The main reason people struggle to transition is because of their expectations, not their hair. Transitioning hair requires extremely low manipulation and proper moisture and protein balance. The line of demarcation is vulnerable to break when it is not properly moisturized, strengthened, and handled too frequently. Most successful long-term transitioners have a bare bones regimen. They sacrifice frequent styling for length retention. So what is a long-term transitioning? I consider long-term transitioning anywhere from 1.5-2.5 years. Anything past that time frame is probably a new head of hair that likely to break along the length of the virgin hair, if the relaxed hair is not cut off. Here are the observations, tips, and commitments I encourage you to accept if you want to be a successful long-term transitioner.
Buns and braided updos are your best friend. A lot of transitioners like to do roller sets to blend the two textures, but what happens when the weather is not ideal (i.e. high dew points and high humidity)? You are left with an afro and limp strands on the ends. Daily styling is not in the best interest of anyone who is trying to combat breakage and retain length, so this is even more applicable to transitioning hair. Try committing to a style that will last you an entire week and does not require much handling or touch-ups.
You're obsessed with frizz
Leave your edges alone. A frizzy hairline is not the end of the world. Wanting your transitioning hair to lay flat like a fresh relaxer is not going to happen. If boar bristle brushes are to be used sparingly and with caution on natural hair, then it is best to just eliminate them with transitioning hair. If you want your hair to be as flat as possible, styling the night before will be key. Simply smooth your hair down with water and either a pomade or edge control product, secure with a satin scarf, and allow it to set overnight.
You went for the comb
If you reach for a comb, you might as well reach for the scissors and big chop. Never comb your hair dry, ever. Just don’t do it. Forgot to style the night before? You can work some magic with bobby pins and a headband or shoelace. Simply use a headband or shoelace to arrange your hair atop your crown and secure the ends down with bobby pins. Need a visual Check out the video below. No, she is not transitioning but this style can be achieved on transitioning hair.
You don't deep condition enough
Moisture is essential. You need to invest in a deep conditioner that comes in a large quantity with lots of slip. Remember, this regimen is about increasing moisture and decreasing breakage so it is important that your comb can glide through your strands while detangling (remember, no dry combing). I suggest deep conditioning either weekly or every other week. Transitioning is a great time to test products that are formulated for curly and coily hair. It can be challenging to find products that keep both the virgin and relaxed hair moisturized for the same extended period, so take your time exploring.
You skipped your protein treatment
Continue with the same protein treatment schedule you had with relaxed hair. Didn’t have one then? Well, create one now. The hydrolyzed proteins will temporarily adsorb or bind to holes in the hair shaft helping to strengthen it. Since the line of demarcation is vulnerable to breakage, it is important to reinforce it with proteins. A monthly protein treatment should help maintain a proper moisture and protein balance, but this frequency will vary depending on the strength of your treatment. Not sure where to start? Check out Jenell’s article, "Does Natural Hair Need Proteins."
You heat style too often
As someone who worked at a natural hair salon, I have witnessed many women who transitioned for two years with heat and had to big chop because of breakage and split ends that traveled up past the relaxed ends. If you do experience heat damage, not only will it be hard to determine where the line of demarcation is, but you also might mistake the heat damage hair for your healthy, natural texture, which then leads to wondering why your hair is so dry. I am not discouraging all heat styling, but I would limit it to 1-3 times a year. Plus, blow-drying transitioning hair is not doing your hair any favors.
Want to avoid panic when it is time to cut the relaxed ends? Use your transitioning period to read up on your hair care literature and learn which products work well for your hair.
If you are struggling with your transition, try watching these videos by vloggers who long-term transitioned
FusionofCultures (check old videos)
MyHairFetish (check old videos)