I’m honestly surprised at how often I am asked this question by future-naturals. I love being asked for advice and helping when I can, but this question is so personal it’s really hardly my place to say. In the past I have answered this question with something evasive yet friendly…but now that feels like too much of a cop out. In my first go round as a natural, I did a big chop after a 6 month transition taking me from below bra-strap length up to a little afro. In my second (and final) conversion back to natural, I did a long transition of almost 2 years.
While it’s true, only YOU can determine whether you should transition or do a big chop, there are some important things to consider when making your decision.
How do you usually wear your hair?
If you’re constantly keeping your natural hair braided up under wigs or weaves, or you wear braided extensions for the majority of the time, then you could easily transition this way or do a big chop (depending on your natural hair length) and be fine either way.
If you wear your hair out mostly, straightened or in various other styles without added hair, or without hiding your hair regularly, then you have a big decision to make.
How much energy are you willing to put into your hair?
If you enjoy washing, detangling, deep conditioning, applying treatments, moisturizing, braiding, twisting, and otherwise styling your hair and are patient enough to delicately handle both textures as you grow your relaxed hair ends out, then I’d say go for the transition.
If you are impatient, and hair-lazy, or not confident in your styling skills, then I’d say hide your hair for your transition or do a big chop.
Do you have length issues?
This one is a no brainer. If you are not ready to deal with short hair, go for a long transition. If you’re excited for a new look and short length, BC!
How patient are you?
If you’re anxious to (re)discover your natural texture and type, then by all means BC. If you can wait, and are happy with your relaxed ends weighing down your hair pattern while it grows out, then transition to fully natural.
Other questions to ask yourself before you pick up the scissors are:
Do I know enough about hair care to make a big change? – If the answer is no, then read and research before doing anything drastic.
Do I want to go natural for ME? – If the answer is no, think hard on it, journal your feelings, list the pros and cons for you, and reconsider your motives.
Do I have a backup plan? – Even if you’re 100% gung ho, and you do a big chop, you may be in for a shock. Do you have a backup plan in place? Wigs, scarves, a hair braider you can trust? etc.. Be sure to know what your plan B is before you big chop.
These are just a few of the relevant questions that come to mind when determining whether or not a BC or transition is right for you. Only you can determine what’s right for your lifestyle and your temperament. I know people say “it’s only hair” but this is a big decision and should not be encountered lightly. Best of luck on your journey!
It's a personal choice-- there is no right or wrong way to go natural. However, in my 8 years of being intimately involved with the natural hair community, it seems that the folks who slowly transition (as compared to folks who suddenly BC) are usually happier with their decision to go natural and stay that way. This is not always the case by any means, but it is something to consider.