Transitioning to Natural Hair

There are plenty of reasons someone may want to transition to natural hair from processed hair. Many women want to make a cultural connection, stop spending money in salons or appreciate the versatility of natural hair. My personal reason was simply to save money. Being a struggling college student makes it hard to maintain regular touch-ups and styling.

However, after almost a year of ponytails, flat ironing and half wigs I finally made the choice to actually learn about my natural texture and appreciate it for what it was. Today, I truly love being able to go from straight to curly, wearing a big fro’ and most of all having healthy, thick hair. Whatever your reason is there are some great tips and things to learn that will help you along the way.

 The Right Method for You

There are two main ways to begin transitioning to natural hair. The “big chop” is exactly what it sounds like. Some people take the drastic step of cutting off all processed hair so that they are immediately natural. If you have already stopped relaxing the hair and have some new growth then you will not be completely bald. If all of your hair is processed then the big chop may actually entail a cut and shave.

The other method is simply called transitioning. Transitioners continue to maintain their processed length while growing their natural texture at the root.  The line between the two textures is called the “demarcation line” and requires a lot of care since it is very fragile. Each method has its pros and cons.

Some people do not like the idea of shorter hair after a big chop but consider it a fresh start. If the big chop just doesn’t work for you consider transitioning with protective styles instead of applying constant heat to match the textures. Once the natural hair is at a comfortable length, cut the processed hair. The aim should be to become comfortable with your natural texture and maintaining it as quickly as possible.

Learn Your Hair Type

There are many different hair types. The hair texture chart was initially created by Andre Walker, a notable stylist, and updated to include more hair types by the website, Naturally Curly. The chart can be seen here. Learning your hair texture can help you determine product choices and different ways to maintain it. It can also help to lower stress about styling. Certain smoother styles are difficult to achieve for those with the tightest textures but knowing this prior to styling can help to avoid hours of stress and styling damage. It is possible to have multiple hair textures on the same head. My hair is a mixture of 3C (curly coily) overall and 4A (coily springy) closer to the crown. Finding that your crown is made up tighter coils while the edges are looser is not uncommon.

Other important things to learn are porosity and protein sensitivity. These two go hand in hand. Low porosity hair holds moisture well but it is very difficult to even get that moisture into the hair shaft due to the tightly closed cuticle layer. High porosity holds moisture very well also but it looses it just as easily if not sealed in since the cuticle is so open. Protein, the building block of hair, can help most hair but learning about your porosity and how your hair will absorb it will save you wasted time and trouble. All in all, learn everything about your hair from whether it is fine, thick, dense, porous or a 3C curl and not a 4C kink.

 Stand Your Ground

Many naturals can attest to not being able to find a style that suits them or not being up for the maintenance of natural hair so they return to chemical treatments. It may be daunting and first but just like everything, natural hair will take some getting use to. Don’t give up!

Beware of unsupportive stylists. Some stylists are accustomed to processed hair and may push you to use a texturizer, continuous heat styling or install extensions. A stylist should stand by your side in your hair choices as someone who wants your business and happiness. There is no need to pay someone who will only second guess your hair choices. This goes for family and friends as well. Find a polite way to explain why you are choosing to begin your natural journey and that you would love support from the people you love. Not everyone will get on board with this but just know what you stand on and everything will be alright.

Remain Consistent

This is perhaps the best tip that I could give and wish I knew this long ago. It will take awhile to find a hair regimen that works for you. You may even end up having different regimens for different occasions such as winter hair care, deep conditioning days, clarifying days, after braids takedown, etc. The one thing that should remain consistent is your regimen after time at least until you know what needs changing.

The problem with changing something after only one wash is that you cannot see if that is really the problem. If your hair is dry after a wash and you are using a conditioner try to give it 2-3 more washes to make sure. It could just be that you are using a drying leave-in conditioner afterwards which counters the positive effects of the new product. This also works the same for incorporating new things. Do not introduce 5 new products at once and different ways to part and detangle the hair. It will be very hard to figure out the exact issue.


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