauty store and bought overpriced hair supplies. My hair looked fine in the end but there was a bigger issue: I would have to get creative if I wanted my hair to look silky in Barcelona.

I later learned that many black women with relaxed or natural hair find that it’s more difficult to maintain it in Europe because few quality black hair salons exist, good products are hard to find, and the winters are harsh. This may not be the case in big cities, but everyone who moves to Europe doesn’t settle in London or Paris. Even in these big cities many good products for natural and relaxed hair are hard to come by, let alone searching for them in the boondocks! There’s also an overall lack of hair education. Information is out there but a lot of factors contribute to why some women lack the knowledge, including finances, bad habits, and lack of local resources. When I lived in Barcelona, not only did I wish for better, newer ethnic hair products, but also for a community of women online or in the city to whom I could exchange beauty advice. It’s even more evident in Paris where hair salons, beauty supply stores and even outdoor food markets in Chateaux Rouge (the “Little Africa” of Paris) share a common mission: selling hair extensions. Don’t get me wrong; I love weaves but getting a sew-in and maintaining it are two different things. There are a few good ethnic hair salons in Europe, like Maria Dolores Institut de Paris and Hairy Taj Salon, whose stylists focus on putting healthy hair above all. These are golden treasures to find however.

The culmination of these experiences formed my vision behind Isabis Beauty. No matter where you live, you could log on to to ask for beauty advice by uploading a video and another woman eager to help a sistah out would create a video on how she found a solution to the same problem. And the cycle of giving and sharing would continue. So how does my Barcelona hair story end? I found a great, hole-in-the-wall Dominican salon 15minutes from my apartment and stuck to my hair stylist like glue!

Share Beauty. Shop Beauty.

Leila N.



About the Author

17 Responses to The International Hair Struggle

  1. leila says:

    Thanks The Vyne!

  2. Dee says:

    I’ve had the experience you described above while traveling for 2 months throughout Europe! I’m glad you have the courage and boldness to solve the problem by launching Isabis Beauty online. Go on with your bad self! I love it! Best forward!!

  3. leila says:

    Thanks Dee! I know you can relate then:)

  4. Nikkib says:

    Leila, where were you like 10 years ago?? This is great! I remember studying abroad and looking for a salon after I took out my braids. It was a nightmare. I wore a ‘mushroom’ for a month in Italy before heading back to the states. The ‘state’ of my hair also deterred me from going on long term international assignments. Thank you!

  5. leila says:

    Hi Nikkib! Thanks for the nice comment:) That’s funny..10years ago I was actually 15 lol! I remember my trip to Italy too a few years back..the hair situation was definitely worse than Barcelona. No more ‘mushroom’ heads for you can take a long international vacation and even order when you get there instead:)

    Share Beauty. Shop Beauty.

  6. aura says:

    Thank a lot for the advice, do you remember where the Dominican hair salon is located in Barcelona ( or name?) I’m looking for a place to go

  7. leila says:

    Hi Aura!
    I actually just found her business card..hopefully they are still in business

    Peluqueria Corte Tropical
    c/Mercader, 13

    phone number 933101361 or her cell phone (name Lucia) 679522271

    Are you in Barcelona now?

  8. Taylor Baskin says:

    Hi! I am a young black female architecture student studying in Barcelona! I’m here for four months and finding your website couldn’t have been more perfect! Thanks for the advice. I will try the Dominican place. Also, do you remember where the store you found in one of the ethnic neighborhoods is ? I think I found one in El Raval. I will definitely check out your website but it’s good to have backups if I’m running short on time…

    Taylor Baskin
    University of Virginia 2013

  9. Tatiana says:

    I’m traveling to Spain next spring and living in Barcelona…was wondering where this hole in the wall dominican salon is located?!


  10. Tiffany says:

    I’m currently teaching abroad in Spain for a year and I can’t seem to find any hair salons let alone hair products (Motions, Mizani, Olive Oil, etc) suitable for my hair. If anyone knows of any ethnic salons or beauty supply stores I can buy products from PLEASE let me know! I’m running out of the products I brought with me and everything takes too long to ship to me. Thanks!!!

  11. Alicia says:

    This response is to Tiffany, there is actually a good hair products store right on my street Avenida Paralelo. The store is called Diva Beauty Supplier.

  12. Tiffany says:

    Thank you so much!! I will check out this beauty supply store as soon as possible. Also, I found a small Dominican hair salon in Barcelona called “Evolution Perruqueria” on Carrer de la Semoleres and it’s 15 euros for a wash…25 eruos for a relaxer. I think I will try them out.

  13. Tayo says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve had box braids for awhile but I’m ready to let the natural hair roam free again(maybe this time with color! 😀 ). Loved reading this 🙂

  14. Teesha says:

    Hey, where was the dominican hair shop you found? And a hairstylist. I’m living in Barcelona right now and I’m struggling to find something.

  15. Shaketta Reliford says:

    Hello! this is to Tayo, Im currently in BCN and I too just took my box braids out. Its good to know that Im not alone!! Also loving this website 🙂

  16. Excellent thread. I’m now in Barcelona, and I braid my own hair with yawn (but I also am veiled in hijab), but now I’m seeking to have it done once in a while for a change. I hope that the contact you provided is still valid.

  17. Dr Jack says:

    Also need to find ethnic hare care products. WOuld prefer S-Curl for men, but Spain is the worst for finding products. I have been able to find products in every other country except here – France & the UK are the easiest, since there are so many Blacks & Africans. Even Benelux countries are easy – Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, even tiny Leuven, Italy -Milan & Venice, no problem. But even the larger cities in SPain don’t seem to have many places. In Valencia, it’s impossible. DO those Barcelona places still exist? You gals have any luck in Barcelona? I’m thinking of heading up there from Valencia just to pick up the necessary…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Latest Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • The Vyne Weekly e-Magazine

    Do you subscribe to The Vyne weekly e-magazine? View our archives and subscribe here!