Going from relaxed hair to natural hair isn’t a decision a girl takes lightly. When you’re doing a long-term transition to natural hair, there are may be days when you feel completely lost. \You may find yourself missing the familiarity of your relaxed hair routine and the new au natural texture you discover as you go through the process may have you reaching for the creamy crack once again. I urge you to stick it out; all you need is a little guidance and support. I get questions from women all the time about how I got through my transition process, what products I used and what styles I wore. I’m more than willing to share my experience, but the truth of the matter is that people have different hair textures and the process is different for each person. A lot of it has to do with the condition the person’s hair was in before they began the transition. To pull this off successfully, you really have to get out there, try new products and learn for yourself. All that being said, there are some basic things that a brave transitioner like you can do to work towards healthy hair.
1. Protein is your friend – Weak, chemically processed hair benefits dramatically from protein treatments. They keep your hair strong, and also help restore elasticity. Remember, you want to minimize breakage and shedding during your transition, so regular protein treatments are key [once monthly is good for starters]. Be sure to deep condition AFTER each protein treatment.
2. Keep your scalp clean. While you may shampoo your hair less, it is still important to keep your scalp clean. Keeping those pores open and clear will allow stronger hair to grow from them,
3. Be protective. When it comes to hair health and length retention, you must protect your hair. We live in an impatient world where we want quick fixes and a beauty regime that requires minimal discipline. But for a Made Woman who wants to stay fly, this is not realistic -- particularly when it comes to caring for highly textured hair. Your delicate strands need to be handled with care, wrapped up at night and detangled gently. Take your time and do it right.
4. Low Manipulation Hair Styles - Too much manipulation is like death to your tresses. Now is the time to handle your hair with extreme care. Low manipulation styles are your friend! Don braids, twists, roller sets, flexi rod sets, braid outs, low tension buns, bantu knot outs, and twist outs. Check out the popular site K is for Kinky's Pinterest page for some ideas on natural hair styles!
5. Silk Pillowcase, Satin Bonnets, Satin Scarves - Are indispensable “tools!” - My favorite is the silk pillow, perfect for those who can’t keep a silk scarf on at night. Try to avoid sleeping on regular cotton pillowcases, as they can cause breakage as well.
6. Try to go sans heat for the first 8-10 months - Thermal straightening can have the same effects as a relaxer, in the sense that it can break down the protein bonds in your hair. When the protein bonds are weak, your hair will break. This is why you normally get breakage on or near the line of demarcation [aka where the weaker hair and new growth meet]. Heat can permanently damage the natural curl of your hair. If you use a lot of heat while transitioning in an attempt to merge the relaxed hair with the natural hair, you may end up burning or damaging your natural hair.
7. Watch the line of Demarcation. This tip is crucial if you are planning a long transition. The point where natural hair meets relaxed hair should be your top priority. Ensure that it is well conditioned and be careful when detangling or combing this particular section. Breakage will normally start at this point, which is something you need to avoid until you are ready to do the big chop. If your natural hair has a lot of shrinkage ( meaning it kinks up when wet), try to minimize it as much as possible by gently stretching out the hair for styling. This will help reduce the force required for the comb to pass through the demarcation line.
8. Detangling: Take Your Time. Ahhh yes, detangling natural hair. This is a skill that is learned over time. It is very easy to comb hair that is relaxed or where the curls have been loosened. Natural hair however, is a whole new ball game. Let us break it down for you.
I suggest that you allocate a lot of time for detangling. If you think it will take an hour, then allocate two. Another key tip is to add some oil (coconut oil and olive oil are very popular ) to your hair or conditioner if the comb does not slip through the strands easily. Of course, tools are very important and you should. Invest in a GOOD detangling comb. Detangling can wreak havoc on your hair, but you can overcome that with the purchase of a good detangling comb. Preferably a seamless comb [as hair tends to snag on the seams of combs]
Most people will start out detangling hair when it is soaked in conditioner, as this is generally accepted as the easiest method. Some will detangle hair when dry, prior to washing (Note: There are varying interpretations of the word dry. Some use a leave in conditioner, a small amount of water and/or oil – the general principle is not to have hair soaking wet when detangling) . Start with the easiest method for you and see what works best. Detangling should be a breeze if you are careful, and have the right amount of conditioner and water in your hair. Another trick is to detangle under a stream of low pressure water in a shower, bath tub or sink
9. Moisturize. This is a big one. One of the most challenging aspects of transitioning is learning how to keep your hair from drying out. Experiment with sulfate-free shampoos and learn which ingredients promote moisture retention and which do not. Avoid mineral oil unless you fully understand the downside of using it. Occasionally, you should use some type of protein conditioner or treatment as this will help fill in your hair cuticles and retain more moisture. On a daily basis, spray the hair with water and seal the moisture in with a good moisturizer.
10. Deep Condition Regularly - Keeping hair conditioned is a regular part of most, if not all, healthy hair care regimens, and it’s especially important for people who use protein treatments. I recommend deep conditioning once weekly WITH heat.
11. Shampoo hair in sections - This is a good piece of advice for naturals and transitioners alike. Relaxed hair is very prone to matting and tangles, so shampooing hair [and conditioning hair] in sections will cut down excess detangling time, as well as unnecessary tangles and shedding.
12. Trim your ends. Naturally, if you are transitioning you will want to cut off the relaxed ends frequently to move closer to your goal of 100% natural hair. Plus, the healthier your ends are, the easier your hair will be to style.
I hope that you find these tips useful and good luck on your natural hair journey.