You might be sitting on the fence right now when you think about transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. I don’t blame you, it’s not an easy decision to make.
Despite what some people might say life with hair does not suddenly become easier just because you have decided to go natural. There are lots of things that you need to take into consideration. It’s a big step for sure and its hard work but I can tell you right now that few people regret it afterwards.
The hardest thing that you will have to battle is within your own thoughts and feelings.
You will have to get used to caring for natural hair which is completely different from having relaxed hair. Not only that but you will have to get used to the new you. You will look quite different to yourself and it takes some time to get used to.
You’ve been used to looking a certain way and being able to easily manipulate your hair into what you want it to be for a long time so the change can be hard.
Well once you go natural you have to re-learn all of that again. It’s not to say that you can’t but its a new level of understanding for you and your hair so just be prepared for that.
If you are considering transitioning to natural hair without having to do the big chop then I have a few tips that will help you along the way and make life seem much easier.
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What does it mean to transition to natural hair?
Transitioning to natural hair simply means that you want to let go of the creamy crack (perm) and embrace the hair that naturally grows directly out of your head.
When you make up your mind about going from relaxed to natural you take it slowly by allowing your hair to slowly grow out whilst only trimming off the permed ends bit by bit.
The idea is that you wait for your new growth to come in so that you can maintain the length of your hair.
The big chop is not always an option for some people so transitioning can make that a little easier.
11 Top tips for transitioning from relaxed to natural hair
1. Take the time to learn about your new hair growth
Anything that you want to do that is new will take time to learn. As early as you can you should start to get to understand all about your new hair growth.
As your new growth comes in it will feel very different from the relaxed hair that you are used to.
In fact, it will feel very hard and dry and you will probably wonder at some point if going natural is the right thing for you to do.
This is why it is so important to learn about how to manage your natural hair growth. Natural hair is dry and needs moisture.
There will be a big difference between how your natural hair feels and your relaxed hair feels. The more your hair continues to grow out the less hard your hair should seem as the natural begins to take over the perm.
2. Give yourself time to adjust
There is definitely a period of adjustment that needs to take place here. If you are expecting that nothing will change during this transition period, unfortunately, that will not be the case.
As your natural hair growth comes in you might find the hairstyles that you were working with before no longer work.
It will feel difficult at first but I can tell you that the more your hair grows the easier it will get, you just have to be prepared to wait for the adjustment period to pass.
I would say give yourself at least 3-6 months before making a decision to quit.
3. Remember to trim
Gradually trimming your relaxed ends off is the key to transitioning.
You should trim as and when you feel ready. Some people are not ready to start trimming until they see at least an inch or so of new growth and that’s fine. Some people like to wait longer and others start to trim straight away. It really does depend on what you can tolerate and how you can handle your hair afterwards.
What you may find the more your natural hair starts to grow is that where your natural hair and permed hair meets (the line of demarcation) you may start to experience some breakage. Don’t be alarmed by this it is completely normal and to be expected.
You may find that as time goes on you will be trimming larger amounts of your relaxed hair off as your new growth comes in in order to cover up the breakage.
4. Keep it moisturised
Learning to keep your hair moisturised is a big one. With relaxed hair, you don’t really need to think about moisture but when it comes to transitioning to natural hair, moisture needs to be at the front of your mind.
If you fail to moisturise your hair properly it will become hard, dry and brittle and will be more prone to breakage.
No more running away from the rain in order to keep your hair dry. Water is now your best friend.
5. Find a hairstyle that works
Hairstyles can become difficult to come by as you have to work with 2 textures that do very different things. Natural hair likes to stand up whist relaxed hair likes to lay flat.
Start experimenting with hairstyles that can accommodate both of these textures.
When you find a hairstyle that work, stick with it and become a master at it. Now is not really the time to be trying to work out lots of different hairstyles because your hair is in a very delicate state so, therefore, leave it alone as much as you can.
Minimal handling is definitely called for here.
7. Consider a protective hairstyle
Protective hairstyles are a great way to help you transition to natural hair.
You can protect your hair by using wigs, weaves or braids.
Using a protective hairstyle will allow you to grow out your perm without the culture shock.
8. Go easy with it
Even though natural hair can seem quite strong it is not. You need to learn to be very delicate with your hair and treat it with care and attention.
It’s a good idea to learn this as soon as you can. When I decided to become natural I watched hours and hours of youtube videos about natural hair. One thing that always came across to me was that it had to be handled with care.
That meant no pulling and keeping hairstyles quite low-level maintenance. I embraced this tip and I think it is one of the things that allowed me to grow my hair long so quickly.
If you learn to be delicate and caring with your natural hair now it will become your secret weapon the more it starts to grow. Believe me, black women can grow their hair to waist length, you just have to care about it.
9. Switch to co-washing
You might be used to washing your hair with shampoo and then conditioner. When you decide to become natural it is much better to co-wash your hair rather than shampoo each time.
The problem with shampoo is that it strips away a lot of moisture and can leave your hair feeling very dry even after you have used a conditioner.
As explained already natural hair is naturally dry but it needs moisture so you need to try to retain as much moisture as you can. Choosing to co-wash (condition wash) will be much better for you.
If you are prone to a lot of build-up then you can clarify your hair with shampoo once every few months rather than at each wash.
10. Try some new hair accessories
If whist transitioning from relaxed to natural hair you feel a bit bored adding accessories can be a huge help.
Using headscarves and bands can be a great way to add some hair candy and revive your hair a bit whilst you are in the transiting stage.
Take a look at some of these great accessories to spice up your hairstyles.
11. If all else fails don’t be afraid to switch
If after going through a period of transitioning you feel that it is just too much work or you can’t cope don’t be afraid to switch it up.
There is no rule that says once you start transitioning you have to stick with it. You can change your mind and decide to big chop instead. I did a big chop and it was liberating for me because I knew I could never transition.
Transiting to natural hair is not necessarily the easy option. It comes with its own set of personal challenges. So if you feel transitioning is not for you try your hand at the big chop instead!
How long does it take to transition from perm to natural?
There is no specific hair transitioning timeline. A lot will depend on you and how you handle your hair.
On average hair grows about 1/2 inch per month so that could give you some indication.
You can also decide to cut off your permed hair much earlier than expected if you feel you have enough length to manage with.
Can you go natural without cutting your hair?
Yes and no.
Yes, that’s essentially what transitioning is all about but no because at some point the relaxed hair has to come off. It’s probably better to trim it off rather than wait for it to break in all kinds of unruly ways.
You can trim without having to cut your hair but please use proper haircutting scissors like these if you are going to do it yourself.
Final thoughts on transitioning from relaxed to natural hair
Transitioning to natural is a process and not something that you can’t rush. Most of us have been there at some point.
There are some that will go the distance and stick with it and there will be those that simply can’t.
If transitioning is too hard for you then I would strongly suggest a protective style until this period is over or consider doing the big chop.
No matter what you decide just know that your natural hair is beautiful and a crown to be worn with pride.