As I explained in detail in a previous post, I am currently in the process of transitioning my hair to natural. Since I’ve made the announcement to my friends and family, I’ve gotten awkward questions like, “So how does it work?” or “When will it be natural?”
While these questions are well-intentioned, they stem from ignorance of black natural hair and how it works, both on the part of black and non-black people. I hope I’m able to answer some of the questions many people curious about natural hair are too afraid to ask, the first being,
What is “transitioning”?
Transitioning is the process of growing out one’s relaxed, heat damaged, or chemically processed hair. Rather than doing a Big Chop right off the bat (cutting off the hair completely and starting with new, natural growth), transitioning allows you to retain the length of your strands while your natural hair grows in from the roots. Transitioning is great for people who aren’t quite ready for a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and those who want to practice healthy hair habits before the Big Chop day comes. Long-term transitioners are those who keep their relaxed ends for at least a year. I plan to transition for 13 months, or Big Chop by the very end of 2017. The trick with transitioning is working with two different hair textures (straight or damaged ends with curly or kinky roots) and finding styles that blend the two so people can’t tell. You also must make sure you’re being gentle with the line of demarcation, or the point where your relaxed hair meets your natural texture. Because it’s so sensitive, it is very prone to breakage, and too much breakage can cause you to Big Chop earlier than you want to.
If you said you’re going natural, why doesn’t your hair “look natural” yet?
Natural hair doesn’t happen overnight. Right now, I’m still in the early stages of transitioning at 10 weeks post (relaxer). At almost three months, my natural growth is still minimal. But, it is becoming more visible at my roots to the glancing eye. It will be a couple more months before I have significant enough growth to hold and style in my hands.
So what are you doing differently with your hair now?
In the rule book of Going Natural 101, the first step to transitioning is to stop doing the thing that damaged your hair to begin with. For me, this is realxing my strands. Second, you stop using chemically harmful products with sulfates and alcohol and swap them out for hair products with natural ingredients like shea butter and various kinds of oils (olive, almond, avocado, grapeseed, Jamaican black castor, etc.). I now shampoo my hair once a week and co-wash in between shampoo sessions. (Co-washing is conditioner washing, or refreshing your hair with a conditioner that won’t remove the dirt from/strip your hair like a shampoo would.) I also deep condition once a week. Lastly, I use protective styles to retain the moisture of every step in the wash or co-washing process. Needless to say, I spend hours tending to my hair every week, and I’ve almost tripled the amount of products I use on my hair, and I’d say my product collection is minimal at the moment. That’s how little I was taking care of my hair before.
My go-to styles are perm rod sets and bantu knots. My hair is at an awkward length right now, so these are really the only two styles that will curl my hair to retain moisture. I recently tried bantu knots, and I’m in love with them. I could never get the perm rods to wrap and roll the way I wanted them to, and the curls didn’t spiral the way they’re supposed to. But, with bantu knots, the strands of my curls hold together longer, and the curls as a whole don’t go flat as quickly.
Still, because my hair is mostly relaxed, the sucky thing is that it’s hard to make protective styles last without completely starting over by wetting my hair. When you have a head full of natural curls, your hair is a lot easier to manipulate and style because the strands are already inclined to curl or coil. I also can’t do wash and go’s because I don’t have a natural curl pattern to fall back on.
I’m planning on getting Marley twists in the next month to protect my hair through the rest of the winter, when it is most prone to breakage and damage due to the cold. It will also allow my natural hair to grow in without me constantly manipulating and styling it, which is good for it every few months or so whether you’re transitioning or completely natural. After I keep my twists in for eight weeks, I’ll take them out and re-assess the needs of my hair. I may need to change up my routine or the products I use, since I’ll have a significant portion of natural hair at my roots by then. I also plan to cut my hair a little so that my strands are equal length throughout my head.
So far, I’m satisfied with my hair growth, but still learning what healthy looks like on my hair. The next few months, from what I’ve read, will likely be the most troublesome, so I’m really trying to nail down a routine that retains my hair’s moisture from roots to tips. Stay tuned in the coming moths for the latest on my Road to BC!