Maybe you’ve been experiencing breakage, or maybe your hair’s pretty much damaged beyond repair. Maybe you want to make a style statement, or you want to stand out in the crowd. Maybe you just want a big change in your life, and your hair seems like a good place to start. Maybe you want to rebel against what you’ve always been encouraged to be. Maybe you’ve just had it up to here with having to go to the hairdresser as often as you do, or maybe you’re just sick of the stink and burn of creamy crack on your scalp. Any one (or all) of those reasons could lead a bella to consider transitioning from relaxed to natural.
It’s not a decision I think anyone should make on a whim — especially if you’re the kind of bella who makes a point of switching up her style often and gets bored with her hair easily, you might not be ready to commit to having natural hair. And it is a commitment. From the big chop onwards, it’s a whole new journey that will lead you to love your hair in an entirely different way. I’ve written about transitioning before, and I get more Ask Afrobella questions about that than anything else. So without further ado, here’s my top five tips for a successful transition.
1. Ask yourself — am I really ready for this? Am I making this change for the right reasons? The early stages of transitioning can be daunting. I’d be lying if I said I never had days when I was frustrated with my changing hair texture. Bellas who are hoping to keep their relaxed hair length while growing out the chemicals at the root night find themselves aghast at the idea of doing a big chop. I personally think the big chop is the way to go — just getting rid of the weak ends that can be easily broken off feels freeing. It’s a way to make the statement to yourself and to the world – I’m a natural woman, accept me as I am. As Dee on Nappturality says, it IS possible to transition without it, but your hair will be weakened at the line of demarcation and breakage might occur. There are some great big chop videos on YouTube, so perhaps watching other women go through it will inspire you, or at least let you know if it’s the right change for you. It could also help you to take Nappturality’s transitioning quiz to figure out your status.
2. Conditioner is your new BFF. Shampoo, not so much. I addressed this early on in To Poo or Not To Poo, and I’ll say it again — shampooing too often will leave your hair frizzy, stripped of its natural moisture, and not happy at all. In the transitioning period, it’s important to treat your tresses to lots of deep conditioning treatments – weekly is best — and conditioner wash your hair during the week if it feels heavy or dirty. Like Motown Girl said, there are concoctions you can make yourself to cleanse your new curls. Check out her recipes here. Matter of fact – this brings me to point number 3.
3. Educate yourself about your new hair. Become extra familiar with Motown Girl — she’s got a great post on staying natural here. Introduce yourself to the sisters at Nappturality — you would be hard pressed to find a community more encouraging, intelligent, and knowledgable about everything to do with natural hair. Learn which ingredients are good for your hair, and which ones are bad. Try some hair recipes. By learning more about natural hair, you’ll learn to love it more and work with it better.
4. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. From the inside out. So drink water, duh – and look for products with healthy ingredients to lock in moisture to your curls. I’ve reviewed so many products, I don’t know where to begin. But I must add — what works for me may not work for you. What feels like my holy grail might leave buildup or residue for you, and vice versa. Everyone’s texture and needs are different, so just take the time — do the research on products that work for women with your texture, and buy small sizes of hair products until you figure out what your hair really loves.
5. Don’t give up. I meet so many bellas who say to me, “I could never go natural,” or “my hair wouldn’t look cute natural.” How do you know? Have you given your hair the time and the love it deserves, to realize what your natural texture truly is? Did you give transitioning a fair shake, or did you get bored with your TWA after a month and a half and try to slap on some texturizer, or wear a long clip on ponytail because you didn’t feel as cute without long hair? (you know who you are, amiga! No shade, I still love you. But come on, you need to know you’re gorgeous without that yaki mess). Learn how to own your fro. Don’t be afraid to work it with fly accessories, or accentuate your femininity with jewelry or earrings, if you can’t get used to having shorter or kinkier hair. Natural hair takes confidence and knowledge of self, and thankfully there are online resources to remind you of that on the days when your nosy relatives ask you if you’re going to “do something about that.”
Need some extra transitioning help? Kinky Curly to the rescue! I reviewed the full line almost a year ago, and owner Shelley Davis has come out with a new product for this particular hair dilemma. Transitioners Tonic is loaded with aloe vera and chamomile to soothe your scalp, and… oh, I’ll just let Shelley tell you herself.
“The Transitioners Tonics is an all natural scalp tonic to assist those in the grow-out phase of their relaxer. Many women are afraid to let go of the perm for various reason. They fear chopping it all off and worry about scab hair. The Transitioners Tonic will help prevent scab hair by soothing and healing the scalp with Aloe and chamomile from past relaxer damage and by softening the new growth with Sodium PCA. It also strengthens the hair at the line of demarcation to prevent breakage with Silk Protein and silica. What everyone really loves about it is that it helps with hair growth with Rosemary and biotin. I concocted this because the scalp is often overlooked and is very important to healthy hair especially during transitioning,” she explained to me via e mail.
Shelley is well aware of the shipping and communication issues of the past, and she was very honest with me about the difficulties she’s faced with that. I can understand where she’s coming from – going from a small venture you’ve started in your free time to a larger operation where you’re inundated with e mails and phone calls and orders must be crazy overwhelming at times. I can’t hardly stay on top of my e mail, and I’m not half as busy as Shelley is. But she acknowledges that there have been problems, and she wants to prove that they’re behind her. She also has great tips for those who aspire to transition.
So point 6. from Shelley — “The one thing I really want to stress to women transitioning who plan on wearing their hair in its natural state most of the time, is to avoid the use of heated styling tools during the transition. The heat from the flat iron or hot comb and even the pulling and stretching from the blowdryer can and will reduce the elasticity in your hair shaft and then ruin the texture of your hair…even with one use. Heat damage will result in even more breakage, and many different textures on your head (some stringy and some crinkly) This causes many transitioners to get frustrated and give up the journey to natural hair. My recommendations are braid outs, twist outs and good old fashioned roller sets – these styles are easy on the hair, are healthy and help a person learn to work with the natural texture of their hair. The above info will not apply if someone is growing out a relaxer and they desire to wear their hair in a straight flat ironed or press and curl style the majority of the time – they probably will not care if they have very different textures of hair on their head since it will be worn straight most of the time. And about the Transitioners Tonic I want to stress how important scalp massage is to everyone – it is relaxing, it strengthens the roots of the hair and it also stimulates hair growth. The scalp is an often overlooked but very important when it comes to hair care and healthy hair. If you have damaged hair you can cut it off and it will grow back but with damaged follicles that is not the case.”
I hope that information doesn’t freak you out, aspiring afrobellas. There’s a lot to think about before you transition, and I want you to be informed before you make a decision.
So are you ready? Really really ready? If you are, you’re in luck! Shelley is giving away five bottles of Transitioners Tonic, and all you need to do is leave me a comment. Tell me what’s inspiring you to transition and go natural. What are your particular transitioning concerns? This is a great opportunity to learn from our shared experiences, here. I’ll close the comments on Tuesday and post a list o’ winners during the week.
Happy Friday, bellas!
* the painting at the top of this post is William S. Carter’s “Woman Thinking.”