February 3, 2015

Survival Tips for Transitioning to Natural Hair

 by Kanisha of BlackNaps.org

Transitioning to natural hair is certainly not for the faint of heart, especially if you plan on transitioning for six months or more. The first few months may start off a little rough, but in due time you will perfect your regimen and it’ll become easier. You may still get the itch from time to time to go ahead and make the jump to natural hair, but if you want to survive your transition, here are a few tips to help you make it through to the finish line:

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1. Prepoo with a creamy conditioner.
While I was transitioning, prepooing was one of the best things I could do for my hair. Prepooing simply means applying a conditioner (or oil) to your hair before shampooing and allowing it to sit for some time. What this does is soften and smooth the hair, which will make your detangling session far easier to endure. For your prepoo be sure to use a creamy, moisturizing conditioner. One of my favorites to use was Hello Hydration by Herbal Essences, but there are plenty of other great options on the market. You can prepoo as long as you like, but 15-30 minutes is the recommendation.

2. Have an easy go-to fallback style.
When it comes to styling transitioning hair, you really want to be careful with how you handle your hair because the line of demarcation (where your relaxed hair meets your natural hair) can be extremely sensitive, depending on your hair type. My go-to style was a flexi-rod puff. I would do a flexi-rod set and then gather all of the curls onto the top of my head. This style helped me blend my two textures and became easy to do after I perfected my method. I also tried protective styles like box braids and buns, but the flexi-rod puff was always my main style. Having a fallback style is great for when other styles don’t work out. Also, the easier the style, the better. Vigorous manipulation of your hair can lead to breakage, so be careful with your strands.

3. Have a plan.
Do you want to transition for six months? A year? Two years? However long you want to transition, it’s good to have a goal in mind. Once you decide how long you want to transition, you can then determine when and how much you want to trim along the way. If you want to be a long-term transitioner, creating a plan for yourself will make it more likely that you will complete the entirety of your transition. Without a plan, you will be more likely to revert to a relaxer or big chop early. I wanted to transition for at least a year but I didn’t have a plan for myself and I ended up transitioning for only six months and I did end up wishing I had transitioned longer. (Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with a short transition!) Your plan doesn’t have to be by the day, but can include:
  • Styling options (Ex: “Get braids installed for the month of March”)
  • Trimming dates (Ex: “Trim 1/2 inch on the 15th of every month”)
  • Your Big Chop Date
You can make yourself a calendar with your goals in place to keep you encouraged so that you will stick to your transitioning plans.

4. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
I can’t stress this tip enough! It’s so important to keep your hair moisturized (mainly the new growth that is coming in) as you transition. Transitioning hair is already prone to breakage: adding dryness on top of this is sure to cause problems. I kept a spray bottle with a moisturizing mix of a water-based leave-in conditioner, aloe vera juice, and some type of oil to spray on my roots at night, which I still do to this day. Keeping your hair moisturized throughout the week will also make wash day less traumatic. It’s easy to neglect your hair but as a transitioner, you’ll find that this isn’t the best idea. Also, if you have trouble with shedding, try adding a little garlic to your mix. It is known to help prevent and control shedding while aiding in increasing hair thickness.

5. Deep condition.
As you transition to natural hair, this step will be very important. Deep conditioning revitalizes your hair by restoring moisture and/or strength, depending on what ingredients are present in your deep conditioner. It’s important to balance using moisturizing deep conditioners and using deep conditioners that contain protein. Try to utilize a protein deep conditioner at least once a month. I like to use the Naat Brazilian Keratin Deep Conditioner by nuNAAT. This conditioner not only strengthens the hair but also helps restore damaged, dry, heat treated and/or processed hair, so it is great for helping the hair “recover” from blow-drying, straightening, or after removing a protective style. A moisturizing deep conditioner should be used weekly or biweekly to maintain the hair’s shine, manageability, and moisture. One of my personal favorites is the Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. I love this deep conditioner because it truly penetrates my strands instead of just sitting on top of my hair: you can definitely feel the difference.

In the video below, Shanique (aka Journey to Waist Length), who has been transitioning for well over a year now, shares a few of her best tips for transitioners:

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