Eager to finally embrace your natural hair but the idea of wearing your hair short doesn’t sit well with you? No problem. In this post, we shall be looking at how you can go about transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without the big chop.
I transitioned for ten months before going fully natural in October 2014.
From my own personal experience, you don’t have to go for the big chop if you’re planning to go natural.
In this post, I’ll delve into the do’s and the don’ts when transitioning, as well as the best hair practices to follow in a bid to maintain healthy hair.
Before Anything Else…
You need to know why you are transitioning.
Are you feeling pressured by your friends, family, or just the seemingly recent “natural hair movement”?
Yeah, lately, it seems as though everyone is going natural – which can be a source of pressure for some people.
The main reason I need you to search yourself and know your reason for transitioning is because this process will require you to have boatloads of PATIENCE.
There is a lot of learning, trial, and error, and confusion in between.
It’s only patience that can get you through this phase.
It is not an easy journey.
However, the journey can be so much easier if the decision to go natural is entirely yours.
I like to tell people that it is not only the physical transition that you have to deal with, but the emotional transition too.
And the emotional transition is the hardest.
What To Expect When Transitioning From Relaxed To Natural Hair
The truth is that you will encounter a couple of challenges when transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.
Since this is a completely new journey for you, I thought I’d mention some of the things you should expect as you transition to natural hair.
Having two hair textures
Since you are growing out your hair, you’ll be dealing with two textures – the relaxed ends and the natural growth.
One of the things you should know is that caring for two hair textures is not easy.
It will require some extra effort in a bid to ensure that you do end up with breakage and split ends.
Dealing with shrinkage
When you are growing out your natural hair during the transitioning period, you’ll quickly realize that there is something new that you have to deal with – shrinkage.
I’ve discussed in detail about what causes hair shrinkage in another post.
My hair shrinks by up to 85% (no kidding) every time I wash it after stretching it using heat.
It doesn’t really bother me since I know that kind of shrinkage is a sign of healthy hair.
The shrinkage may not be as extreme when you are transitioning since you still have the relaxed ends that are straightened.
However, you’ll still be able to notice the massive shrinkage on the natural growth.
Experimenting with different hairstyles
Don’t think that you’re limited to certain styles just because you’re transitioning!
However, you may have to come to terms with the fact that some styles will no longer look great on you because you have two hair textures.
You will have to experiment a lot with hairstyles and it may take you time to finally find hairstyles that are easy to work with and suit you.
Your look may change
This is something that many people will tell you, but the truth is that you will look different with natural hair especially if you’ve worn your hair straight your entire life.
It may take a bit of accepting and adjusting to loving your new look.
I guess this is the reason some people go back to straight hair shortly after they begin the natural journey.
I’d advise ladies to embrace their new look and be proud of their natural mane.
Trying out new products
You will also experiment a lot with products as you transition to natural hair.
This is where a lot of women end up becoming product junkies.
It’s so easy to become a product junkie because there are tons of natural hair products out there, all claiming to be great.
And since products work differently for different people, it’s easy to get carried away.
As soon as you get the products that work for you, try and stick to them.
Transitioning From Relaxed To Natural Hair Without The Big Chop
Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without the big chop means that you simply grow out your relaxed hair without chopping it off as you grow in your natural hair.
In other words, it is the process of eliminating chemical treatments and allowing the hair to grow out while gradually trimming the chemically-processed ends.
Most women prefer to go natural using this method as it allows them to retain the hair length which they are already used to.
As I mentioned before, transitioning is not easy.
Therefore, the first thing you want to do is start by caring for the new natural hair growth.
You will notice that your new growth can get rather dry.
This is because natural oils from the scalp don’t travel easily through the entire shaft of curly and coily hair.
As a result, this kind of hair is easily susceptible to dryness and breakage.
Regular moisturizing will make it softer and after a while, your new growth will become more manageable.
Do you remember how you used to literally run away from rain or use your important documents to cover your hair when it was all relaxed?
Well, with natural hair, you can walk in the rain for hours and your hair will thank you for it.
Natural hair thrives on moisture.
Start adopting a moisturizing routine.
Depending on how fast your hair takes in moisture, you may need to moisturize daily or every other day.
The easiest way to moisturize your hair is to prepare a spritz bottle with water, conditioner, and some oils.
Spray the mixture into the hair every day before stepping out.
There are essentially two ways to moisture your natural hair – LOC and LCO methods.
The difference between the two is the order in which you apply products.
In the LOC method, you use the order – Liquid, Oil, then Cream; whereas in the LCO method you use the order – Liquid, Cream then Oil.
Check out the video below to learn more about using LOC and LCO methods of hair moisturization.
Besides the regular hair moisturization, you may want to incorporate deep conditioning into your hair routine.
Deep conditioning helps to deeply infuse your hair with moisture. This really helps to make your hair manageable during the transitioning process.
It also helps to strengthen your fragile transitioning strands thus comes in handy in preventing hair damage.
Avoid heat styling
If you can, please stay away from heat.
The truth is, heat is one of the enemies of natural hair.
It can cause damage to your hair so fast and so severely that recovering from the damage is nearly impossible.
I was once forced to chop off my hair and start all over again after suffering from heat damage.
If you must use heat, use the lowest heat setting.
Some people choose to flat iron their hair as a way to blend the two hair textures.
If you’ve chosen this route, always make sure that you use a heat protectant to avoid permanently damaging your tresses.
If you’re trying to deal with shrinkage, there are other heat-free methods you can use to stretch your hair such as African hair threading.
Trim your hair regularly
As your new growth appears, trim some of your relaxed hair.
Some people will prefer to trim immediately they see some hair growth while some will do it periodically.
You can try trimming the relaxed ends every two months, three months, or even wait up to six months when you have significant growth.
All in all, trim your hair when you feel ready.
Trimming is different from doing a big chop.
Trimming happens bit by bit while a big chop means letting go of all of your relaxed hair at once.
The gradual trimming also helps minimize breakage.
Keep your hair detangled
You will notice that your hair gets too detangled than before – especially the area where the new growth meets your relaxed hair.
The point where the two textures meet is known as the line of demarcation.
The detangling is attributed to the “battle” of the two textures.
Be careful not to rip through the tangles when combing your hair.
During this transitioning phase, ALWAYS use a wide-tooth comb when detangling your hair.
This will help you gently work through any knots and tangles with minimal (if any) breakage.
During wash day, you should wash your hair in sections since this will help prevent the hair from getting matted, as well as minimize the chance of tangles.
Besides a wide-tooth comb, you’ll also need to get a detangling spray, and sectioning clips for a successful detangling procedure.
Wear the right styles
I wore braids a lot during my 10-month transitioning period.
The truth is, the best styles while transitioning will be those that you don’t have to touch for a few days or more.
Besides braids, wet sets like twist-outs, braid-outs, and rod sets blend the two hair textures so that they are less noticeable, and each style will last a week or so.
Protective styling is the most preferred during the transitioning period because your ends are tucked away and you basically “leave your hair alone” for a week or more.
You don’t want to keep over-manipulating your hair while risking unnecessary breakage.
Remember the line of demarcation that separates the two hair textures is quite fragile.
Once the hair is moisturized, keep it tucked away in styles such as cornrows, twists, or a low bun in order to keep the moisture in.
This gives your hair its best chance to thrive until you’re ready to chop off the relaxed ends (my aunt calls them strings.. lol).
Keep a hair journal
When you are transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without the big chop, I’d strongly recommend that you keep a hair journal.
Since you need to “learn” and understand your hair, it’s good to keep a hair journal so as to monitor how your hair behaves towards certain products and hairstyles.
A hair journal will also help you to know when you should trim your hair and when the next wash day is.
It will also help you to assess the growth of the new natural hair.
You can also include the new hairstyles and products you want to try out and a list of the hairstyles that have worked well for you.
The idea is to keep adding and removing some information on the journal.
It may seem like a lot of work now, but six months into journaling you will be grateful you did.
Your natural hair journey will be so much easier as you know what to do, how to do it, and what to avoid.
How To Wash Transitioning Hair
Washing transitioning hair or natural hair is very different from washing relaxed hair.
Even the products used are different.
Because of the two different textures coming into contact, the hair gets extremely tangles when water hits it.
This is why you need to know how to properly wash transitioning hair.
Use the right products
The first step is to get the right shampoo and the right conditioner.
Use sulfate-free shampoo, this won’t strip away your natural oils and also won’t make your hair brittle.
By all means, avoid products with drying ingredients like alcohol.
They could prolong your transition period by causing drying and breakage.
Only purchase moisturizing and hydrating products.
Along with the right products, get the right tools.
The fine-tooth comb and brushes will no longer work for your hair.
Invest in a couple of wide-tooth combs, sectioning clips, metal-free elastics, among others.
Wash your hair when standing upright and not leaning forward or back.
When standing upright, your hair will naturally fall down and stay in that position as opposed to leaning which forces your hair to move around causing tangles.
Use warm water
Use warm water and not cold water when washing your hair.
Besides getting rid of grime and product build-up, warm water stimulates the flow of blood to the follicles, which is a great way to encourage hair growth.
Warm water also creates extra texture and leaves your hair looking less flat and more voluminous.
It’s advisable to wash your hair in sections to avoid excessive tangling.
Co-washing is where you use conditioner to wash your hair instead of shampoo.
Using the co-washing method helps in dealing with issues of dryness that come with regular shampoo use.
It also leaves your natural hair smooth and manageable.
If you must use shampoo, apply a layer of conditioner first before shampooing your hair.
Since transitioning hair tangles and knots easily, it is advisable that you don’t wash too often.
Washing weekly is a good duration but if you can stretch it to bi-weekly, the better.
This will help to minimize the chances of breakage.
Stretch your new growth
Remember we recommend that you avoid using heat styling appliances during the transitioning phases.
Over the years, I have turned to a few heat-free methods of stretching my hair so as to prevent major hair shrinkage.
They include banding, African hair threading, bantu knots, bunning, twist outs, braid outs and roller sets.
Styles To Wear When Transitioning From Relaxed To Natural Hair
Because your hair is two-textured, you will realize that it is hard to keep certain hairstyles.
Some hairstyles just don’t cut it for transitioning hair.
As such, it’s important that you find and stick to what works.
For starters, there are two types of hairstyles that will work for most people: low manipulation hairstyles and protective hairstyles.
Low manipulation hairstyles allow you to wear your hair out but with minimal manipulation.
These include twists-outs, puffs, fros, and rod sets.
Protective hairstyles on the other hand include styles like braids, cornrows, Bantu knots, African threading, and the likes.
These tuck away your ends and protect your hair from any manipulation and external elements.
When transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without the big chop, I strongly advise against wearing wigs and weaves.
While they may be seen as ideal especially for busy women, they don’t give you a chance to “learn” your hair.
You can wear them but on rare occasions.
You need to accept your new journey and start loving your natural hair.
To spice things up a bit, you could add in some hair accessories.
Headwraps are so ideal for transitioning hair and there are lots of beautiful headwraps in the market.
How Long Does It Take To Transition From Relaxed To Natural Hair?
Honestly, there is no set timeline for transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.
Everyone’s journey is different.
For some, it may be shorter while for others it may take a longer period.
What you need to know is that it takes about a month to grow half an inch of hair so you can do the math to see how long it will take you to get to the length you want before you can chop off the relaxed hair.
But even as you do the math, bear in mind that how you care for your hair also plays a big role in how fast it will grow.
I hope you’ll find this detailed guide on how to go about transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without the big chop helpful.
As you can see, it’s not hard to do the transition.
You only need to be mentally prepared for the journey.
The transition period may take longer than anticipated but you will eventually have a head full of natural hair.
Be patient, stay away from heat, moisturize and make use of protective and low manipulation hairstyles.