Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural
Ok so you made the decision to "go natural" and now you're not quite sure how to manage the two textures. Never fear there are several ways to blend the two without losing your cool or confidence. In the beginning of your transition you may opt for styles you wore while relaxed. However you will soon realize the more your natural hair grows, the more challenging styles may become.
A few styles to consider during the first phase of your transition are roller sets, braids, twist outs, bantu knots, straw/rod sets, pin curls or twisted high-buns. Most of these styles require little to no heat and you can easily do it yourself. To keep hair hydrated you should limit heat usage and products containing harsh chemicals such as sulfate and alcohol. This is important because curly hair is typically drier than most textures. Continued use of moisture depleting products can lead to excessive breakage.
Moisture and Hair Cleansing
To replenish moisture loss it's important to wash hair often and replace oil deficiencies with natural oils such as, unrefined coconut, avocado, shea, jojoba or extra virgin olive oil. Although these are not the only natural oils available, they're the most accessible and usually found in your local grocery store with a reasonable price to boot.
While washing and using the proper oils are important you should also add deep conditioning and sealing to your routine. When deep conditioning, apply the deep conditioner to the hair liberally from root to tip and cover hair with a plastic shower cap. Sit under a hooded dryer for 10-15 minutes to allow the moisture to penetrate. Rinse conditioner out and proceed to seal the ends of your hair. To seal, use natural oils such as unrefined coconut, castor, olive or shea butter. Sealing ends helps lock in moisture and ward off split ends and fairy knots (knots at tip of hair). However if you have split ends or fairy knots you should have them trimmed off. Unfortunately this issue can not be repaired or saved. There is no such thing as repairing split ends, they must be cut!
So by now you're probably realizing why washing hair so important? Keeping the scalp and hair clean is essential to replacing moisture and achieving maximum growth. Water does not dry the hair out, chemically loaded products do, which is why it’s important to read your product ingredient labels. Many times we fall for the false promises on the front of labels instead of taking a look at the ingredients. What you use make a huge difference in the results, so don't cut corners.
Read the Small Print
Ladies, ladies step away from the marketing propaganda and read the fine print on the back of your bottles. It is so important you familiarize yourself with chemicals that are drying to hair. If you, don’t chances are you‘ll be fighting a battle you may have initiated. Educating yourself on natural hair care is critical to maximizing results and surviving transition. The more you know about your texture and its tendencies, the better the outcome. Start reading your ingredient labels and doing some research of your own so that you're more in tune with chemicals you should avoid.
The Transitioners Challenge
As you progress through the second phase of your transition and move closer to half natural, half relaxed; styling becomes more challenging and requires more creativity. To assist with styling and to keep not so great hair days at a minimum you may consider adding wigs or hair wraps to your collection. While the styles mentioned earlier allow versatility for natural hair, a wig can cut styling time down to 10 minutes or less and allow hair to rest when needed.
A wig is like a pair of black shoes or that little black dress that is a must have for all women. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a “girlfriend” on hand for those ready in a flash moments, but keep in mind you should never skimp on taking care of the hair that lies beneath. When wearing a wig, protect your hair by wearing a wig cap or head covering. Also make sure hair has been properly oiled and secured to prevent dryness and matting. If natural hair is not cared for, a wig can be your worst nightmare.
By applying the above steps and processes you should be able to transition successfully with minimum shedding and hair loss. Remember to wash, oil, and condition with natural, sulfate free products and use natural oils. Also allow hair to air dry whenever possible and avoid intense heat and styles that pull or stress hair in any way. Handle hair with care and detangle with a wide tooth seamless comb. Seamless combs work great with conditioners and you don't have to worry about seams damaging your hair or creating mid-shaft splits. These combs are generally made of resin and work best for natural and curly hair types.
Everyone’s hair is different, so investigate methods and choose a regimen that fits your lifestyle. Take pictures of your progress to gage if changes need to be made. Drink lots of water and monitor the foods you eat. If you are lacking essential vitamins or water from your diet your hair, skin and nails will definitely show it. Remember what you put into the body, shall come out. A few vitamins to assit with growth are silica complex, horsetail and bamboo extract. These vitamins have a high silica content and accelerate hair growth. However be prepared to shave and wax more often everywhere, if you know what I mean.
Once you have reached the length you're comfortable with you're ready to Big Chop. However keep in mind, natural hair has a tendency to shrink and draw up sometimes 80% its length depending on the texture. When deciding to Big Chop please, please factor the possibility of shrinkage and make sure you're ok with it. Big Chop when you're ready, not out of frustration or because a friend did, but when you're ready and your confidence is where it needs to be. How you choose to BC is up to you. You can have a professional stylist trim it, do it yourself or even have a friend do it. Whenever or however you choose, have a good time and celebrate!
I hope I have added to your knowledge and you feel even more confident to see the transition process through. As you can see transitioning is not hard, you just needed a nudge in the right direction.