How to Transition to Natural Hair

Dec 3, 2018

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If you’re reading this, then you are most likely wondering how to transition to natural hair from non-natural (i.e. chemically treated) hair.

Learning how to transition to natural hair is no easy feat, so congratulations for making the first step to long, healthy, natural hair. You’ve come to the right place. 

It’s an unfortunate reality that we haven’t always loved our natural curls. We’ve been conditioned to believe our kinks and curls are a curse rather than a blessing, and that we must chemically alter it to fit into society’s standards of beauty.

It’s a sad truth, but society has been programmed to think natural hair is ugly, unkept, and unattractive.

This is based on colonization theory – the belief that Euro-centric features (aka the Karen’s of the world) are perceived as more attractive than Afro-centric features.

But we’ve seen a shift in today’s generation: more and more people of colour are being empowered to learn the art of maintaining their natural mane. 

And suddenly, a market that had limited hair care options for people of colour is now saturated with leave-ins, deep conditioners, gels, oils and butters. There’s now a demand for hair care products that cater exclusively to curls, kinks and coils. What a time to be alive!

In short, now is the BEST time to make the transition to natural hair. Let’s get into it.

What to Expect When Transitioning to Natural Hair

We’re not going to sugar coat it: learning how to transition to natural hair is not easy.

During your journey, you will feel tempted to drop the deep conditioner in favour for the relaxer. Don’t beat yourself up over it: that’s normal!

But you need to stay motivated. Consistency is the name of the game.

I get it, you want long, healthy natural hair overnight. Same here, sister. 

But to make this journey more manageable and exciting, patience is key. Learning how to listen to your hair is an essential skill you’ll learn on this journey: what your natural hair likes, dislikes, and what products work best for you takes time and dedication. 

Your hair has been damaged repeatedly over the course of your life by unnatural and dangerous chemicals, and needs time to grow healthy again.

Learning how to transition to natural hair, and how to maintain healthy hair, is worth the wait.

Here’s how to do it.

The Big Chop

The big chop is well-known (and well-feared) in the natural hair community.

By definition, it’s when you cut off all of the damaged hair and only leave the unrelaxed, healthy hair at the roots.

This is the boldest way to start your new journey, but it is the most effective.

This may seem extreme, but a big chop ensures that you are giving your new growth ample opportunity to thrive. If you aren’t aware, dead hair will continuously split up the hair shaft, thus damaging new growth. 

But the big chop is extreme, and we get that. So the next best thing you could so: an invisible trim.

An invisible trim means dusting off just a few cm from your ends (rather than inches) every 4-6 weeks. This will keep your length while getting rid of split ends.

Natural Hair Products… Assemble!

New naturals state that this is the hardest step to master.

During your “how to transition to natural hair” journey, finding go-to natural products and hairstyles will be tricky, especially in the beginning.

If your ends are damaged, wash and go’s will be harder to achieve. Your twist-outs and braid-outs probably won’t look as good as you want them to at first.

As a result, you may be tempted to use chemicals every so often to tame your hair.

But this is no time to pick up the curly crack, girlfriend. In fact, any chemical is off limits! It’s tempting to want to chemically process your hair while you are growing out your healthy hair, but this only serves to further damage the situation.

To truly transition, you cannot use any chemical or heat styling on your hair. That’s an order!

Now – getting your natural hair products in order is the next step. Here are some helpful tips to draft your natural hair product picks:

  • Learn your porosity – do you have high porosity natural hair or low porosity natural hair? As a general rule of thumb, relaxed hair is high porosity.
  • Use water-based leave-in conditioners and avoid products that have too many chemicals in the ingredient list.  
  • Invest in your natural hair tools: a wide-tooth comb, a hot head/steamer for deep conditioning, amongst others!

Perfect Your Wash Day

You know you’re #teamnatural when you have your wash day routine down pat.

You need to honor your wash day, no matter how frequent yours is (we suggest Type 4 naturals shampoo their hair biweekly, while Type 2 and 3 can go up to a week).

Your wash day routine is going to ensure that your hair is clean, moisturized; this is the first step to healthy natural hair.

Make sure you follow these steps to ensure you reap all the moisture benefits of wash day!

Pump Up The Protein

Protein is a non-negotiable for all curlies, but especially for transitioning natural hair.

All of your previous processing destroyed the protein in your hair (called keratin). And without keratin, your curls just won’t curl. This is why you may be noticing straight pieces of your hair that refuse to curl.

Protein-rich products, whether they are leave-ins or deep conditioners, aim to put the protein back in your hair.

Now, everyone has a different sensitivity to protein. Some hair textures are very fond of protein, others aren’t, and there are some telltale signs that you are protein sensitive (i.e. more breakage than usual, stiffness after deep conditioning).

But if you still have some relaxed parts (or if you find that you are high porosity), protein will be your friend  

If you want to start out light, we suggest either the ORS Hair Mayonnaise, or the Aphogee Two Minute Keratin Treatment. Your heat/chemical damage will not be reversed after a single usage, but you’ll notice more bounce in your curl with consistent use. These can be used every 3 weeks.

But if you’re looking for protein that packs a punch, one of the strongest protein treatments on the market currently is the Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment. This protein treatment is extremely protein rich and should be used with caution – only those with serious damage should use this product. Only use this product every 6-8 weeks and follow it up with a highly moisturizing deep conditioner.

If You Like This Post, You’ll ♥:

The Best Deep Conditioners for Transitioning Naturals

Style Hacks 101

This early in your natural hair journey, your curls may not be at peak form. You may have a clear line of demarcation – the boundary between your upper new growth, and your lower relaxed hair.

Fear not, because twist outs will be your best friend 

After deep conditioning, apply your products of choice (normally a leave-in conditioner, cream, and/or gel), and twist your hair in sections. You can use perm rods for even greater definition. 

Let your hair sit overnight and in the morning, once dry, take down your style gently. This is how you will feign the look of curls until yours start to thrive!

Protective Style

This is the most effective way to accelerate hair growth. Although not as imperative as the big chop, protective styling acts as a powerful tool that minimizes breakage and protects natural hair from the elements.

Protective styling doesn’t mean that your hair is growing faster, it means that you are reducing breakage, therefore optimizing your hair growth. Your hair will be free to grow uninterruptedly! Protective styles are a helpful tool in learning how to transition to natural hair.

Common protective styles are jumbo braids, wigs, weaves, and buns. Be sure that you are taking down your protective style every 6 weeks at most. Again, this process works best with all the relaxed hair cut off.

Sleep With Satin

If you’re performing all of the aforementioned steps, and sleeping on a regular cotton pillowcase, all of your hard work is for naught.

Satin or silk are the only two fabrics you should be wrapping your hair with at night. Cotton sucks moisture out of natural hair, leaving it dry by morning.

Most naturals opt for a satin or silk scarf or bonnet to wrap their hair with. These are available at your local beauty supply store. Bonnets are preferred if you move around in your sleep and need a wrap that won’t fall off.

You can also use a satin or silk pillowcase if you prefer letting your hair loose at night. Either way, cotton is not natural-hair friendly, and it’s got to go.

Be Patient

This is the final, most important step in your learning how to transition process.

Be patient!

It’s human nature to want to achieve your goals as soon as humanly possible. Everyone feels that way.

But we need to accept that it’s not the way life works, with any goal worth having. This journey you are embarking on takes hard work, intense research, and dedication. Learning how to transition to natural hair cannot be taught in a night.

But the reward is so worth it.

The Bottom Line on How To Transition to Natural Hair

When learning how to transition to natural hair, you need to avoid chemicals, heat, and drying products.

You need to protective style, get rid of your dead ends by doing a big chop and/or routinely get a trim, use moisturizing products, have a solid wash day, deep condition often and sleep with a satin pillow case.

Seems more complicated than it is, trust me.

The bottom line is that figuring out how to transition to natural hair is not a seamless process. It’s hard work, time-consuming and can be incredibly frustrating at times.

But if you want to be free of harmful chemicals, to truly embrace every part of you, and to wholeheartedly express self-love and devotion, learning how to transition to natural hair is the single most important thing you can do for yourself.

Your truest, most authentic self lies beyond the relaxer and the flat iron.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and you want to reach for the relaxer, remember that you are negating all of the progress you’ve made thus far. Remember that chemical and heat processing is bad for your health. Remember that chemically processed hair is only sustainable for the short term – healthy hair is for the long haul.

All it takes is a few months of consistency to see healthy growth. A few months will go by and before you know it, your natural hair will be long, shiny, bouncy and healthy looking.

Yes, it may be hard in the beginning. Your twist-outs won’t look as well done as the natural hair bloggers on YouTube. Maybe your curls won’t be as defined as theirs. But even they had to start at square one.

Remember: allowing your natural hair to be that, natural, is not just a journey to achieve long hair, but it’s also a journey of self-love and self-acceptance.

You’ve always been beautiful, just the way you are. But society has told you otherwise – made you believe that you need to alter your natural beauty to fit an unachievable standard. It’s time to take your power back.

The Curl Market is a natural hair blog catered to helping black naturals grow their curls into a long, luscious manes.

We use the latest evidence-based scientific research to provide you with the top tips on growing your curls, regardless of hair type.

We also provide lifestyle tips, both self care and mental care, to ensure you are optimizing your body’s natural hair growth cycle – because you can’t grow natural hair if you’re stressed out!

Come as you are.

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Ayana Aden

Ayana is The Curl Market’s brand founder. When she’s not deep in natural hair research or creating content, she’s hanging on the couch with her husband and her cat, reading a book or scrolling through TikTok. Follow her on Instagram at @tothecurlmarket.

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