Putting down the relaxer and hair straightener is a tough decision to make, especially if you’re unaccustomed to your own natural hair and texture. After years of ironing and using chemicals to straighten my curls, I decided to give it all up.
But it wasn’t as easy as I'd hoped. I had to figure out which products worked best with my curls, and then, when those products started to fail after a couple of months, I had to find new products. Needless to say, I was a mess.
After two years of transitioning and sticking to it, I’m finally happy with the state of my natural hair. So I understand how frustrating it is when you just want to wash and go but your limp or dried locks are laughing back at you in the mirror. Thus, I’ve complied a few tips and words of advice to help you on your journey.
Do not panic about the big chop.
You don’t need to do the big chop (cutting off the relaxed ends) when transitioning. It may be easier, but it is not mandatory. Gradually cutting and trimming your ends, however, is crucial. You want to get rid of the damage that is weighing down your natural curl as it grows in. But do this at your own pace.
Remember that your hair is unique.
What works for one person may not work for you and vice versa. Don’t get discouraged if you follow someone’s routine and it fails to yield any results. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error during the first year of transitioning. Take advice and try different things, but stick to what works and don’t worry about the rest.
Patience and commitment go a long way.
You can’t understand the patience required for this process until months five to six, or on a hot summer night when your hair balloons and it takes everything inside of you to not break down and cry. No one said it would be easy, but it will pay off. Just take a deep breath and remember to a) steer clear of products containing humectants in the summer and b) always apply products to wet hair. Little changes in your routine can make a big difference. Don’t let the frustration break you!
Shake up your styling routine.
It has to get messy and complicated before it can get better. Don't go out and buy every styling product promising to cure damaged locks overnight (not going to happen). The first couple of months are when you want to focus on care and developing better habits, such as shopping for paraben- and sulfate-free products and sleeping with a silk pillowcase or bonnet. The damaged locks aren’t coming back to life, but these measures can help protect new growth.
Moisture is the key to success.
Time to get acquainted with conditioners, leave-in-conditioners, masques, and oils. The line of demarcation (point where relaxed and natural hair meet) is very faint, so it's important to give it special attention. For example, when detangling hair it is best to do so with a rinse-out conditioner in the shower using a wide-tooth comb. And always start with the ends and work your way up to the roots. It's also important to use a deep conditioner every one to two weeks to improve hair's health. Switch to a protein treatment if you experience breakage. Oils, meanwhile, are a great sealant. You may need to experiment to find the oil that's best for you. Castor oil is one option.
Lock away the heat styling products.
You may think you’re strong, but see how quick you are to reach for the straightener when humidity strikes. Padlock those heat stylers away or have a friend hide them. Whatever you do, just get them out of reach. The alternative? Try protective styles such as twists, rod sets, or bantu knots to avoid further damage when drying. And if you can’t air dry, use a hooded dryer or a diffuser on a low heat setting.
Keep a photo diary to document your progress.
New growth? No crown of frizz? Healthy-looking ends? Snap a picture on your phone. It helps to have a visual record of the hard work and time you've dedicated to embracing your natural texture. If you want to take it one step further, take notes on the different products and routines you're trying so you can track what works and what doesn't. Or try the Hair Journal app!
Discover different transitioning styles.
Accessories are going to get you through a lot of awkward periods. It is crazy how well a hat works when your hair is doing two things at once. Get to know and love them. When you can't wear a hat, try different transitioning hairstyles, such as flat twists, buns, pin-ups, rollers, braid-outs, and flexi rods.
Find inspiration to keep you motivated.
Seeing a constant stream of images of straight-haired beauties can be discouraging. Curate your Instagram and Pinterest by following women you can relate to, hair-wise, and create a Pinterest board of natural-haired ladies that inspire you. Stacey Hash motivated me to never want to touch a hair straightener. You need to find your Stacey Hash.
There is going to be criticism.
People are going to have an opinion about your hair. Dealing with criticism from strangers is a challenge on its own, but often we get it from friends, family members, and partners, too. Getting told you look better with straight hair is annoying and hurtful. Try to not let the negativity bring you down. It’s YOUR hair. Everyone else can just take a seat and mind their business.
I know this is a lot of information to take in, but it does get easier once you hit your stride. The key is never giving up. When you hit a roadblock, ask for help and read forums and posts about curly/textured hair maintenance.
Are you currently transitioning? Any tips to add? Let's start a conversation and help one another embrace our natural texture. It's a daily struggle.