Transitioning to Natural Hair: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

In a world where information is often at our fingertips (or vocal command), you may have a lot of questions, including questions about your hair. If you're thinking of transitioning back to natural hair, or have already started the process, it may not be as easy to get the answers you want as you'd expect. These frequently asked questions about natural hair come up time and again among women who want to make the move from chemically straightened, heat-trained or damaged tresses back to their roots.(Each question links to a more detailed article/explanation.)

Transitioning back to natural hair
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You may associate transitioning with leaving relaxers behind, but the method can also involve returning to your natural hair from any texture-altering process. This includes heat damage, or heat training as some women call it. It can also involve leaving texturizers behind, including those sneaky "manageability" products that don't always advertise being chemical-laden. Once you decide you want to return to your all-natural mane, you're ditching any product that permanently changes the natural structure of your hair cuticle. Some women include color as an altering substance, but most hair color won't change your texture at all, and only in severe instances does it damage the hair. More »

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The short answer is "no", not if you're trying to move to all-natural hair. Unfortunately, some brands market texturizers as if they're natural products, making women believe there are no texture-altering chemicals in the kit. Whenever you see a product claiming to improve manageability or loosen curls, proceed with caution. Chances are, whether it calls itself a texturizer or not, your texture will be affected by the questionable ingredients. Texturizers do contain chemicals and will set you back on your natural journey. More »

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There are no rules about how long your transition should take, so if anyone tells you that you've transitioned too long at eight months, ignore that advice. Some women have more patience than others and will do well as long-term transitioners. Others will get frustrated dealing with different textures and will end up cutting off their straightened hair long before they planned to. Choose a timeline that works for you, but don't be surprised if it changes! You may get fed up with your varying textures one day and just decide to chop your hair off. Or, you might prolong your transition if a drastic change becomes too much for you. More »

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You might feel limited in the number of hairstyles you can create while transitioning. In the beginning, it won't be as difficult, but as your mane grows and you have more new growth competing with your previously straightened locks, it gets more challenging to find styles that work with both textures. No one said you have to change your style every day or even every week. It's a good idea to find a handful of hairdos that you can create (or count on your stylist to do), preferably low-maintenance, protective looks. These types of styles place less stress on your hair, leading to less breakage. More »

Hairstyling pressing a black woman's hair in salon
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You definitely can, but is it the best way to deal with your hair while transitioning? If you decide to press or flat iron your new growth in order to make it blend better with your existing ends, you'll need to be extra careful. Not only do you want to avoid heat damage, but you also don't want to place too much stress on the place where the chemically altered hair meets your natural tresses. Also, there's the whole concern of being natural. If you're constantly pressing your new growth instead of trying out hairstyles that mimic natural looks, you're not going that much forward in your natural journey. If you truly want to be natural, at some point you'll have to handle your hair as it grows from your roots. The earlier you start, the more time you'll have to learn about your texture and how best to handle it. More »

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Along with finding hairstyles that work with your transitioning hair, breakage is one of the top concerns for women returning to their natural roots. The area where your previously processed hair meets your new growth, or line of demarcation, is usually the place where breakage is most likely to occur (women who transition from heat damage probably won't have one area that breaks more than another) because it's an especially fragile spot. To avoid as much breakage as possible, the occasional protein treatment is a must. As long as you use a gentle protein once or twice per month, along with weekly, moisturizing deep conditioning products, breakage should be minimal. Just remember to be proactive and keep your routine up to prevent problems. More »

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Hopefully, your transition will sail along, but even the most dedicated and routine-keeping individual may have times when the whole process drives her crazy. Having a regimen is key, as are finding products and especially hairstyles that work for you. If you have a favorite stylist who can help you through this phase, put your care in her hands. Likewise, sometimes it helps to put your hair up and out of sight, in the form of a weave, wig, braid or twist extensions, if you're going through a particularly challenging phase. More »

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It happens. Some women try their hardest to go back to natural hair, but for one reason or another, decide to return to relaxing (or continual straightening with thermal tools). Although natural hair really is for everyone -- because your hair as it grows from your scalp should be acceptable -- not everyone can embrace her texture. If being natural is something you really wanted but you just couldn't figure out how to make it work for you, try not to let anyone make you feel bad about your decision to go back to straightened locks. Besides, you may be able to return to natural hair at some point in the future, when your lifestyle and circumstances are different. More »

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What Challenges Will I Face?

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It shouldn't be so hard to return to natural hair, but it can sometimes be quite a challenge. The longer you've had straightened hair, the harder it can sometimes be to figure out how to handle your natural texture. The longer you transition, the more challenges you can expect to face. This is due to having more new growth and figuring out how to avoid major breakage. You may also have to find new hairstyles that work as your tresses grow. No one said transitioning was easy, so as long as you know you'll have times when the going seems tough, you'll be able to have plans in place to deal with those times.

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What Should I Avoid While Transitioning to Natural Hair?

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Once you know what to do for your transitioning hair and which styles and products are working, is there anything you should avoid? Definitely. Too much heat styling and any texture-altering chemicals top the list, but you might also want to stay away from people who don't support your decision to return to natural locks (or at least tune them out if you can't cut them off). If you're stuck on using the same products that worked for your relaxed mane, continue with them only if they keep working. The truth is that you'll probably have to ditch some products and find new ones that make the most of your natural texture.