Tips for Transitioning from Relaxed to Natural Hair

Transitioning to natural hair could results in great curls like these.
Geri Lavrov/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

When you want to return to your natural hair, you have two choices on how to get there: cut all of the processed hair off (also known as doing the "big chop") or transition, which is cutting off the straightened hair bit by bit while your new growth comes in. While cutting off all of the relaxed hair may be easier – it will certainly get you used to dealing with your natural hair in a hurry – not every woman wants to go that route.

You may not like how you look with short hair, you may worry about other people's reactions or you might simply prefer longer hair.

Tips on Transitioning to Natural Hair

To make it through the transition phase with a minimum of frustration, try these tips:

Choose the Right Styles

One of the biggest issues for you may be what hairstyles you can turn to during this period. There are going to be 'dos that are simpler for transitioning hair, while others will be hard to maintain and will probably lead to frustration. The easiest styles will either highlight your new, curly texture or protect your hair in some fashion instead of hairdos that force you to deal with two very different textures. You should also avoid trying to straighten your natural locks to match your chemically straightened ends. The best hairstyles during a transition will blend the two textures as much as possible, so try:

  • Braids and braid-outs
  • Two-strand twists, flat twists and twist-outs
  • Buns
  • Roller sets
  • Flexi-rod sets
  • Bantu knots and knot-outs

Have Realistic Expectations

Don't expect natural hair to behave like straightened hair. You'll have to learn different ways of dealing with your tresses to get satisfactory results. Otherwise, you can experience a lot of aggravation when your natural curls seem to be "unruly." They're not unruly; they're simply doing what they naturally do.

Once you accept that your hair is frizzy, puffy or "big," you'll be better able to work with it instead of against it. Along with having realistic expectations comes acceptance of your true texture. Unfortunately, some women expect their curls/coils to look one way and when their locks turn out another way, they're disappointed -- their hair doesn't look like their hair idol's! Everyone's curl pattern is unique to her, and falling in love with yours, while it may not happen right away, is the best way to be natural and happy.

Treat Your Hair with Care

Exercise care where the relaxed and natural hair meet. The place where your new growth meets the relaxed hair is especially fragile. If you experience any breakage, chances are high that this will be where it takes place. This is why too much heat styling and manipulation should be avoided. Instead of constantly flat ironing your new growth to match the straight texture, try wet sets and curly styles that make the relaxed hair match your new curls instead. Add mild to moderate protein treatments once or twice per month to minimize breakage, and increase deep conditioning to about once a week to maintain healthy moisture-protein levels.


Be Patient

There may be times when it seems that your hair is simply not growing. It can be frustrating to try and deal with two different textures. You may contemplate returning to relaxed hair because that's what you're familiar with and it seems so much easier. However, if you're really committed to your natural texture, some patience will be required. Your hair is probably growing an average of ½ inch per month, just like everyone else's. Your curly new growth may shrink up, making it appear as if your hair isn't gaining any length.

Just remember that your hair is growing and it's growing in healthy and strong. Put your hair in protective styles where you're not obsessing about hair length every minute of the day. Before you know it, you'll have a head full of natural curls that won't rely on chemicals or heat styling to get you ready for the day.