What to Expect as You Transition to Natural Hair

Once you decide you want to stop chemically straightening your hair, you may wonder what the transitioning process will be like. You might have heard stories, some of which could have you feeling anxious. If you don't want to do the "big chop" and get rid of your processed hair in one fell swoop, here's a timeline for transitioning hair that outlines what you can expect, and what you can do to make the process easier, month to month.

Keep in mind that your natural journey won't be like the next person's, even if your textures are similar. Try and find techniques and products that work for your unique mane, and your transition to all-natural locks will be more enjoyable for you.

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Think About a Time Frame

Woman looking at her hair in transition
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Once you make the decision to transition, think about how long you want your process to last. Whatever you decide at this point doesn't have to be a firm commitment. You may think you want to transition for a year, and after three months, get tired of dealing with two different textures, and simply cut all your relaxed hair off. It happens.

It's good to have a tentative plan in place if you can, especially if you're the type of person who likes to have goals and milestones to work toward. Do you want to transition for half a year or one year? Or would you rather transition until you have three to four inches of new growth? It's up to you. While you don't need a definite time frame in mind, having one could help, especially if you like plans and organization.

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Months One and Two

These may be easy months if you stuck to the general relaxer guideline of touch-ups every eight weeks. It's not too early to start thinking of good transition styles for the months ahead. Women who aren't particularly confident in their hairstyling abilities should take this time to practice various styles and see if there's one or two that you can master and become your fallback 'dos on days when you need to style your hair in a hurry. You may want to get into the habit of frequent deep conditioning because natural hair tends to feel drier than relaxed hair, and upping the moisture sooner rather than later will lead to overall healthier tresses.

See: Top 10 Mistakes Transitioners Make

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Months Three and Four

This is where transitions can get more challenging, as you'll need to be very diligent taking care of your hair at the line of demarcation, or where your relaxed hair meets the new growth. This is an extremely fragile area and where you'll experience the most breakage.

If you haven't already, begin using protein treatments about once a month. Alternate these with moisturizing deep conditioner treatments, which you should apply at least twice a month. It's important to keep the balance of protein and moisture in your hair at optimal levels to minimize breakage. Trim one to two inches of your hair.

See: 12 Products That Transitioners Need

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Months Five and Six

By now, you may have between two and three inches of new growth. Your relaxed hair will look markedly different from your curls and coils (if you had a texturizer instead of a relaxer, you probably won't notice as much of a difference). Daily styling may be a challenge, which is why you should try styles that make the most of your curls, not fight to straighten this new growth.

Trim one to two inches of hair and continue with protein and deep conditioning treatments. Consider extensions as a way to get through the next few months. Many women obsess over how little it seems their hair is growing; wearing braid extensions is a good way to get your mind off of growth and to reduce daily styling.

See: How to Avoid Breakage During a Transition to Natural Hair

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Six Months+

You'll probably have about three inches of new growth, with the ends of your hair seeming to hang on for dear life. The sooner you get rid of your relaxed ends, the sooner you can begin to understand your hair's unique texture and learn how to work with it. If your relaxed hair is shorter in length than your new growth, consider cutting the processed ends away. This can be tough for women who like to wear their hair long, but straggly ends do nothing for your look.

Beyond six months, your relaxed hair is on its last legs. You'll be more familiar (and maybe more comfortable) with your natural texture. When you cut off the rest of your relaxed mane, you'll see how your hair is unique to you. Enjoy the possibilities that natural hair brings you!

See: How Long Before I See My Real Texture?

Seven Months and Beyond

Some women have the patience and fortitude to transition very long term, including up to two years. If this is you (if you just can't bear to cut or have shorter hair than you're used to), be prepared to truly pamper your mane so that you don't suffer excess breakage.