How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Challenges of Transitioning

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Ahhhhhhh, love. Fresh off of Valentine’s Day (or Single’s Awareness Day), remnants of love are everywhere: in the form of slowly withering flowers, teddy bears, half-eaten candy, and cancelled dinner plans. Valentine’s Day, although a commercial holiday with (what some believe to be) the sole aim of making money, is still a great time to learn about love. Not just relationship love, friendship love, or family love, but self-love. And what better place to start with love than our hair?

I’ve said it several times before, the transitioner’s journey is a special one. As comforting as it can be to retain or maintain length while the natural hair comes in, it can be a frustrating process that leaves you staring at your scissors, flat-iron, or perm kit more often than not. I’m here to encourage you to hang in there! Here are five challenges transitioners often face, and how to overcome them (and love your hair even more):

Challenge #1 Balancing Multiple Textures

Of all the challenges, this is the most difficult that transitioners face on a regular basis. When it comes to detangling and cleansing, it seems as though naturalistas with more uniformed textures have an easier time — especially with tools like Denman brushes, Tangle Tamers, and more. Even finger detangling can be a challenge for transitioning tresses. Rather than lament on how so-and-so on YouTube makes their detangling process look like a breeze, take stock of your own situation. First of all, get excited about the progress you’ve made. Even if you’ve only been transitioning for two weeks, you can still see a noticeable change at the roots of your hair. If you’re farther along, check out the cute natural pattern you have coming in. Instead of engaging in deficit thinking (i.e. what you don’t have), get excited about what’s there. So what if you can’t rock a wash n’ go yet? There are plenty of 100% naturalistas that can’t. Instead of obsessing about half curly/half straight hair, find styles and techniques that allow you to take advantage of your transitioning tresses. In fact, when I rock a satin strip braidout or straw set, no one can even tell that I’m transitioning — and that makes me feel good at times when I’m frustrated with the multiple texture thing. Find your stride, and keep it moving.

Challenge #2 If Only My Curls Looked Like….

Stop. Right now. We transitioners loooooooove to spend our time scrutinizing our half-curly/half-straight tresses, while simultaneously oogling the bountifully thick coifs of our favorite bloggers and vloggers. Yes, their manes are gorgeous. Their tresses are fierce. Their color, coils, and kinks are to die for. I understand, believe me, I do. However, worshiping another woman’s hair while looking at yours in disgust is a recipe for transition failure. See, we transitioners are in prime position to learn a great lesson about hair. Because transitioning is such a long and drawn out process, we have no choice but to accept our hair as-is. And while we’re tolerating it, we might as well learn to love it…right? As transitioners, we have a wonderful opportunity to embrace our hair — on good days, and bad. The texture you have is the texture you’re stuck with… you may as well go ahead and love it. Like the old song says: If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with. 

Challenge #3 Dealing with Damage 

As transitioners, we should understand from the outset that a certain amount of our hair is damaged, and predisposed to more damage despite how much we scale back heat use, and how much we protectively style. Transitioning hair is more sensitive. It is more prone to split ends, dryness, and that line of demarcation between new growth and damaged hair is a beast. Transitioner hair tends to be trimmed more frequently. Due to all these factors and more, transitioners shouldn’t expect to retain absurd amounts of length. Once you have accepted this, you can move on to loving your transitioning tresses. Instead of lamenting over how fragile your hair is, discover a sense of accomplishment and excitement in finding the best detangling and styling techniques and products that help you minimize hair loss. My post-detangling hairballs are my personal bench mark — I am obsessed with making the amount of hair in my hands smaller and smaller. Also, rather than get discouraged every time you do a trim, think of it as making room for newer, healthier hair.

Challenge #4: Backsliding 

Over the past year or so, I have noticed a pattern with my hair. It starts trippinnnnnnnn OUT at about the midway point between flat-ironing sessions (usually 1.5-2 months). No style seems right, hair products and tools won’t cooperate like they normally do, and detangling seems to be a nightmare. At these particular times in our journey, we transitioners are especially vulnerable. Rather than hunker down and see it through, that flat iron starts to look more appealing. The creamy crack itch begs to be scratched. During these times, it is especially important to remind yourself of why you began to transition in the first place. Maybe it was for a personal challenge. Or perhaps you damaged your hair to the point of no return. Whatever the case may be, continuously reiterate to yourself why you chose to embark on this natural hair journey. I am a visual and tactile/kinesthetic learner, meaning I process information best by seeing, touching/feeling, and doing. So for me, whenever I start feeling frustrated and tempted to prematurely straighten, I go in the annals of my phone and pull up a picture of my hair from January 2012. It was thin, damaged, breaking, and super unhealthy. Then, I touch or play with some of the curls/coils that have grown in this year’s time. Usually, that is enough to satiate my desire to straighten, and get me excited about what the future holds for my hair.

Challenge #5 Just Cut it Already!

Pressure. So much pressure. On so many of the blogs and on Instagram, I see Natural Hair Deputies prodding and pressuring (some, quite nastily) transitioners to cut their hair. I understand, everybody just wants everyone to embrace their God-given texture and rock it boldly. Trust me, I do too…eventually. Somewhere between the urging of others and our own frustrations, reaching for the scissors can be all too tempting. But what we all must keep in mind that the natural hair journey is a marathon for some, and a sprint for others. Everyone must go at a pace that is comfortable for their own progress and success. So don’t you pick up those scissors unless you’re at a length you’re comfortable with, and you’re ready to make the chop. Otherwise, you are walking someone else’s journey and not your own. Stay true to you.

What other transitioner challenges have you learned to love your hair through?

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Christina Patrice

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

 

14 thoughts on “How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Challenges of Transitioning

  1. As a newly natural woman, after thirty-one months of transitioning, I’ve dealt with all of these transitioning aspects. But, the important thing is to have patience. Once you are patient, transitioning gets better.

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  2. PREACH! I am going through all of that right now! Well except the just chop it part. If I did then it would be a long pixie cut and I think I have to round of a face for that. I’m doing this a step at a time, so I know I have a long journey ahead of me.

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  3. O.M.G!!! I am going through every challenge in this artical. I’m 11 months into my transition and oh boy..it is harder and requires more work then I ever imagined. Not to mention all of the extra time you have to put in compared to having relaxed hair. I was actually going to relax my hair when I had reached my 1 year mark..but reading this articale encourages me to continue. Looked at my old pictures and suprisingly my hair looks as thick as I wanted to when starting my overall hair journey. Loved this!!

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  4. LOL at “that line of demarcation is a beast” I find if you apply a thick conditioner direction onto the roots like how you apply a relaxer and smoothing it through to the rest of your hair prior to washing your hair really detangles tight roots and keeps that beast at bay.

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  5. I Think For Me Being A Newly Transitioner Its Just Trying To Get To Know My Hair & Finding A Regime That Works . Im So Crazed To Try Out Products That I See On Youtube It Kind Of Throws Me Off.

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  6. What I am finding to be a challenge is the guilt I feel when thinking of protective styling through a weave install. I feel like I’m NOT acknowledging the natural code or something.

    I’ve been relaxer free for over a decade now but the time it takes to prepare hair. OMG!!! I’ve always loved cleansing my hair. The issue I’m having is the styling. I’m using rollers and I think I’m going to try the curlformers. The knots I’m experiencing are too much for me.

    At this point, I think I’m gonna just braid/weave for a minute to spare my hair from myself… I’m too far gone for the BC…

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    • Hey. Girl don’t feel bad about using weave. The point of being natural is that you don’t have chemically processed hair where your hair texture is being altered. It is not anyone business of how you chose to rock your natural. Wearing a sew-in is a protective style as long as you take care of your hair and scalp while wearing the sew in!! Do you!!

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    • Easy fix for that (along with the other comment)Just get a natural style weave you can still rock a naturally curly look and still stay true to the movement. more power to you.

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    • Sure you can! I’m almost 6 months in and I’ve done bantu knots a couple of times and I am not that great at hair. So you can too!

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  7. Thanks for this article! I’m learning to not be so anxious and enjoy this journey to my natural curls. My plan was to go at least a year before cutting off the relaxed ends and almost pulled about the scissors the other day! I’m off the ledge now! Thanks!

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  8. It was actually pretty funny reading these challenges because I’ve been transitioning for 2 months and this past week my hair has been driving me completely crazy! It just doesn’t want to do anything. I finally figuring it out.

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  9. I have a major problem transition right now; I have seborrheic dermatitis and my hair breaks right from the root because of this, so in certain places I am bold. I have no idea what to do with it and I am stuck wearing wigs. My natural is growing well (at least the parts that have hair) but it looks terrible. Does anybody have any clue as to what I should do?

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  10. It is SOOOOO nice to realize that I am not the only girl going through this. I really felt all alone because I am not near any peple who can help teach me about my hair in it’s natural state.

    I deal with the temptation to backslide too, but it helps the temptation that I could never do a relaxer on my own lls. I don’t want to cut it all off (and trust me I have gotten that more than once), because I just wish It would grow. Then There’s the issue of having like 4b in the middle and 3b all around it, so if it weren’t for that middle this would be easier and my hair would be much prettier. I’m slowly coming to terms with my natural hair though.

    Trying Bantu Knots for the first time tonight *fingers crossed*. I don’t want to leave my room lest my roommates laugh, but I have high hopes.

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