I recently received an email from a new freshman in college who is interested in embarking on the natural hair journey. She asked for some tips for starting the transitioning stage, so I thought I would share my tips for the sake of others who may be embarking on the same, wonderful journey : )
TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING FROM RELAXED TO NATURAL HAIR 1. Decide HOW you are going to transition: Some OPTIONS - You can get braids/weave and cut your relaxed ends off gradually in between the changing of the braids/weave. - You can wear styles with your own hair that use minimal heat: wet roller/rod sets that give a curly look, bantu knots, two-strand twists/twist-outs (There are pictures of all of these on my blog) This was personally my favorite way of transitioning.
2. Decide how LONG you want to transition: Long-term vs. Short-term - Long-term transition: If you don't feel comfortable with chopping off all of your relaxed ends with only a couple of inches left of hair, then consider cutting your relaxed ends off gradually. There are many girls who have transitioned over the period of 8 months to years. - Short-term transition: This is pretty much simultaneous with a "big chop" (BC) which consists of chopping all of the relaxed ends at once after letting the natural hair grow in from a couple weeks to a couple months. I actually transitioned for 4 months. This if for those of you like me, who may start to get anxious when you see that natural hair start to grow in!!
3. Select appropriate PRODUCTS to care for your transitioning hair This is a hard area to generalize since many products work differently for each person. The main thing to realize though is that using shampoos with sulfates in them tend to be drying to the hair and can result in enhanced breakage between the relaxed and new natural hair. That interface is already going to be weak because of the different textures, so you have to be careful. One thing that worked well for me is the idea of "co-washing". This is when you instead wash your hair with conditioner. If you do a rigorous enough wash, you can still remove the dirt and residue just using conditioner and it won't dry out your hair. If you find you're getting product build-up in your hair after a while, then you can use a sulfate-free shampoo to more fully cleanse your hair. There are other methods for washing that include the use of baking soda conditioner and apple cider vinegar rinses. I haven't personally tried these yet so I can't vouch, but there are plenty of other chicas on YouTube that provide more information on these areas. You should also moisturize your hair well. You can watch a vid that I did describing various methods you can take to ensure that your hair is well-moisturized. This will help to minimize breakage. Some of the main things I use to help retain moisture include water/glycerin mixes, shea butter/coconut oil/aloe vera gel creams, natural oils (jojoba, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, peppermint, rosemary, lemon).
As far as washing, there again is a lot of variety among girls when it comes to the frequency. I personally got used to washing my hair at least once every week or two times a week when I was transitioning. This was mainly because I would do a lot of flexi-rod sets/bantu knot outs and my styles wouldn't last for more than week : ) Good products for when you're styling/setting your hair are actually natural products like shea butter, aloe vera gel, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and plenty others! You can check out the rest of my blog out to see different things I've tried with those products. With styling, try not to blow dry and flat-iron your hair much. Maybe once a month if at all. Really focus on styles that use minimal heat : )
4. Have PATIENCE! Transitioning can sometimes get frustrating when you are dealing with 2 different textures of hair. However, if you have the patience to endure, you will be thanked with healthy, natural hair at the end : ) Sometimes it can be encouraging to start a hair journal, where you can jot down the products that worked/didn't worked, styles that you liked, and hair growth updates. Sometimes its even encouraging to look at pictures of natural hair journeys on www.fotki.com, where you can see the results of those who have already gone down the transitioning road. The link to my fotki is on the right sidebar of my blog.
Hope this helps anyone who is thinking about transitioning or currently transitioning! As always, let me know if you ever have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org !
(Some pics from my TRANSITIONING stage)
This is a two-strand twist bantu knot-out. I two-strand twisted my hair, and then rolled them into bantu knots all over my head while my hair was still wet. I let them air dry and unraveled the knots and twists. Styled by just gently separating the twists further and used a side comb to hold one side of my hair back. Using a mixture of shea butter and coconut oil can help to give the hair more definition and shine.
This is a two-strand twist out. I made small twists all over my head while hair was wet. After wearing the twists themselves for a couple of days, I untwisted them and just styled with a headband.
This is a result of a flexi-rod set. I used a mixture of the gray and blue flexi-rods. Rolled the hair while wet and let air dry. Styled by just separating the curls gently while coconut oil was on my fingertips.