I’ve gone natural three times in my life and it wasn’t always easy. My first natural hair transition was years ago when natural hair wasn’t as popular as it is now. There weren’t many great natural hair products on the market, and natural hair routines weren’t as widely known (this was Pre-YouTube). One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences, and as a hairstylist, is that there’s no one magical way to make a natural hair transition. How you go about it just depends on your natural curl type, your ultimate goal, and how you feel comfortable wearing your hair. No matter which route you take, here are the tips that’ll make the journey more joyful.
1. Find a curly hair stylist: Whether you’re doing a big chop, or you’re trimming your hair as you grow out your chemical straightener, enlist the help of a hairstylist that’s knowledgeable about going natural. The stylist can advise you on which haircut will make dealing with two different textures easier. A professional can also tell you how much new growth you’ll have to work with when your natural hair transition process is complete, which will give you an idea of your styling options. Find a curly hair stylist here.
2. Create a game plan: You may have heard a lot of dos and don’ts for transitioning to natural texture, but did you know that prepping for your new look before you take the plunge is one of the best things you can do? Gather photos of natural styles you love, learn about how to care for your natural curl type, and then figure out which curly hair products you’ll need. Have those items ready to go on day one, so you can dive right into your new curly hair routine.
3. Keep heat styling to a minimum: Instead of relying on hot tools to blend your hair textures (which can lead to breakage), try protective hairstyles (like braids) that are easier on your hair. Styles that play up your natural hair texture are great options, too. Think twist-outs, braid-outs and flexible rods.
4. Don’t neglect your hair: When you’re wearing your hair in a bun a lot or using a protective style (braids or a weave) to transition, resist the urge to slack off on hair care. Stick with a consistent washing and conditioning schedule to keep your hair moisturized and healthy. A sulfate-free cleanser and silicone-free conditioner like No-Poo or Low-Poo and One Condition Decadence will give your hair the rich moisture it needs.
5. Be hands-on: The line of demarcation where the natural hair texture meets the straight hair is very fragile. To gently detangle, use your fingers to work through the hair while you’re conditioning in the shower. If you just can’t give up using a comb, remember that the one you might have used when your hair was straightened, may not be right for your natural curls. I suggest working with a wide-tooth comb then following up with your fingers for better definition.
6. Embrace accessories: Invest in a stash of scarves, headbands and cute clips to keep on hand to hide new growth or to create updos that give you a break from labor-intensive styling. Plus, chic accessories can keep you from getting bored, especially if you’re relying on protective styles.
7. Give yourself time to adjust: The way you look with your natural hair texture might be a bit shocking at first, especially if you’ve never seen yourself with short hair. Expect it to take a few weeks (or possibly longer) to start loving your new look, and to get the hang of your new natural hair styling routine.
8. Relax: If you start a natural hair transition and it doesn’t go quite as planned, that’s okay! Relaxed to curly transformations take time. The process shouldn’t be a high-pressure thing. I believe that a little bit of soul searching is what leads to a conscious decision to make a major change, but at the same time, it’s just hair. Celebrate the fact that (a) you have it, and (b) you can decide how you want to wear it—just have fun with it. If what you’re doing today isn’t working, you can always try something different.
Your Transitioning Essentials:
To zap occasional buildup: Buildup Buster Micellar Water Cleansing Serum
To give straight ends more texture (when you’re growing out a chemical straightener): Arc Angel Gel Maximum Hold No-Crunch Styler
To add moisture in between wash-days: Set it Free Moisture Lock Finishing Spray
To give styling a rest: Accessorize with a scarf
To deep condition parched strands: Heaven In Hair Intense Moisture Treatment