By Christina of The Mane Objective
Just a few weeks ago, I could’ve sworn it was all good with my transition. My bunning was working, weekend braidouts were dope, detangling and co-washing had become remarkably swift, and I had sealing down to a science. Then I woke up one Monday morning, and it seemed as if overnight, everything had changed. My hair became a tangled, dry mess. Where my buns were once awesome, I now had a strange case of alien-head hair. My banana clips snapped in two, and my claw clips exploded as soon as I tried to use them. I almost said screw the transition, and chopped off my heat damaged hair. Luckily, my sister talked me off of a ledge by reminding me that my head was too big to have short hair. Plus, BF would have been incredibly upset if I went from mid-back to chin length overnight.
I say all of the anecdotal information to say…long-term transitioning is not a one-dimensional or a stagnant process. On the contrary it is fluid — requiring change, flexibility, adjustments and assessment. Not to say that your hair’s needs will change from day to day or from week to week, but maybe about every two or three months you’ll need to take a time-out and see what’s really good with your new growth. It just dawned on me that I was almost eight months in to the no-heat challenge, and seasons were changing as well. Time to reinvent my regimen, give my products an update, and go back to the drawing board on tools.
1. Tweaking and Adjusting your Regimen
When I first began transitioning, it was nothin’ for me to slap a banana clip in my hair and rock a big bun all week. After all, the majority of my hair was still considerably thinner. I also damp detangled with a wide-tooth comb, and it never crossed my mind to section wash my hair. Fast forward eight months, and my hair eats banana clip for breakfast, I can’t accomplish any detangling without my trusty fingers and my hair saturated in water and conditioner, and section washing is mandatory. I say all this to say; sometimes you gotta switch it up.
As your new hair performs a takeover on your head, it demands adjustments in the regimen department. If your new hair requires more moisturizing and sealing, perhaps you need to make your washes more frequent as to avoid buildup. Maybe detangling sessions should be a once a week instead of every two weeks. If your old styles are doing more harm than good, you have to go back to the drawing board. Evaluate every aspect of your regimen – how frequently you cleanse, detangle, manipulate, condition, trim, and everything in-between. Chances are, some things you were doing four months ago no longer cut it when it comes to your hair – or even worse, have an adverse effect.
2. Using Products that Add and Retain Moisture
During the first few months your transition, you are most likely working with majority relaxed, heat damaged, or otherwise majorly straightened hair with a curl pattern that pales in comparison to the natural stuff that is beginning to sprout from your scalp. If you were like me, you went easy on the heavy oils and butters, and opted for lighter or diluted products to moisturize and seal your hair, so that your straightened hair doesn’t get stringy. Somewhere between the 4 and 6 month mark, you probably noticed that your new hair isn’t retaining as much moisture as it used to. You’re not crazy – you just need to kick your products up a notch. More highly textured hair – regardless of “type” (which I happen to not be a fan of) – requires heavier and more consistent moisture.
3. Using Gentler Shampoos
If you’re still using shampoos frequently (weekly, or more often…especially sulfated), it may be time to wean yourself off the abrasive formulas and switch to something that will coddle your new tresses. Co-washes are always great for gentle cleansing, but if you are an avid workout person or suffer from product build-up and need to clarify your hair and scalp often, apple cider vinegar, Aztec Healing Clay, and Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque are great alternatives for cleansing.
4. Start a Conditioning Regimen
If you don’t already, it’s high time to start conditioning. I don’t mean deep condition as in walk around with a Target bag on your head for 12 hours under a beanie while you run errands. But if you choose to do this, more power to you. Unless you have uber dry hair that requires constant deep conditioning, once or twice a month for a thirty minute to an hour deep conditioning session is sufficient. Personally, after a weekly co-wash, I follow up with a regular conditioner (either Tresemme, TIGI Catwalk, or Shea Moisture) for about 10 minutes while I shower. To retain extra moisture, I began only rinsing 60-70% of the conditioner out of my hair and using the remaining product as a leave-in. This is optional, especially for those concerned about buildup.
5. Using heavier products, like Butter and Creams
As I said earlier, you most likely started out with lighter products in this arena. If you’re like me, you try to get the most bang for your buck and find products that accomplish both. Earlier in the transition game, I blended Aloe Vera Gel and Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie to make a light moisturizing and holding product – perfect for twist and braid-outs. As more of this thick and thirsty hair began sprouting, I began relying on heavier products to help me out. For moisture, layering a penetrating oil like Coconut Oil and topping off with straight up Curl Enhancing Smoothie (no Aloe) has been great for retaining moisture and made for some ah-may-ZING braid-outs and flat twists. Depending upon what your hair likes, incorporating shea butter, jojoba, or castor oil (among a gazillion other great oils) can help your hair retain moisture better than the lighter products like aloes and spritzes.
6. Using Gentler Tools
As you transition, your tools may need an upgrade too. Once I discovered my wide tooth comb was a joke, I upgraded (or is it downgraded?) to finger detangling. When my banana clips would randomly just pop open and fall apart in the most disrespectful manner possible, I had to move on to other methods of protective styling. At some juncture, slicking back my edges with my hands stopped working, and I had to adopt a soft-bristle brush. You may discover that you need different tools, or that you don’t need tools at all. Remember, the things you use to handle your hair are just as important as what you put in/on it.
What other areas have you had to change up during your transition?