If you chose to transition and go natural this year, all power to you! The thought of transitioning can be daunting for many of us who have probably never seen our natural hair texture in our adult lives. Since I’ve been through it and have been natural for a while, I thought I would share some tips on what to expect and how to deal with it.
Managing two different textures
Natural hair and straight hair have different moisture requirements, with natural hair being thirstier than straight hair, and this is difficult to balance. A lot of people choose to protective style through this stage using braids, wigs, sew-in weaves etc and this is probably the best way to do it, until you are ready to cut off the relaxed portion (the big chop). If you choose to wear your hair out, through your transition, you will be tempted to apply heat to try and blend the two textures. This is not a good idea and you may end up with a lot of heat damage. Look into other methods of stretching your hair like African threading.
If your hair is long, it might be harder to part with but if you are determined, try doing it in stages. Cut a couple of inches this month, and a couple more the next until you are ready to take the plunge. Once you get to around twelve weeks post relaxer, the difference in texture between your relaxed hair and the emerging new growth will be very apparent and it won’t be long until there is breakage at the transition point (i.e., where your new growth and your relaxed hair meet) so, you may wan to start considering setting a date for your big chop.
If and when you decide to big chop, mark it on your calendar and take pictures of your progress often to monitor the hearth and length of your hair. Looking back will help you stay motivated if the going ever gets tough.
Get to know your own hair
Once you big chop, it will be easier to tell what your hair texture is like as you won’t have the relaxed ends weighing down your natural curl pattern. Your texture is mainly down to genetics and I’m fully African so my texture is a lot of 4c, with some 4b on my crown. Knowing your texture will help you select products that work best for your hair, and also manage your expectations in terms of styling. A 4c twist out will not look like a 4a twist out, so try not to compare your hair to someone else, especially someone who does not have the same texture as you.
You should be prepared to embrace whatever grows out of your scalp, at whatever rate. Although you have let go of relaxer, you hair may not be as thick, or may be overwhelmingly thicker and kinkier than you want it to be. You may reach certain length milestones within a couple of years, and others may take longer. Remember, it’s all about healthy hair so try not to obsess over thickness, fullness and length. While texture is down to genetics, health is something you can control based on how well you care for your hair and what I know is, healthy hair grows.
Develop a haircare routine
Caring for your natural hair will be time-consuming and at times, tedious, until you get into a routine. Your routine should cover how often you wash, condition, and moisturise your hair. These are all very important and how often you do each of these things will be determined by your hair texture and what you feel your hair needs. Almost everyone goes through a product junkie phase, where they try so many products and this is fine, but make note of the products your hair responds to best and form your routine around them. Some products that are ‘holy grail’ for some people, may not work for you (e.g., my hair hates coconut oil). Find and stick to the whatever does.
Going natural is a huge learning curve and it will test your patience and your resolve. Everything will take longer than it used to. Detangling will take up most of your haircare time and will at times be frustrating. Whatever you are doing to your hair, make sure you set aside enough time and you don’t rush through it. Your kinks and coils are delicate, so treat them like lace. Literally!
Be patient with your growth too. At times, it may feel like your hair isn’t growing but, it is. Shrinkage is real and it seems to me the longer my hair gets the more shrinkage I have and I’ve been natural for nearly six years! The focus should be on keeping your ends moisturised and healthy so that you can retain as much length as possible.
A lot of people complain that their styling options are limited during their TWA phase. I can’t argue with that but, you can get creative and with some time and patience, you can recreate some beautiful styles. You can also use hairpieces to give the illusion of length and volume. To help you get started, I’ve made a list, with links to 4b/4c YouTubers for some haircare and styling inspiration
Jane Nashe who currently has a TWA and is so creative with her styling,
TheChicNatural who has videos that go all the way back to her TWA phase.
NappyFuTV is another gal to follow, who is both honest and entertaining and has a lot of videos on haircare.
Naturally High has a lot of educational-type videos and tutorials which really emphasise haircare and protective styling.
Breanna Rutter‘s channel is the ‘go to’ If you are interested in learning how to do your own braids, cornrows, crochet braids, weaves and wigs.
WestAfricanBaby‘s has amazing, hair and great haircare videos. If you ever feel a little demotivated, check her out for some hair-inspiration.
Although my journey has been long and sometimes tough, I wouldn’t trade my natural hair for a relaxer. I love how healthy it is and how I can put it away in a protective style and bring it back when I want. Nothing has been as I expected, but that is part of the experience and I hope your journey will be as enjoyable, if not more, than mine.