You might be sitting on the fence right now when you think about transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. I don’t blame you, it’s not an easy decision to make.
Regardless of what you might’ve read on Instagram, most people don’t have one single curl type, says Melissa. “I probably have two or three different curl types on my head—and if you’re transitioning with relaxed ends, you need to take that into consideration when it comes to your product picks,” she adds. And just because your hair is naturally textured, doesn’t mean it’s thick.
If you want to go natural but dread the idea of the big chop, don’t despair! It may take a little extra time, but you can transition your hair so that it looks beautiful and healthy.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADJUST
There is definitely a period of adjustment that needs to take place here. If you are expecting that nothing will change during this transition period, unfortunately, that will not be the case.
As your natural hair growth comes in you might find the hairstyles that you were working with before no longer work.
It will feel difficult at first but I can tell you that the more your hair grows the easier it will get, you just have to be prepared to wait for the adjustment period to pass.
I would say give yourself at least 3-6 months before making a decision to quit.
Start by eliminating all chemical treatments and heat styling, and utilize protective styles while you let your hair grow out. Wash your hair a few times a month and be gentle when detangling your locks. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro at caring for your natural hair.
A lot of people are surprised to hear that my type 4 hair is very fine,” says Melissa. Products for thick hair will weigh down fine curls, and DIY natural hair products for fine hair won’t give thick curls enough moisture and hydration. There’s also curl porosity—your hair’s ability to get, and stay, hydrated—to take into consideration.
Despite what some people might say life with hair does not suddenly become easier just because you have decided to go natural. There are lots of things that you need to take into consideration. It’s a big step for sure and its hard work but I can tell you right now that few people regret it afterwards.
What does it mean to transition to natural hair?
Basically, transitioning to natural hair means you’ve stopped chemically straightening your hair (aka getting relaxers) and you're now letting your natural texture grow out, says Cindy. When someone decides to go natural, you can either let it grow out or you can cut off all your hair (also known as “the big chop”). Cindy decided to grow her hair out, but noted that it was hard to manage her new natural growth with her already relaxed ends.
However, don’t stop washing your hair altogether! If you don’t regularly cleanse and clarify your hair, you’ll end up with a lot of product buildup. You can use a sulfate-free shampoo like NaturAll Club's all natural Cleansing Avocado Shampoo, whether it’s once a week or every two weeks- just don’t cut it out completely.
Take the time to learn what your hair needs. Your hair is changing, so your regimen should be too! Don’t go out and spend all your savings on new products, but also don’t hesitate to get rid of a product that isn’t working for you and try a new one. Instead, make a DIY curl cream without shea butter.
Keep your hair moisturized- we can’t stress this enough. Dryness will cause breakage along that line of demarcation we mentioned. If you missed them, here are our tips for keeping natural hair moisturized.
Find a go-to style that you can master and feel confident in. We recommend trying twist-outs, braid-outs, or perm rods to help you blend the two textures of your hair until you’re done transitioning.
PROS OF TRANSITIONING:
You have the time to learn about your particular hair type.
If you are not comfortable with short hair, then you can avoid that adjustment period, and avoid the wait of growing your hair back out.
During transitioning you have the time to perfect your hair styling skills.
Using excessive heat on your hair is basically a recipe for breakage. You need to use the least amount of heat on your hair as possible, says Sims, so it's best to air-dry your hair if/when you can. But if you do decide to use heat on your hair, be sure to layer on a heat protectant spray before you turn on the blow dryer or flat iron. Even though heat protection sprays can’t reverse damage, they can help prevent split ends, dryness, and serious breakage.
CONS OF TRANSITIONING
The texture of your hair will not be consistent: which means if you decide to wear your hair in a twist out or braid out style the root of your hair might be curly while your ends will be bone straight (To avoid this simply roll the ends of your hair with rods or rollers).
The process of transitioning takes longer than if you just did “the big chop”.
Want more tips on transitioning? We got you.
Trim your hair regularly. This will remove split ends, help your hair grow faster, keep it healthier, and ultimately get you closer to being fully natural. You can trim according to what’s comfortable for you- maybe you chop off an inch every month, or maybe you’re more conservative- but make sure to keep an eye on your ends and trim them regularly.
Avoid products with toxic or drying ingredients, which will increase breakage and frizz. Here are some ingredients to avoid. Your hair needs its natural oils now more than ever, and sulfates will strip those away, leaving your hair dry and brittle. [ Learn the History of Black Hair In American Media ]
Don’t shy away from protective styles. You shouldn’t leave them in for months, but a protective style for a couple weeks can give you a needed rest from hair maintenance.
Deep conditioning is important for everyone, no matter the state or texture of their hair- but it is absolutely non-negotiable if you are transitioning. Just like we mentioned earlier, your hair is in a weak, fragile state while you’re transitioning, and it needs all the nutrients and moisture it can get. Make deep conditioning part of your haircare regimen, doing treatments every two weeks or as often as every week. Here’s a link to Black Hair Media's all-natural deep conditioners, which will get the job done better than anything else.
Our final tip is the most important- love your hair and yourself! Enjoy your natural hair journey! You get to discover your natural hair slowly, and it’s one of the most exciting things you can do for yourself. Don’t forget to seek tips, advice, and words of encouragement from other naturals or people in your life that you trust.
Decided to cut all of their hair off. Agyemang had been relaxing her hair since she was three years old, and she wanted to see what her natural hair, from her roots to her ends, would feel like. “I just didn’t want to deal with the breakage that comes with having relaxed ends,” she said. Johnson said that a lightbulb went off in her head one day, and she realized that she can be beautiful with short hair, too.
Pursue whichever path feels most comfortable (or exciting!) to you, and remember that neither choice is eternal. If you big chop, your hair WILL grow out again (and you can always wear wigs or clip-ins in the meantime); if you transition, you can decide to chop off your permed hair at any time.
If you decide to do the big chop, great! You can get started right away with taking care of your new, natural growth. If you decided on the transitioning route, things can be slightly more complicated. Here’s what to expect.
Use protective and low-manipulation styles to minimize breakage. These styles don’t require heat and can often stay in for 2 weeks to 2 months. They’re great to use while your hair is growing out! They also give your hair a beautiful style while masking the difference between your treated hair and your relaxed hair. Braids, wigs, and twists are great options.
Learning to keep your hair moisturised is a big one. With relaxed hair, you don’t really need to think about moisture but when it comes to transitioning to natural hair, moisture needs to be at the front of your mind.
If you fail to moisturise your hair properly it will become hard, dry and brittle and will be more prone to breakage.
No more running away from the rain in order to keep your hair dry. Water is now your best friend.
Try to moisturise your hair every few days by spriting it with water and using a leave-in conditioner. The LOC method is a great way to ensure your natural hair is at full potential.
If you opt for a weave, have it sewn into your hair rather than glued. The glue can damage your hair when it’s finally removed.
Look into doing a high bun updo, bantu knots, a halo braid, space buns, boxer braids, and flat-twist pigtails for some fun styles.
Avoid styles that put a lot of tension on your temples or the nape of your neck. They could break the sensitive new growth and slow down your transition process.
Not only that but you will have to get used to the new you. You will look quite different to yourself and it takes some time to get used to.
Expect to make a significant change in your haircare routine. Transitioning means no chemicals, no relaxers, no heat. There is no middle ground here, no “occasional” touch-ups or treatments. If you’re deciding to transition, you need to throw the chemicals away and store your heating tools in the back of a closet or at your friend’s house. We’re just being straight with you!
Expect to be tempted to treat your hair again!
Transitioning is a slow process, and it’s frustrating, and it can be discouraging at points. This is why we recommend that you decide now how long you want to transition for. Having a goal can motivate you to keep going when those straighteners or relaxers look really tempting. Note- you can always change your goal! You might get 3 months in and decide to do a big chop after all! That is OKAY.
Expect to see a clearly defined line that divides your damaged ends from new, natural growth. This is known as the line of demarcation. The line of demarcation is the weakest point on each and every hair strand. It is extremely vulnerable to breakage. While it may be a challenge to blend the two textures, make sure above all to be extremely gentle with your hair at that point. Avoid over-manipulation and take care to keep your hair highly moisturized.
Trim your hair every 4-6 weeks as you transition to get the right length. Even though you’re not doing the big chop, you still need to gradually trim away your treated hair to fully transition to natural hair. This doesn’t have to be a big trim—just 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch (0.64 to 1.27 cm) at each trim should be enough to keep your length the same while slowly getting rid of your treated hair.
You can trim the ends of your hair yourself after you shower, or have a professional at a salon do it for you.
REMEMBER TO TRIM
Gradually trimming your relaxed ends off is the key to transitioning.
You should trim as and when you feel ready. Some people are not ready to start trimming until they see at least an inch or so of new growth and that’s fine. Some people like to wait longer and others start to trim straight away. It really does depend on what you can tolerate and how you can handle your hair afterwards.
What you may find the more your natural hair starts to grow is that where your natural hair and permed hair meets (the line of demarcation) you may start to experience some breakage. Don’t be alarmed by this it is completely normal and to be expected.
You may find that as time goes on you will be trimming larger amounts of your relaxed hair off as your new growth comes in in order to cover up the breakage. You’ll need to give your hair time to grow. If you’ve been perming, relaxing, or straightening your hair for years, you aren't going to be fully natural in a few days. Expect to be growing your hair out for four months (or more!) to fully get back your natural texture. Sure, it seems like a long time, but if you’re moisturizing, trimming, and conditioning your hair properly, you’ll see results before you know it.
No matter how careful you are, you should expect to see some breakage. Your hair has been permanently damaged by chemicals, and you simply can’t expect it to be as strong now as it will be eventually when it is fully natural. You’re not necessarily doing something wrong if you notice some breakage or hair loss- don’t get discouraged, and continue to treat your hair with care
You’ve been used to looking a certain way and being able to easily manipulate your hair into what you want it to be for a long time so the change can be hard.
Well once you go natural you have to re-learn all of that again. It’s not to say that you can’t but its a new level of understanding for you and your hair so just be prepared for that.
If you are considering transitioning to natural hair without having to do the big chop then I have a few tips that will help you along the way and make life seem much easier.
The big chop route involves cutting off all or almost all of your permed hair. This is like a “reset” button on your hair. By chopping off the hair that’s been chemically treated, you can start over with new, natural growth. Many women have embraced this choice! It can be incredibly liberating to let your hair go (along with any insecurities or identities you may have tied to it) and start fresh, experiencing all the different stages and lengths of natural hair, and the styles that accompany them.
But the big chop isn’t for everyone. Transitioning is a different route to natural hair that involves cutting chemicals, relaxers, and heat out of your hair regimen. While your permed hair will never return to its natural state, you can retain length while you transition to natural hair, slowly trimming off the damaged ends until it’s fully natural at a length you’re comfortable with.
We cannot stress enough that this is a personal choice! Whether you decide to big chop or transition, don’t let anyone tell you (least of all yourself) that you made the wrong choice or that your hair isn’t beautiful. Everyone’s hair is different, and everyone has a different relationship with their hair. You might hate the idea of short hair or not want to lose the ability to do longer styles; on the other hand, you might be impatient and ready to get rid of your permed hair NOW! You might not want to deal with two different textures or not like the look of transitioning hair.
We love natural hair in all its diversity of patterns, textures, lengths, colors, and styles. Going natural can be an incredible form of self-love and self-expression for many women who used to perm or relax their hair- and for many women who have always been natural, it’s simply a part of who they are and a lifelong journey of knowing themselves.
Also, something to consider: When your ends aren’t relaxed, they’re stronger, says Sims. “You won’t have ends that are breaking off, so your hair will look and feel healthier,” he adds. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. “There’s really no right or wrong way to make the move to natural.
The hardest thing that you will have to battle is within your own thoughts and feelings.
Remember, you only have to go through this transitioning process once. After that, you just need to care for your natural hair.
If you find yourself wondering if it's worth it, try creating an inspiration board full of pictures of people with natural hair that you love. This can be a great way to remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Be patient and give your hair lots of time to transition. It may take anywhere from 4-18 months for your hair to fully transition, just depending on how fast your hair grows and how long it was to begin with. It can feel like a long time, but stick with it! You’ll love how your natural hair looks and feels once you’re done.
You will have to get used to caring for natural hair which is completely different from having relaxed hair.