Not only does transitioning hair require consistency, commitment, and patience, but also a primer on the best natural hair care products to use during this phase and an understanding of how your hair grows.
If maintaining length is your preference, know that it is possible to transition to natural hair without doing a big chop. But whether you decide to cut or not, mentally prepare for it to take some time for your natural curls to come in and shape up. Transitioning may seem a bit daunting, but before you know it you’ll have a natural hair routine nailed down, and your curls will be rolling right in. Here’s what you need to know, including 10 tips on how to transition natural hair.
How To Transition To Natural Hair
Every head of hair is different, so while the steps to transition to natural hair may seem universal, the way that your hair responds can differ from someone else’s experience. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way—the goal is always healthy hair. At the onset, you’ll probably have tons of questions like what is a good routine for transitioning to natural hair? Or, how long does it take to transition to natural hair? Let’s break it all down with 10 transitioning hair tips.
1. Be patient. Whether you decide to do a big chop or gradually grow out a relaxer, it’s going to take at least three to four months to start to see real change. For some, it may be a full year before you’re completely chemical-free. It all depends on how long your hair takes to grow and how well you treat and protect it during the transition phase.
It’ll be tough, but try not to set a time frame for when you want to rock a certain curly hairstyle. Managing expectations through the process will help make the stages less frustrating. You’ll get there, it just may not be within the window that you designated. You also want to give yourself some wiggle room to figure out your natural hair care lineup and how to perfect protective styling, which are all factors that can potentially push back any growth goals that you set for yourself.
2. Cut when necessary. If you’re wondering how to transition to natural hair without cutting it, know that there are a few ways to grow in natural curls. However, for the health of your budding curls, some cutting is necessary. It doesn’t mean a buzz cut or big chop, but gradually trimming the ends of your hair (a habit that you should be doing whether your hair is relaxed or natural) every six to eight weeks will not only help speed up the process, but it will also keep your fragile strands from breaking as they transition from being straightened by chemicals.
3. Deep condition often. Hair that is transitioning is very fragile. It’s most compromised right at the point where your new growth and previously straightened strands meet, so you’ll need to treat that area with extra care. Do this by keeping the hair from drying out. That’s what will lead to breakage. Switch to weekly deep conditioning sessions using the Monoi Repairing Hair Mask.
4. Plan out your protective styles. While you don’t want to set up time parameters during this process, what you can do is map out your styling options. Whether it’s box braids for a few months and then flexi-rod sets for a couple of weeks or something else entirely, setting up a schedule of style options will help give you some short term switch up to look forward to and help take your mind off of how much your curls have grown.
There are a ton of protective styles to try, and the concept, in general, is ideal when transitioning. It gives your hair a moment to breathe and go untouched. This cuts down on breakage and friction and allows for growth. Whichever protective style you go with, keep the tension off of your hairline, temples, and nape of your neck. Baby hairs in these areas are just as fragile as the parts that were previously chemically treated, so keep the tension off of your edges, too.
5. Cut back on heat styling. For the same reason that you need to deep condition more often, you’ll also want to reduce the amount of heat that you’re applying to your hair. This is among the most important transitioning hair tips. While you may want to maintain a straight look until you get enough new growth to wear your hair curly, the heat from hot tools can dry hair out even more and cause breakage. It can also compromise the state of your new curls by changing the curl pattern that it’s growing into. Curls may look stretched out, warped, and heat damaged. If any bit of heat is needed, even from a blow-dryer, apply the Pracaxi Nectar Straight Blow Dry Cream beforehand to protect your hair.
6. Don’t stress the shedding. The emotional stages of transitioning can be a lot. One minute you think you have it all under control and the next you’re looking at a sink full of strands that are no longer on your head. Does transitioning hair shed a lot? Yes. Is it reversible? Somewhat. There will be more hair breakage if it isn’t moisturized regularly. But keep in mind that your hair is supposed to shed naturally—about 50 to 100 hairs a day to be exact. So, you can expect to see some fallout no matter what.
If you’re protective styling, whether you’re transitioning or not, when you take down the braids or twists, you can also anticipate having some shedding from what wasn’t able to come out while your style was installed. This is completely normal and not a reason for concern. Ring the alarm when you see golf ball-sized clumps of hair daily. This may signal a bigger concern that a stylist or dermatologist can weigh in on.
7. Avoid drying ingredients. Another factor that could prolong the transition process is using the wrong products. Just as that too much heat can dry out your hair, the same can happen with sulfate shampoos and conditioners and alcohol-based stylers. Dry hair, no matter what the cause, is a target for breakage. Instead, look for moisturizing formulas like a sulfate-free shampoo for natural hair and moisturizing hair conditioners, and replenish moisture often with the Goddess Strength Divine Strength Leave-In Cream with Castor Oil, focusing your hydrators specifically on the demarcation point where your new growth and relaxed hair meet.
Also on the list of things to avoid in a good routine for transitioning to natural hair are protein treatments. In general, these have big benefits for strengthening hair and can be one of the best natural hair products, but they’re not the most moisturizing. For transitioning hair, which needs all the hydration it can get, protein treatments can actually make hair more dry and brittle.
8. Focus on scalp health. Keeping your hair follicles and scalp free of product buildup and flaking will help rev up hair growth. Incorporate a thorough scalp massage into your wash day routine using Wash Day Delight. The shampoo’s bottle has a pointed tip that makes for a focused application right at the scalp, while the micellar formula traps dirt and grime without stripping away natural oils.
9. Detangle Carefully. In addition to using the right products for transitioning hair, how you comb and brush is just as important. Avoid using fine-tooth combs when styling and especially when detangling. Wet hair is already fragile.
Make sure that hair is thoroughly coated with the moisturizing Black Vanilla 4-in-1 Combing Creme or the Coco Creme Creamy Conditioner and use a wide-tooth comb to detangle from the ends of your hair up to the roots. If possible, try to avoid brushing transitioning hair, especially when wet. You’ll be able to get back to brushing once your curls come in, but even then, be careful when brushing your hair to prevent disrupting your curls.
10. Keep hair moisturized. Moisture is probably the single most important thing transitioning hair needs. In order to maintain the elasticity needed to keep fragile curls growing, hair needs to stay hydrated. If you’re asking yourself: Why is my transitioning hair so dry?, it could be a number of things. Heat styling as a way of keeping the new growth at your roots smooth may be drying hair out, or perhaps leftover chemicals on the processed pieces of your hair have stripped them of moisture. Additionally, as your curls grow in, it makes it more difficult for the natural oils on your scalp to move down the hair shaft, so hair tends to be a lot drier overall.
So what is a good moisturizer for transitioning hair? Ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and penetrating oils like avocado, monoi, and grapeseed can all replenish lost moisture. Infuse them during your deep conditioning sessions or by using a leave-in conditioner like the Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner before styling. And don’t forget to work the Healthy Hair Butter in before installing a protective style. Don’t worry about overdoing it. There’s no such thing as too much moisture, especially for low porosity hair or hair that’s in between the curly and straight phase.
If your strands feel dry a few days after a wash, rehydrate it with the Hair Milk Refresher Spray, followed by hair oils to seal in the moisture. You can also consider breaking out an at-home hair steamer dryer for a moisture-boosting treatment.
And those are the 10 tips you need to know! For a quick summary: Making the decision and then following through with a hair transition isn’t easy, but with a flexible plan and lots of patience, you’ll be reaching your hair goals in no time. Keep moisture top of mind and use the time between straight and curly to play around with some new looks.
Next: Want to make sure you’re stocked up on the best products for transitioning hair? Besides the ones we’ve covered, check out this guide to the 20 Natural Hair Products to Try in 2020.