Before I started transitioning. That was as long as I could get
my hair to grow because I was relaxing and using a lot of heat
on my hair all the time. (And that is my hubby, Alex! He
definitely wins the award for Best Husband!)
1. Handle your hair gently This is very important. As your hair grows out, you will notice that your natural texture is different from that of your relaxed hair. The part where the two textures meet is called the line of demarcation. The name isn't important, but what really matters is how you treat this part of your hair for it is THE most fragile. Mishandling this area as your hair grows out will lead to breakage and unhealthy hair.
2. Moisture This can be a tricky one as everyone's moisture needs are different. But you should definitely incorporate a moisturizing deep conditioning step into your regimen because moisture keeps your hair pliable and healthy. The frequency will depend on your hair's specific needs, so pay attention to what your hair is telling you. For example, if you're doing a deep condition (DC) once a week and you notice that your hair begins to feel mushy when it's wet, then you're probably over-conditioning. But if on the other hand your hair feels hard or brittle then you probably need to condition more. To find out what products I use for my DCs, click here.
3. Minimize Heat This is huge. I transitioned before I knew anything about caring for my natural hair, so I used a lot of heat when I transitioned (without a heat protectant), especially in the front since I wore half wigs a lot. As a result that part of my hair suffered from heat damage (lost its curl) and I'm still growing it out (yes, depending on your length it will literally take years to grow out the heat damage because hair only grows about a 1/2 inch a month, on average). I would recommend that you eliminate the use heat styling tools such as blow dryers and flat irons during the transitioning process. If you absolutely cannot resist using heat, then use a good heat protectant prior to blow drying and flat ironing.
I wore half wigs a lot while transitioning
but wasn't using a heat protectant so the front
suffered a lot of heat damage.
4. Blending Textures As your natural texture grows out it will become increasingly difficult to blend it with the relaxed portion of your hair. Depending on the kinkiness of your natural texture, this may not be a problem for you. But if your hair is more on the kinky/coily side like mine, then you will need to consider how you will wear your hair. There is always the option of avoiding this altogether by wearing wigs, half wigs, weaves and protective hairstyles such as microbraids, Senegalese twists, etc. Just be sure to care for your hair properly in these styles with regular washing to keep your scalp clean and DC to maintain moisture levels. But if you don't wish to add hair and you still need to blend textures, then twists and twist-outs, braids, box braids, braid-outs, flat twists, bantu knots and more...they're all options for you. Go here to see some of my styles.
5. Detangling I didn't learn about proper detangling practices until I was completely natural. But how you detangle is as important as maintaining moisture. Once you're completely natural, you will be able to consider other detangling options such as dry finger detangling. But until the relaxer is gone, you should only detangle your hair with a wide-toothed comb when it is wet and saturated with a moisturizing conditioner that has a lot of slip. The more your natural hair grows out, the more difficult your hair may be to detangle, especially if your natural texture is much kinkier than your relaxed hair. Section your hair and always start detangling at the tips or ends of your hair, then gradually move up toward your scalp as you feel the comb moving through without getting caught.
6. Trimming The more your natural texture grows out, the more you may feel the desire to trim off your relaxed ends. As long as you are keeping your ends healthy, how much and how often you trim while transitioning is up to you. It all depends on your comfort level with the length of your hair. The important thing is to make sure your ends are healthy. How can you tell if your ends are healthy? When you hold your ends up to the light and they are blunt - not split, tapered or thin - then they are healthy.
7. Emotional Roller Coaster Transitioning is an emotional process. There may be days that you're excited to "meet" your natural hair. Then there may be days that your hair frustrates you and you want to chop it all off, which is absolutely ok to do! Lots of women "big chop" or "BC." Quite honestly, if I'd had the nerve I would've done it myself. I've had friends who were struggling with transitioning and I encouraged them to BC because in terms of manageability, it is much easier to BC than it is to transition. But the BC isn't for everyone. Transitioning or BCing is a decision that you will have to make.
8. Only Your Opinion Matters On your journey to going to natural you may begin to receive strange comments or looks from those around you. Don't be surprised if the bulk of those comments and looks come from family or close friends. I've heard of a lot of naturals who have had to deal with that. But don't be discouraged. Give them the grace to be ignorant and just do you. They don't have to understand your decision to go natural and it doesn't matter if they like it. What matters is how YOU feel about your hair.
9. Community The journey to natural is just that - a journey. While transitioning I didn't know about the growing online natural hair community that could've really helped me. There are hundreds and hundreds of natural hair blogs, You Tube videos and articles that will help and encourage you as you transition. A good place to start would be CurlyNikki. She has paved the way for naturals the world over and provides great tips and knowledge about natural hair.
I hope these tips help you on your journey to natural! Stay encouraged! Believe me, it IS worth it!!!