Have you finally decided to stop relaxing your hair and go au naturale but don’t want to do a big chop?
The good news is that transitioning to natural hair does not mean that you need to cut all of your hair off in one fell swoop!
There are many ways that people transition their hair to natural without having a significant style change. It can be done in stages or gradually; the key is finding what works for you.
This article will walk through 12 tips for transitioning from relaxed to natural hair without a big chop.
1. Find a good hairstylist
Although the onus is on you, a skilled hairstylist will have a role in helping you reach your goal of going completely natural. You will need a good hairdresser who understands the process and can do it correctly.
Make sure to find someone with experience doing this so they can help guide you through the journey, using their expertise to help you transition your hair.
2. Understand your hair type and texture
You need to understand your hair type and texture to choose the proper care for your hair.
Hair type is a combination of your hair’s density, porosity, and width.
- Density: the number of strands on each area of the head
- Porosity: how open or closed cuticles are which allows for moisture retention levels
- Width: circumference around the root from one strand
Curl patterns can be either loose or tight that can be either fine or coarse. There are various curl patterns to consider: Type 1s are straight, Type 2s are wavy, Type 3s are curly, and Type 4s are coily.
Afro-textured hair strands are Type 4s; they tend to form very tight and small curls of zig-zag right from the scalp that are coarse in texture. This hair type tends to be naturally dry and thus requires lots of moisture to prevent breakage.
Transitioning requires patience. Some women will be able to transition quickly, while others will take longer.
Transitioning to natural hair can be a long process. As such, it’s essential to know your hair type to choose the proper care for you.
3. Trim your ends regularly, when necessary
As you transition, the goal is to keep your ends healthy. Regularly trimming hair helps remove any damaged strands before they become a problem.
The benefits of trimming your hair include:
- Removing split and damaged ends
- Preventing future breakage
- Making detangling much easier
- Encouraging faster hair growth
On the other hand, if you want to keep your length, you must know what kind of trims your stylist is giving out.
This knowledge will help prevent over-trimming as some hairdressers will trim off more than is necessary. Excessive trimming can significantly slow down your hair growth process.
4. Use protective styling
Using protective styles can help protect the length of hair from damage while transitioning to natural hair.
Daily manipulation of hair causes split ends, dryness, and breakage. Protective styles tuck away the entire length and ends of your hair. As the ends are the oldest part of your hair, they are more susceptible to damage.
There is a wide array of protective styles that you can experiment with when transitioning to natural hair. Styles may include cornrows, twist-outs, braid-outs, perm rods, weaves, wigs, crotchet styles, among many others.
Such styles allow for minimal manipulation and thus protect your hair from unnecessary breakage from daily styling. You can also keep your ends tucked away in buns or up-dos when not styling them into an actual protective style.
5. Minimize heat styling
Heat styling is the main culprit when it comes to hair damage.
Excessive heat styling changes the shape of your hair’s keratin (protein) strands. Heat also generally strips natural oils and water molecules away from your hair and makes your hair even more vulnerable to further damage.
The tell-tale signs of heat damage may include dryness, split ends, knotting, dullness, frizzy & rough texture, and breakage.
Minimal heat (below 300 F) will not cause permanent damage. However, continued use of hot tools will cause more harm than good. These tools may include blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons.
It’s best to reduce your use of heat tools, if not eliminate them.
6. Use a moisturizing deep conditioner regularly
Your hair requires maintaining moisture in both the scalp and ends. Moisture is to natural hair what oil is to cars: it keeps everything running smoothly and prevents damage.
Deep conditioning your hair regularly will help maintain moisture in your natural hair. Without such maintenance, you may encounter dryness or split ends that can lead to breakage. If these issues occur, transitioning becomes even more difficult as you are more prone to tangles and knots.
Deep conditioning also strengthens any damaged or brittle ends that may have resulted from previous chemical use. Other benefits may include:
- Improved hair elasticity, thus preventing breakage
- Smooths hair shaft, thus restoring hair’s natural shine
- Prevents dry scalp and dandruff by adding moisture
The best time for a deep conditioning treatment is after shampooing and before applying any styling products or heat tools. Adding oil to the treatment can be beneficial in promoting shine.
7. Use protein treatments only as needed
Protein is an essential part of hair and nails. Protein deficiency may lead to weak, thinning, and brittle hair that breaks easily.
Natural protein sources include eggs, yogurt (especially Greek), watermelon seeds & quinoa, among others.
Excessive use of protein conditioners can make your strands too stiff or hard, leading to breakage.
It is best to use protein treatments only when your hair needs repair, not on a routine basis. Add protein naturally by incorporating sources such as eggs or legumes into your diet.
When required, use products that contain hydrolyzed proteins, e.g., Aphogee two-step protein treatment or Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein-Strong Treatment.
8. Keep your hair moisturized daily
Moisture, moisture, and more moisture is what you need when transitioning from relaxed to natural. Healthy hair requires lots of water for hydration.
Your daily regimen should ideally include:
- A spritz of water before styling or wrapping up for bedtime
- Seal in the added moisture with a cream and light oil
- Hydrate by drinking enough water every day
Limit the use of heavy products and oils that can weigh down your hair shaft when transitioning from straight to natural.
9. Pay attention to scalp health and avoid build-up
The scalp is a sensitive part of your hair and requires the same love as the ends.
Hair should be shampooed regularly, but not so much that it strips away beneficial oils needed for healthy hair growth and scalp health.
If you notice dryness or flaking on your scalp, this could mean that you are over-shampooing. Try using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner that can help restore moisture to your scalp while cleansing gently.
If you notice build-up on the scalp, this could mean that you are not washing often enough. Build-up could also mean that you are applying too many oils onto your hair strands before styling them. To remove build-up from the scalp, try using a clarifying shampoo once every week or as needed.
10. Avoid toxic or drying ingredients
Toxic chemicals and drying ingredients are also something to avoid during this process.
Transitioning your hair means you will need products free of these harsh toxins to avoid dryness and breakage over time.
Steer clear of products with:
- Sulfates: Cleansing agents which tend to strip the scalp/follicles of their natural oils
- Parabens: Preservatives in many products, but research has linked them to cancer and hormone imbalances
- Mineral Oils: Moisturizing oils that restore shine but don’t penetrate the hair shaft to treat existing damage
- Silicone: Protective seal that offers instant shine. However, it coats the hair and prevents moisture absorption leading to dryness over time.
- Denatured Alcohols: Also known as “Sneaky Silicones” – appear to be water but are alcohols that strip hair of natural oils.
Look for products with moisturizing ingredients. Experiment with different products until you find what works best for your hair type, texture, and curl pattern.
Moisturizing ingredients you should look for in your transitional products are:
- Oils (coconut, jojoba, etc.)
- Butters (Mango, Shea)
- Hydrolyzed proteins
- Humectants that attract moisture to hair (honey, panthenol, etc.)
- Antioxidants that prevent damage from free radicals and UV rays (green tea extract)
11. Always detangle delicately
Detangling can be a struggle when transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.
However, gently detangling hair is essential during this process to prevent damage and breakage.
Be sure to keep hair hydrated while detangling:
- Spritz some water.
- Apply an oil-based moisturizer or cream.
- Begin to work your fingers through the knots without tugging gently.
If you opt for using tools, use a detangling brush or wide-toothed comb. Steer clear of fine-toothed combs. Work in small sections to make the process more manageable and thorough.
When detangling, always watch out for snarls. Hair can snag easily during the transition process due to length and new texture. If you catch a tangle/snag while brushing or combing gently, work it free with your fingers instead of tugging on hair that could snap!
12. Be patient and consistent with your hair care
Transitioning to natural hair does not have a specific timetable. Some people can transition their relaxed hair in as little as six months, while others may take several years.
It is different for everyone and requires patience and consistency with your routines and products.
There is no one way to transition from relaxed hair to natural, but the results will be noticeable if committed.
Transitioning to natural hair without a big chop is possible and takes persistence and patience.
It is an opportunity for you to learn more about your hair and what works best for it!