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Curly Nikki

Alternatives to the Big Chop

By January 27th, 202140 Comments

Alternatives to the Big Chop
Ishea writes:

I’ve been transitioning since June 2009 and have been feeling overwhelming pressure from the natural community to “Big Chop”. It feels like everywhere you go, when people find out that you’re going natural they start asking when the BC is coming. I’m interested in finding out about women that chose to go another route, and didn’t BC. What advice could they offer to someone who is interested in avoiding the days of TWA and saving some length while maintaining the new growth.


Help her out folks! Provide fotki links, encouragement, and style ideas…


  • NewbieNaturalDiva says:

    I feel you! I was going to bc, but I have decided to ride it out and cut my relaxer out on the ends until all of it is gone. You can check out my routine for a roller/rod set at
    I am wearing the rod set and twist out to help me through the transitioning period. I may straighten my hair once every three months, but that is in order to get my ends clip and to see growth.

    Nikki's blog is also a great place to get a wealth of information to help you deal. This blog has helped me in ways I could never imagine and I hope it can do the same for you.

  • E_v says:

    I never big chopped either. Braids, Braids and more braids. Now I have fabulous healthy hair that's been protected for almost 2.5 years. I'm about to put them back in for a brief period just to give it a rest.

  • Love me Napps and All says:

    This is a great question that I am going to start addressing on my blog. I have been natural for over a year now and I NEVER did the Big Chop. At the time it was because I was not ready to have really short hair (although I have though about cutting mine for a change). I luckily had received a short cut style with a tapered back in the summer of 2007. I began wearing different types of braids for the next year and a half. In between braids I would get the ends trimmed and go right back to the braids. In March of 2008 I took the braids out cut the last of my straight ends and was completely natural. I felt that this was the easiest way for me to transition. My hair is extremely course and thick (4a,4b) and I was not sure how I would deal with two textures. The only warning I would give to you is beware of tight braids. I went to the same braid shop who braided extremely tight. This caused alopecia at the crown of my head. I had to go to a dermatologist to receive a special foam to encourage growth. Also while you are transitioning start changing your diet, adding more water and maybe even vitamins. I use biotin and in two years (1 year transition 1 year natural) my hair has grown exponentially. Be encourage, the best part about being natural is its your own journey! Make it what you want it to be and enjoy it!

  • Anonymous says:

    well um hi im 17 and ive been transitioning for almost 13 months now and i plan on doing the bc in december of this year a couple of days b4 the new year because i figure a new year should mean a new me and although ive never had short hair and i do feel that i have a big head im willing to take the leap. I really was going to hold out until i made it to 18 months in febuary but i figure like y wait i wanna start to embrace my natural hair now, but i do understand where all of u guys are coming from and i would like it if u all wish me good luck and encourage me not to chicken out and i promise to post photos for u guys…..You are all Gorgeous and creative for embracing ur true beauty i wish u all the best on ur journy Love Ya, Jaz

  • Cygnet says:

    @anonymous, 10/14 12:27PM: For twists and braids, I like to use African Royale BRX Braids and Extensions Sheen Spray, what I've been referring to as BRX. Over the summer, I also used it in a ratio mix of one part BRX to 3 parts water as a moisturizer. Here's the ingredient list: Deionized Water, Glycerine, Propylene Glycol, PPG-12-PEG-50, Lanolin, Dicetyldimonium Chloride, Polyquaternium 32 & Paraffinum liquidum, Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolium) Leaf Oil, Polysorbate 80, Oat (Avena Sativa) Kernel Extract, Allantoin, Silk Amino Acids, Sheep Sorrel, Yarrow, Slippery Elm Bark, Sage, Henna, Comfrey, Burdock Root, Goldenseal, Cherry Bark, Ginseng, Black Walnut, Chamomile, Alfalfa, Hyssop, Wheat Germ, Methyl & Propyl Paraben, Fragrance

  • LaTonya Bynum says:

    I have been transitioning since November of 2008 (next month is my naturally anniversary) I have been chopping off my permed hair little by little every couple of months. I am almost down to the last of the perm. Check out my blog for my recent hair photos @ Best wishes to you Nikki as you go about your day!

  • KyaDiva says:

    My big chop was not planned and was just horrible for me. I was transitioning because I noticed my hair thinning under the stress of relaxers and and coping with my mom's illness. I was about 9 months in, had taken some braids out, had someone wash my hair without combing all the shed hair out and it locked up. I had to cut my bra strap length hair to TWA. I was hysterical. I am just now liking my afro after a year. Do it when you are ready. If you get excited after seeing the baby curls sprout and want to chop it, great. If you are afraid to have short hair, just trim regularly until you remove all the perm…. It is your head so do what works for you. That is the whole point of being natural…. doing you!

  • Anonymous says:

    My last relaxer was in May 2008 and I had shoulder length hair. Wore braids for a month (they were slipping off) and began wearing kinky twists until August of this year. I "BC'd" June of this year (continued to wear the twists). The twists was the BEST protective hairstyle for me. I enjoyed not having to fuss with it too much. Stretched, my hair is now about shoulder length.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just repeating what everyone else said….transitioning with braids is the fastest route. Imagine, I transitioned in '04-'05 for 9 months. I clipped my ends after I took my braids out every two months. Transitioning with braids helps a lot with length retention. Caution: make sure the braids aren't too tight on the edges. During my transition stages I NEVER wore micro-braids. My braids were the perfect width (small but not micro).

    If you don't like braids. Wiggit! I have a friend who cornrowed her natural hair and wore half/whole wigs for a year. Clip the ends as new growth came and continued her cornrow-wig regimen. Finally, you could wear weaves as well. I suggest buying naturally styled or kinky-curly wigs/weave (Corrine Baily Rae style). That way you become accustomed to wearing kinky-curly short hair styles. Once again, make sure the weave isn't too tight if you go that route.

    All in all, while you can do bantu knot outs, rodsets, etc….I really wouldn't recommend messing with your hair often. Dealing with two textures is a bish! Go the protective style route (braids, cornrows, etc.) and you'll really get length.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been transitioning (again) since March 2009. I, too, have not done the big chop because I wear my hair in braids, roller sets, flat ironed, or occassionally I will sport a wig. It is probably more work not to do the big chop since we have to ensure that our hair does not break where the two textures meet, but if you are committed to putting in the extra effort then what the heck. In doing research, the crown and glory method and Cathy Howse's methods both reinforce that there is no need to cut off your relaxer when transitioning as long as you keep your hair moisturized.

  • isis-athena-virgo says:

    When I have the kinky twists in my hair, normally I moisturize them with Shea Butter. I use Coconut oil and Oyin Products to moisturize my hair at night. I love the Oyin line. To clean them, this may be a no-no, but I use Sea Breeze in my hair (it's never really damaged my hair)and then spray my leave-in conditioner afterward. If this is wrong, please let me know.

  • Anonymous says:

    hmmm I think that there's not a lot of info about long term transitioning because once you fall in love with your hair…you normally cut 'sooner' rather than 'later.' I think a lot of women are nervous about rocking hair that's natural AND short but it's quite liberating. don't be scuuured. LOL!!

  • Rachel says:

    i've been transitioning since November of 2008. I don't plan doing the BC at all. I just plan on getting my regular trims till all the relaxed ends are eventually gone….you just have to be patient and do what you are comfortable doing. My staple styles are braid-outs, flat-twist-outs, perm-rod sets, and twists. protective styles are a must for winter. So i just plan on wearing my hair in buns a lot this winter. I want to see if that makes a difference in growth or not. More than likely it will. Have fun on your journey!! It's all about you girl!!! Do what you are comfortable with and you will be happy in the end!

  • Stacy says:

    Hi Nikky,

    Loving your blog :)

    Hi Ishea,

    I too am a long term transitioner, and I feel no pressure to big chop. I am struggling a little with maintaining both textures but it is mostly fun and is only going to happen once in my life! Documenting my own journey has definitely helped and I have even decided to add another 6 months to my journey!

    Good luck

  • AuthenticQueen says:

    Hey! I was definitely not into the TWA or short hair so I transitioned for about a year. I remember initially feeling pressured to BC ASAP until one of my best friends (who is also natural) told me to just do what works best for me. I took heed! Thank God!

    My hair was basically the same length (shoulder length)for a year. I would go get my hair straightened and cut every three months to the exact same length. In the time between these salon visits I would french braid it, bantu- knot it and kinky twist it. I kept it hyper moisturized and deep conditioned weekly as well. The beginning was rough but time flew by and now I happily natural! Yaaas!

    Hope this helps!

  • Anonymous says:

    I transitioned for nine months clipping the permed ends every couple months or so. I never really liked wearing weaves or whatever but my staple style when i trasitioned were braid outs. I would do about six to eight cornrows with a little bit of soft holding gel or mousse. Most of the time it would last a week or I'd just rebraid them at night and let them out in the morning. They seemed to look better when done on wet hair, right after i wash and condish. I like braidouts best when transitioning because the two textures blend well. Braidouts are very low maintainace and you could still style it in different ways. After a year and a half since my last perm I'm still rocking braidouts. Happy transitioning!

  • Nysidra says:

    Every three months I cut an inch off the end of my hair. So, over time, I had "very short" hair (it was mid-back length to start). I even rocked a bob at the worse of it.

    It took me two years to transition to natural, but I could hide the ends in buns, twists, ponytails and other long hair cover ups.

    Five years later, I'm back to my original lower-back length.

  • Anonymous says:

    protective styles are best like braids, weaves, cornrows… if you dont feel like styling your hair everyday. I transitioned for 10 months BCd sept. 24 2009). I was going to go longer, but there was really no point. My afro was sky high and those relaxed ends were hanging down like a hot mess!

    Rodsets, braidouts, two strand twist outs, bantu knot outs, flat twists, Wet bunnung (you may not want to do this if you life in a cooler climate). For those bad hair days I wear a black headwrap. I buy 2-3 yard fabric from Wal-mart, and wrap it up E.Badu style. Ppl. love it!. There are tutorials on you tube about it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been transitioning since Nov. 2008. My staple hairstyle is a flat twist & curl. Finding the right products definitely helps (for me, that's Qhemet Biologics and Giovanni). I have 5 inches of natural and 4 inches of relaxed hair. Right now, I'm wearing a straight wig because I was getting bored and wanted something different but yet protective. I was fighting the urge to color but now, I have a fantastic color and style to wear, with no damage to my own hair. I plan to wash/co-wash & DT once a week and continue to clip up to 1/2 inch every 8 weeks. I'll probably wear the wig through the harsh northeast winter.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great question! I've been wanting to ask this for the longest. It's true there's not alot of info on long term transitioning. My last relaxer was may 2008. I just discovered in august, so up until that time I was uneducated on how to treat natural hair. I basically flat ironed and trimmed, tree braids, weave. I have stopped heat as of september 2009. Right now I'm rockin a curly wig. I do like the kinky twists, they're easy to take out, braiding is a great way but like someone else said be careful with the edges! Does anyone have info on how to moisturize when you have kinky twists or braids? I would just use oil sheen but I'm sure sheen is full of cones. Overall have patience, I'm not big choppin

  • Anonymous says:

    I am in the same boat. I have been transitioning for a while…my last relaxer was may 2008. I've been straightening my hair since then and I fear it's been a waste because with my recent research i've heard that your hair becomes trained. I still don't want to bc but, I'm not sure what to do now. I want to wear my hair natural once it's completely grown out. If it's not done by this coming June I'll cut it, as for now I don't know

  • isis-athena-virgo says:


    Great question!! I've been transitioning since February 2009. I knew I didn't want to b.c. because I was entering into my first year of pharmacy school. Also, I wouldn't know what to do with my hair. I've found it much easier to keep my hair braided, i.e. kinky twists. I did take my hair out for about a month, I got straw curls and I did try to flat iron my hair. The bad part about trying to flat iron my hair was that no matter how much I flat ironed my hair, it still was not as straight as my permed hair (duh, lol). So it would be straight when I left home and all over the place by the time I got back. It was during this time I fell in love with my hair. Good luck on you journey!!

  • Cygnet says:

    I never did a big chop, but rather a series of little snips. Of course, most of my hair broke, but even if that hadn't been the case, I would not have done a BC for the simple reason that I hate having short hair. I would have very likely started wearing a lot of braids and twists to get me through the transition, and I'm glad that I actually made the transition during a time when there is a wealth of info out there to help transitioners, but for me, the BC would always have been out of the question.

  • ThisOwl says:

    i've been transitioning for 14 months. Last relaxer was some time between june/july 2008. I will never do the BC. I plan on just growing out my hair. My hair is near waist length. Now, people will always have opinions, take heed to what you see fit or otherwise just ignore them, no harm done. If you're not one who frequently craves for straight hair or fancy hair styles then long term transitioning should be fine just as long as you have lots of patience. the last time i used heat was jan 09, so that helps a great deal in preventing heat damage. i always wear it in a bun, braid outs, or pony tails. you must moisturize your hair as much as your hair needs it. Just like your skin, when its feels or looks dry you moisturize the same for your hair. I moisturize at least 4x a week, if your hair needs it less or more then do what your hair wants. Dryness equals breakage. Always keep your new growth as smooth and moisturized as you can, that way you get less tangles between the 2 different textures. styling it wet is what i do all the time because it makes my hair look neater when dried. You can sometimes tie it down with a scarf too so that your new growth will lay flat and neat. Find protective styles that best fits you and your hair, without causing tangles and breakage. Just do what works for you. Experimenting helps you understand your hair needs, so have fun with it too! Dont worry about what other people do with their hair because its their hair not yours, you do what makes YOUR hair flourish..each head is unique.

    Here is my fotki album, but you must be logged into fotki to view my pictures/journals.

    Best wishes to you on your hair journey!

  • Beverly says:

    I have been transitioning since the end of September 08. It kind of started by accident because even when wet my relxed hair was curling up. I didn't know what to do with the 2 textures at first but following a lot of blogs like curlynikki, maneandchic, & honeybrownsugar helped me try new styles. Maneandchic even has a portion of her site just about transitioning. I have the links below. I have done 2 mini chops one of which was yesterday and now the hair all the way in the back is all natural!! so exciting. Don't worry about the pressure just do it when you're ready and at your own pace. The person who has to be happy with your hair is you. Below are some of the blogs I read which also give a lot of ideas for styles and products.

  • Eleven35 Bath & Beauty says:

    I've been trainsitioning since January 2009. I cut a significant length in September; I cut a little bit at a time and now underneth my wig that I've been proudly rocking I have a TWA. I must admit I am not brave as some sistahs are so I'm waiting for it to grow out. So for now it's wigs and braids until I'm comfortable with length.

  • ChocolateMom says:

    I didn't big chop mainly b/c I wasn't planning to go natural. I braided my hair because I was experiencing hair loss due to stress. After wearing the braids, and later kinky twists, for awhile, I decided to become fully natural. If you choose the braids/kinky twists route, make sure your stylist doesn't braid the synthetic hair too tight around your edges and minimize pulling the front of your braids/twists back. I've been fully natural for over a year and my edges have just fully grown back in.

  • Ishea says:

    Thanks for all of the feedback! I think that when I said I feel pressure, it comes in the form of people always asking when the BC is going to come… it's like this cloud hanging over my head. lol.

    More than the big chop, my issue is not being fond of shorter hair on myself. I just don't think it flatters my face. As I looked around different websites and blogs I wasn't really finding a wealth of knowledge on how to transition long term because it seemed like most people chopped it all off within a year. I find myself falling more and more in love with the fullness of my hair, the different textures, and versatility of being able to blow it out and still have the length. I'll be sure to check out the Fotki members that were recommended.

    Again, thanks for all of the advice. It's much appreciated.

  • Susan says:

    Hang in there Ishea –

    My last relaxer was also in June 2009. After making the decision to go natural I still had to do plenty of research. My hair is a strange mix and the relaxed and natural sides don't play well together. I did some cutting but only to even out and get a fresh start in some spots. I by no means did a big chop (can wear a short bob if flat-ironed). I'm holding out for shoulder length and natural. I did quick weaves initially but my hair prefers braids, flexirod sets and lots of moisture. There are some transitioning sisters on youtube you should check out. Don't give up the fight!

  • Anonymous says:

    Here's some inspiration if you are looking to transition longer:

  • sunyblack says:

    I didn't big chop, but I grew my hair out, and then did a semi-big chop, I had my hair cut in a cute choppy bob just under my ears, and then just recently had the rest of my permed ends cut off. I didn't want to rock the TWA either. It worked, and I absolultely loved my hair once I got it cut in the cute bob. My hair grew so much faster, I got it cut in Feb, and by June it back to the length it was, which was just about to my collar bone.

    Just make sure you keep up with a good routine to prevent breakage, and limit heat use, and you should be fine.

  • KayC, The Quiet Storm says:

    I never did a big chop. Actually, by the time I cut off all of my permed hair it was almost the same length as when I started to transition. It took me about a year.

    I wore my own hair braided into various styles and would wash, condition, blow dry and braid it back up once a week. Did that for a few months then went back to wearing my ponytails and hats (was in college and not into doing hair then).

    But there are twist outs, bantu knot outs and braid outs that can disguise your two textures while you transition. Those styles also cause less stress and less breakage. Be sure to keep your hair conditioned and remember to be patient.

  • mochacurl says:

    Hi Ishea,

    I didn't BC mainly because initially it wasn't my intent to go natural. I had a weave. I maintained my hair with wash and blow-outs at dominican salons. After months of doing this I had a significant amount of unrelaxed hair. When I took the weave out I got a nice cut and continued styling with heat. This was in 2007.

    I did not start wearing my hair in these cute curly styles until March '09, not too long after finding curlynikki. Whatever you decide to do know that there are enough styling options that you do not have to BC if that is not what you're comfortable doing.

  • Anonymous says:

    hi ishea-maybe you can join a hair community like hairlista or something. there are a lot of women on there transitioning. i'm not sure why you feel any pressure based on ppls questions though. maybe you feel it because you're nervous?? whatever the case, don't do anything until YOU are ready. other people are not in control of what you do to your hair. good luck!

  • BlackChapelHill says:

    I'm new to the natural life also. I don't plan on wearing my hair short until its long enough either so I decided to transition with braids. My last perm was April 2009. I made it to the part where I needed a perm again but instead of getting a perm, I got micros. They lasted from May til July (imagine how much new growth that was). When I took them out I cut off my permed hair and put micros back in. I took the second set out 2 days ago and my hair grew tremendously…I'm impressed! I have about a middle fingers length of natural hair. I got more braids yesterday (yes I love it b/c its convenient) but after this set I'm getting a sew in. These are good healthy options for your hair. Just make sure to keep it VERY, VERY MOISTURIZED…that's very important.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey, I never did the big chop. I just let my hair grow out. I guess you could say that I was scared. I wore lots of buns. I got my ends trimmed as often as I could. So, my hair did ok, but it depends on the health of your hair or how your hair takes it. My last relaxer was August 2003.

  • CoilyFields says:

    I wore braids and kinky twists for a year and in between sets had the relaxed ends gradually clipped off. This was good for me because I was used to having longer hair and by the time I was done transisitoning my hair was shoulder length. The only problem was that once the braids were out i had a lot of setbacks because I hadnt learned anything about how to take care of my hair in its natural state. (So a BC may have helped me learn what my hair liked without ending up sacrificing 5 inches in the process). But it definately helps if you educate yourself beforehand and gather as much knowledge as you can so you'll be ready once the transition is over.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I was in the transition stage wearing braids, kinky twists, flat ironing & a wig but didn't even realize I was growing out my perm. To make a long story short after wearing my braids & kinky twist for a year I went to get a relaxer and it did not take at all on my Natural Hair. So, I didn't even bother w/ chemicals again. So, when I went for my Consultation Dec.08 the stylist told me I had no perm & I was Natural. So, I have been Rockin it since. I did get her to trim my ends. So, I would say wear protective styles and continue to keep your hair moisturized & do your cowashing and soon you'll be Rockin it.

  • Yoli says:

    Hey there transitioning sista!! I completely understand your dilemma; I too have been transitioning since my last relaxer in Jan. 2009. I have been wearing tree braids (invisible braids) since about April of this year. What a difference it has made. My natural hair has time to rest and when I go for a redo, my relaxed ends are clipped off! I can honestly say that when I reach a year, I may still continue with my braids because of the convenience they give me. Sorry I don't have a pic to attach (at work) but will make every effort to place one up for you. If you are interested, I can even give you the name and number of the stylist I use (hoping you live not too far away from Houston:) Best of luck!!

  • Anonymous says:

    HI, I've been transitioning since April 2009. This is my second time going natural, the first time I big chopped and went through the TWA period. It wasn't too painful, I got some negative comments and looks but I knew why I was going natural and it was good for me. But because I wasn't too knowledgeable about how to take care of my new beautiful natural hair I got a mild relaxer. This time I decided to transition instead of big chop to give myself time to get educated and better prepared to take care of my natural hair. The way I see it, I'm going to be natural the rest of my life so what's the rush to get there. Thanks Nikki for all your help. The twist and curl is a lifesaving style for us transitioners! I LOVE your blog!!

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