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Curly Nikki

The Many Stages of Our Natural Journeys

By January 27th, 202145 Comments
The Many Stages of Our Natural Journeys
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Tammy Goodson of CurlyChics

You’ve somehow been introduced to the natural hair world, whether it was through your stylist or perhaps you admired the way a close friend rocked her bold afro with such confidence; either way your curiosity was piqued. That curiosity turns into the decision to take action and so the journey begins.


Stage 1 – The Dive
You make the decision to “go natural”. You dive right in, head first, literally, with the big chop or proceed subtly by transitioning. You’re excited because it’s the beginning of something new yet apprehensive because of any preconceived notions you may have about the process.


Stage 2 – Still Unsure
If you’re transitioning, you’re dealing with multiple textures, finding the right products through process of elimination which also means elimination of lots of cash, and looking forward to the day when those relaxed ends are persona non grata! If you big chopped, in addition to similar frustrations of a transitioner, you are contending with the stark contrast from your normal look and no longer hiding behind your hair.


Stage 3 – Arrived ….ehhhh?
You’ve finally arrived, no more relaxed ends and it feels great, but now what? Your big chop has now become its goal length (whether that’s a twa or longer) but you haven’t quite discovered your mane’s true personality. There’s a whole new head of hair to get familiar and bond with and you can quickly get overwhelmed. You take to the blogs and vlogs for more information than you even know what to do with and continue the business of figuring it all out.


Stage 4 – Seasoned Vet
After some time of experimenting and self matriculating, you are that unapologetic natural girl that everyone confers with, the one to whom new naturals look to for guidance and inspiration. Have you mastered all things natural? No, there are always lessons to learn, but you’re a lot further than you were a few years ago and even more comfortable in your own skin. It’s when you learn that starting any journey can be taxing and frustrating and contained in those frustrations are possibilities of awesome results.


*Note – these are my experiences, coupled with testimonies of other naturals I have interviewed. Of course, not everyone goes through these stages in the same order and some phases may be combined and/or omitted.


Can you relate? What stages did you go through or are you currently going through? 


Sharing hairstories and life experiences from a curl’s perspective. Find Tammy at her blog, Curlychics, on Twitter, and Facebook.

45 Comments

  • hunnybun says:

    #4 I may not know it all but I've been around the block a couple times and I love it all day errrday

  • keisha billups says:

    I think I am in stage 4. Im definitely not an expert, but I accept and love my hair. I know my hair's personality and I know what works for me. I need to get more adventurous and try different styles.

  • Brooke B. says:

    I went through transitioning & being ok with the two textures & then getting tired of seeing those scraggly relaxed ends so I big chopped. I was scarred & not confident enough because my hair has never been short. Now that it's been two years I have come so far with my confidence not only with my hair but also myself.

  • Hilary B. says:

    I'm between stage 2 & 3. I no longer have my hair to hide behind. I can't just wake up and bun if i don't feel like doing my hair. I am happy to be done with transitioning though and learning my texture has been fun. But I think until I have enough length to do lazy styles (buns, pony tails, etc.), I won't feel like a 'seasoned vet,' lol.

  • Erika A. says:

    I'm in Stage 4 after 3+ years. Still learning, but a lot more confident with my hair.

  • luvnM3naturally says:

    Arrived two years ago, BC July 5, 2010. I'm somewhere between stages 3 & 4, loving ME more…unapologetic & still trying to figure it all out.

  • Q says:

    I bc'd two weeks ago this Saturday and although I was excited to get there. I must admit I had a what have I done moment? I transitioned a little over a year and from anon post my fam also was like are you going to dread or what? LOL! Still not sure if I am doing anything correctly but I am so glad I am here!!

  • Tomika says:

    I am currently in stage 2/3. I have a great head of hair. It's healthy, its got length and mire styles are rockable now (or I am loving the skin on in and decide to rock it anyway…) And even on my unsure days, family, friends and even complete strangers want detail info on how I achieved this look.

    And stages 1&2 I went through as well but as a transitioner! For 18 months I transition then out of pure frustration I big chopped. Then I had a shift in my confidence, my self esteem until I decided.i like what natural hair meant to me and I wasn't going to care about other peoles thoughts, or coments. Low and behold the comments were uplifting and inquisitive which made me feel more.confident.

  • Tomika says:

    I am currently in stage 2/3. I have a great head of hair. It's healthy, its got length and mire styles are rockable now (or I am loving the skin on in and decide to rock it anyway…) And even on my unsure days, family, friends and even complete strangers want detail info on how I achieved this look.

    And stages 1&2 I went through as well but as a transitioner! For 18 months I transition then out of pure frustration I big chopped. Then I had a shift in my confidence, my self esteem until I decided.i like what natural hair meant to me and I wasn't going to care about other peoles thoughts, or coments. Low and behold the comments were uplifting and inquisitive which made me feel more.confident.

  • Melodee A says:

    I am in stage 3 ugh! I've been natural for 3 years as of the 8th of this month and I've been a slave to the WNG for a minute.. My twist out's and braid out's look funky now, it's getting on my nerves but I'll work throught it!

  • Anonymous says:

    I did the BC on July 4th — Independence Day! I am still trying to find out what products work best with my hair, so each day is a bit of a challenge. I transitioned for 4 months and got tired of the straight ends so chopped them off myself. Went to my stylist Saturday to get my TWA shaped up – she hugged me and told me she would miss me 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm a seasoned vet now! I made that decision at 14, chopped off the relaxed ends at 15, and now I'm 21 and I no longer fight with my hair. New Naturals, stick with it! Try not to rely solely on blogs, vlogs, and hair stylists. Yes, they are helpful, for they have helped me, but I noticed that most women that return to relaxers never took the time to get to know their hair for THEMSELVES. Sometimes you and your hair needs that one on one time 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm finally at stage 4 (after 6 years)! Thank goodness! However, like the article suggests, there are still things to learn. I know the products that work for me and I'm consistant with my reggie.

    But, I still have my moments!lol However, it's not like it used to be. When I'm fustrated or just feeling plain old lazy; I will throw a nice wig on for a week or two. This usually works for me, then it's back to dealing with my hair.

    Note: One thing that I have learned is to DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!!! I can't stress this enough!

  • Anonymous says:

    What about stage 3.5 the in between stage where you gotten used to your hair in its natural state but now your lazy or bored and dont know what to do. Should you try something new? should you just let it keep growing? Thats the satge Im in…i love my hair, dont get me wrong but Im not unsure of it I know what its going to do most the time but Im just like ehhh…im bored. Bun it is again.

  • M says:

    Im month 9 in my post relaxer and 3 weeks natural and for me this has been the cheapest process ive done ever.
    I think the key to not spending too much is using what you have and spending when necessary. For example by the time I found out about mineral oils, sulphates etc. I still had conditioner and shampoo ( although i couldnt bring myslef to finish the shampoo) I used all my existing conditioner.
    I can easily right alot but in all ive spent £14 a month in January on hair care ( one lump sum in January and abit of conditiner etc) .
    The point of this is i think people should build their regime to suit them and the cost will not be high. Hope this made sense

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm at stage 4. I embrace shrinkage and will let my WnG go for a week. I get the most compliments from that. I've just always been an I don't care, whatever type of person, so I didn't go through stage 2 and 3. This past week some lady said I just love your wig!!

  • Janna says:

    I'm in stage 2. I haven't had a relaxer in 4 months and I am trying to figure out what to do with my hair. It's frustrating to not do what I've always done since I started doing my own hair. Trying to figure out what products I like – wishing I had the funds to support my product junkie habit, but money is extra tight these days. I already have a couple inches of new growth – and I thought my hair was thick with a relaxer! Because I am not wanting to BC I will have to get used to this transitioning because I have a lot of different textures going on right now. For me it's tough but I really want to work towards having healthier hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm 5 months into my natural hair journey. Right now I'm at a confused stage. I haven't foundwhat works best for my hair yet as far as product. I'm already ready to do the big chop and then I ask my self "didn't I start this natural journey for healthy hair and more length?" I have days that I feel like I cant take another days of this so I think I'll perm but I haven't done it yet.
    Thank you for having a site where I can go and be encouraged and find styles and products to help me on this journey.

  • LBell says:

    Erica and I are in the same boat…definitely stage 4 AND entering the "change of life." I like my silver hairs…MOST of them. The ones near my head have the nerve to be some variation of 2b or 2c. I'm like, dang…can't y'all at least be 4b like the rest? You're messing up my style!

    Also, like Anon 7/7 5:59 pm, I agree that stage 4 doesn't mean you can't still learn some things. Looking at pictures of freeform 'fros online have helped me grow much more comfortable with my never-perfect twistouts and braidouts. I no longer think of my loose hairstyle as a braidout with some frizz…I think of it as a 'fro with some definition. It's amazing how freeing that perspective shift has been!

  • DiamondCurls says:

    I am stuck in Stage 3. "Eh" for sure! I kind of just get up in the morning look at my hair and say "what am I going to do now?". My hair is like the 8th Wonder of the World to me. LOL!

    I think the longer my hair gets the closer I am to Stage 4. I think I need one more year or so and the mirror won't intimidate me anymore. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I am entering stage 3. I transitioned for 10 months and just big chopped today. For me getting rid of the relaxed ends was liberating and scary, but I looked at myself in the mirror and the thought "This is me now. Change is good. Enjoy this moment. You are living life." I smiled and felt confident.
    Che Mora

  • Anonymous says:

    I am entering stage 3. I transitioned for 10 months and just big chopped today. For me getting rid of the relaxed ends was liberating and scary, but I looked at myself in the mirror and the thought "This is me now. Change is good. Enjoy this moment. You are living life." I smiled and felt confident.
    Che Mora

  • honeybrown1976 says:

    Since I'm 26 months into my long transition (I'm striving to make three years and that's it!), I'm definitely in-between stages 2 and three. I'm learning to deal with two textures (more natural now) and I haven't let go of all of my relaxed ends. So, I'm still learning.

  • Erika says:

    Her hair looks super cute. I'm definitely a stage 4.

  • adelh says:

    i think i am at stages 3-4; for the most part my hair is finally cooperating, and i like how it looks, but i am afraid to cut off the last bits, and i mean bits of relaxed hair. i have been transitioning forever. i know that due to shrinkage, it will take a loooong time to look long without the relaxed parts – im old now, so i guess when i am really old, my hair will be perfect. lol

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree that stage 4 is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. I may not be a natural/curl guru, but I truly love my hair–shrinkage, frizz and all! Even when I think I'm having a "bad" hair day, someone will compliment my wild, kinky curls. Compliments feel good, but more importantly, they remind me not to stress about my hair and just let it do what it do.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am stage 2. After transitioning for 7 months I have reached a point where I finally feel comfortable wearing my natural hair in public. Any extra money i had has gone to buying products in hopes that it would be "THE ONE". I must say at times i am frustrated and lack the creativity when it comes to styling my hair. I need a natural hair intervention!!!

  • Braelynn says:

    I would say I'm nearing the end of stage three. While I have not been natural for YEARS (1 year, 3 months, and 5 days to be exact lol) and haven't reached my goal length, I do know what my hair likes and doesn't like, so I am pretty comfortable with it.

  • Nikell says:

    I'm between stage one and stage two (closer to stage one). I'm 4 months post so I still have a lot of relaxed hair. I haven't been really all that frustrated (yet). I'm discovering what products work for me and it's not all that much different from what I'd been using when I was totally relaxed. That'll probably change though…we'll see (^_^)

  • Miss Anne says:

    I'm in stage 2 for sure! I plan to long term transition for about 18 months or more. Currently 6 months in now and yeah I'm definitely trying to figure out what works and what doesn't…

    Great article! xxx

  • Anonymous says:

    I can honestly say I'm at stage 2. I'm excited and read constantly on what works and doesn't. I plan to transition for at least 9 months to a year because I want some length. Though I haven't tried anything because I'm wearing protective styles, I can't wait until I chop the rest of this relaxer off!!

    NaturalFox

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm currently in the frustrated stage 2, my 2 yr natural anniversary will be in October. This will have been the 4th and last time I cut all my hair off the first 3 were not an option my hair looked like crap leaving me no choice. I would wear wigs and weaves until my hair got some length then perm and dye it. In late 2010 my schedule between work and family got the better of me and before I knew it I’d went 4 months no perm I figured I transitioned this long what’s a year. (Having cut my hair before and working with 2 naturals made my decision to go completely natural a easy one). Don’t get me wrong when I first cut my hair I was in heaven my wash and go fro looked awesome after about a month of this (I was so lost on natural hair care) my fro looked a dry brittle mess to the point I kept a water spray bottle at work, after a couple of days of feeling ridiculous of this routine. I went to my hair dresser that weekend and got my hair washed and straightened. After a week I washed my hair and some parts stayed straight even after a couple more weeks, washes, and Aphogee treatment so I cut those straight strands and went back to wigs luckily I wasn’t frustrated to the point I turned to a perm. Today I’m sad to say I’m still wearing my hair covered up and my fro out 0-1 times a month, it’s the only style I know : ( Thank goodness I stumbled across curlynikki through Essence.com a couple months ago because now I have a place to get excellent hair care tips and styles for my hair length. I’m going to let the summer ride out but come September no more weaves, wigs, braids or any other hair cover-up. I’m hoping this new knowledge will fast forward me to stage 3 : )

    Quital84

  • Tonia says:

    Great article. I think I am at the end of stage 3 and entering stage 4. I don't feel seasoned at 1.5 yrs but I do have people asking me questions like I know what I'm doing…lol.I have a clearer idea which products work for me and I do have a hair regimen, but, I'm always tweeking it. I am in the process of whittling down all my products to the few essentials that I need. Stage 2 was the hardest for me not knowing AT ALL what to do with my hair.

  • mich says:

    I guess Im still in stage 2 because I still have some long straight ends (1yr 3months transitioning). I think iv found the right products for now but I find myself wondering how itll be when all the straight ends are gone. like how my bantu knots will look

  • Taylor says:

    I jumped between Stage 3 &4 lol. I haven't had a relaxer in about 12 years (?) I feel so guilty about how I treated hair with my mom's hair grease, excessive heat, and narrow toothed combs in the past :'( Now I have some heat damage and nasty split ends.

  • Anonymous says:

    It's been 2 years and I'm still at stage 3. (VERY FRUSTRATING) I've had to essentially BC two times after my initial BC because my ends get so bad that I need to chop them off. Two weeks ago I cut my hair down to almost my first BC length. I have yet to figure out what my hair really loves and how to keep it healthy. It grows quickly but the ends get so bad they have to be consistently chopped. I'm wondering if I should stay on this journey or go back to my tried and true relaxer.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well I'm past stage 3 but not at stage 4, I'm not a vet and I have yet to master any styles. I have tried over and over and over again. I've tried with different products and I've used methods from this website, youtube, and others. So I guess I'm at stage 3.5 – Truly Frustrated! I went natural knowing it would be work but I'm wondering if any of the work I do will pay off. I would like to wear more than a puff or frohawk.

    Kesha 🙁

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm at stage 4, but definitely hung around stage 3 for awhile. I've been natural over 5 years but really didn't know what I was doing for the first 3.5 years, lol. I found CurlyNikki last year and it helped a ton!

  • Erica says:

    14 years after my BC I am definitely in Stage 4. My family, friends and colleagues don't even remember the relaxed EC (lol). However, just when you think you got it down pat, life and hormones throw you a big ole curveball. I'm am going grey and not fighting it – that means no henna, cassia, nada! Starting a new part of my natural hair journey – eventually becoming a silver fox with my natural (hopefully silver) mane. This challenge is more mental by not letting your ego (fading youth) undermine your hair decisions. Wish me luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    Ditto…I am happily in stage 4 I love being natural. But I think I would call my stage 2 FRUSTRATION! I was so frustrated because I looked a mess because of the the relaxed ends and couldn't quite get my hair to do what I wanted it to do. Not tempted to go back to chemicals but my loved ones would give me the "look" like they wished I would just get over this phase or fad….glad to be free!!!! I am no expert but I surely know what my hair likes and needs to look good. Thanks for the article.

  • Eboni says:

    I definitely can relate to all of these stages. I think the most challenging was Stage 3. Trying to figure out what to do was to say the least quite frustrating. And currently I'm at stage 4 – seasoned vet.

    I recently rocked my first braid-out using Jane Carter Solution Nourish & Shine, and that successful look pretty much sums stage 4 for me 😀 Addtionally that day I went out to Target, and another woman complimentled me on hair which was the first time I'd ever received a compliment about my hair…or at least one in a while, lol.

  • DivaStar says:

    I went through stage 1 already. Didn't do the BC, I let the relaxer grow out.

    Going through stages 2 and 3 now. I wore my natural out for the first time on July 4th. I had to put on my I don't care attitude and left the wig at home. It was liberating for me. Plus, my husband loves it.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is true for me. Now I'm on step 4 and people are coming to me for hair advice. Which I think is funny because I'm of course looking to more seasoned vets for advice lol.

  • Unknown says:

    I literally big chopped yesterday and I can totally relate to this article!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I was unsure for a while if I wanted to wear my natural hair I would get frustrated because I was so use to my heat straightened hair. I would never weary curls everyday, only in the summer or winter when I was on college break. I decided to wear it everyday to not care what others thought my family was supportive except my grandmother and aunt. It did not stop me or make me go straighten it.

    Megan Montgomery

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