My Sep­tem­ber-Decem­ber Side By Side

via Insta­gram @maneobjective

I’ve been grap­pling with that very ques­tion for the past two weeks, name­ly as I grow more accus­tomed to the new stuff com­ing in…and more annoyed by the heat dam­age.

Should I just cut it all off? I mean, it’s going to get cut even­tu­al­ly, any­way…

I love my long hair. I don’t want to chop it all off (again).

Ugh, this heat dam­aged hair is dread­ful.

Those are just a few of my inter­nal strug­gles as it relates to my tran­si­tion­ing hair. The longer I tran­si­tion, the more I begin to won­der about my own hair goals. Is it length? Thick­ness? Just to have healthy hair? After a cou­ple of weeks of dig­ging and soul search­ing, I have devel­oped an answer to the ques­tion pre­vi­ous­ly posed.…

Yes, and No.

Here’s Why Length Reten­tion Does Mat­ter…

1. You Didn’t Big Chop For A Rea­son

Midway Jan 2013

Mid­way point: Jan­u­ary 2013

May­be you didn’t have the cojones. Or per­haps, your head is too big (one of my excus­es). You might even just be accus­tomed to longer hair (hel­lo!). What­ev­er your ratio­nale, the point is that you didn’t big chop. For the ladies that BC’ed, I com­mend you. I don’t think I’d every be ready for that under­tak­ing. For those engag­ing in a long-term tran­si­tion, you obvi­ous­ly have some affin­i­ty for your hair length — and there is noth­ing wrong with that. Side­bar Soap­box Rant: I’ve seen com­ments on blogs attack­ing ladies that choose to tran­si­tion — cit­ing that they’d rather main­tain two raggedy tex­tures than to be bold enough to chop it all off in favor of one. I would just like to say, how­ev­er you go about your nat­u­ral jour­ney is a per­son­al deci­sion. Why hate on some­one else’s meth­ods? Their heat dam­age doesn’t cause you break­age, right? Okay, off my soap­box. What was I talk­ing about? Oh yeah, why you didn’t big chop.

The bot­tom line here is, you care about the length of your hair to some degree, and you made that deci­sion. I am not ashamed to say that I have enjoyed longer hair for most of my life, and this tran­si­tion phase for me is no dif­fer­ent. I like my long hair. My boyfriend likes my long hair. I have a big head. There­fore, I am tran­si­tion­ing. What­ev­er your rea­son is, is yours and yours alone. Not doing a big chop doesn’t make you any less legit­i­mate in the nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ty, and it doesn’t make the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn to care for your hair any less valid.

2. Length Is An Indi­ca­tor Of Health.
Wait, wait, WAIT! Hear me out, now. I am by no means say­ing that long hair is healthy hair, and that short hair is unhealthy. I’ve seen the com­plete oppo­site be true too many times for that to be the case. But in the jour­ney of the tran­si­tion­er, hair length can per­ceived as a vital sign of sorts. If you have been tran­si­tion­ing for 6 months, and you have more break­age than you’ve ever seen in your life, that is a strong indi­ca­tor that some­thing is going wrong. Per­haps your prod­ucts aren’t work­ing, you lack pro­tein or mois­ture, you’re styling too tight, or the tools you have are rip­ping your tress­es apart. What­ev­er the case may be, if you remain unable to retain some length (or at least break even), you may need to re-eval­u­ate your tran­si­tion­ing prac­tices. 

And Here’s Why It Doesn’t…

1. You’re Going To Chop It Off (Grad­u­al­ly) Any­way…
This was the pill that I had to swal­low in order to move for­ward. Reg­u­lar trims or mini chops are a part of the tran­si­tion. The point of a tran­si­tion isn’t to forever main­tain dam­aged and nat­u­ral hair — it is to grad­u­al­ly get rid of the over­worked, over­processed stuff. Now, how much you cut and how fre­quent­ly you do it is all a per­son­al mat­ter. Some tran­si­tion­ers do 3–6 mon­th trims, oth­ers do a series of mini chops. Per­son­al­ly, I just cut when­ev­er my hair looks extra raggedy or janky on the ends (which is bound to hap­pen because well, it’s heat dam­aged and prone to splits and dry­ness). That typ­i­cal­ly hap­pens once every 2–3 months, and I take off about an inch or so of hair. Inbe­tween those times, I may do a super light dust­ing, or search and destroy. Some­times, I hate to see the inch­es go, but then I look at how uneven and dry they are, and how much bet­ter my hair looks afterward.…and that helps me under­stand that I made the right deci­sion.

What say you, ladies? How impor­tant is length to you in your tran­si­tion?

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 Or, if you like pic­tures fol­low Christi­na on Insta­gram @maneobjective.

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23 Comments on "Should Transitioners Be Concerned with Length Retention?"

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[…] #5: It’s all about length reten­tion. A while back, I wrote a piece debat­ing whether tran­si­tion­ers should be con­cerned with length reten­tion. In that arti­cle, I […]


[…] #5: It’s all about length reten­tion. A while back, I wrote a piece debat­ing whether tran­si­tion­ers should be con­cerned with length reten­tion. In that arti­cle, I […]


I am 8months in with tran­si­tion­ing and I am so scared to cut my hair off. I already have about 3″ of new growth. So I am long term tran­si­tion­ing, and grad­u­al­ly cut­ting my ends when
They need trim­ming.

Amber Nefertari

What­ev­er works for you.
Peo­ple need to just let oth­er folks rock.

Kis Kadee
I just passed the one year tran­si­tion­ing mark. Now I have six inch­es of new growth and six inch­es of relaxed hair. This year I’ve decid­ed to try real­ly reaaaal­ly hard to keep as much of the remain­ing relaxed ends as pos­si­ble, while grow­ing out the hair. Besides the pref­er­ence for long hair, I think that the relaxed ends are pro­tect­ing the nat­u­ral ends from sin­gle strand knots, as well as stretch­ing the new curls grow­ing in. Noth­ing is wrong with want­i­ng to grow out both your nat­u­ral hair AND your length dur­ing a tran­si­tion. And no, I do not… Read more »
My hair used to reach my waist (I could actu­al­ly sit on parts of it) but over the years I let weave wear­ing styl­ists con­vince me to cut my hair to make it more man­age­able. It took me a while to real­ize it wasn’t to make it more man­age­able to me, but to THEM! I only relaxed my hair 3–4 times per year. So when I decid­ed to stop relax­ing my hair, there was absolute­ly no prob­lem deal­ing with new growth. Even when I went months between relax­ers it was hard to tell where the nat­u­ral and relaxed hair met.… Read more »

sorry.……whatever works for you


you should do what­ev­er is works for you.


It didn’t real­ly bug me but my moth­er cried. This is the same wom­an who goes to the bar­ber once a mon­th to keep her hair as close to her scalp as pos­si­ble.

J. Nicole

I too was a long term tran­si­tion­er. I thought I was the only one con­cerned about the size of my head! Glad to know I’m not the only one who wrecks turtle necks when putting them on.

It is a bit annoy­ing when peo­ple tell you to “just chop it off”, I find its just anoth­er exam­ple of unwar­rent­ed advice. I cut the rest of when I was ready, because the last I checked it belonged to me. All of the­se deci­sions are per­son­al & you should be com­fort­able with the out­come-no one else.


tran­si­tion as long as you want, it’s your hair.
how­ev­er, what annoys me about long term tran­si­tion­ers is com­plain­ing about what your hair won’t do. how you wish you could wear cer­tain styles. how your straight ends get on your nerves. how your heat dam­age is so unat­trac­tive. if you don’t want peo­ple to tell you to chop the isht off, stop com­plain­ing about it.

Lol I agree. Of course there is noth­ing wrong with a longer tran­si­tion. Noth­ing wrong with want­i­ng to keep your length either. Just don’t make it a secu­ri­ty blan­ket. I’m sure many of you look just as beau­ti­ful with short hair as you do with long hair. Hair doesn’t make you beau­ti­ful. Just con­cen­trate on tak­ing good care of your hair. If length mat­ters to you try to look for exam­ples of oth­er wom­en who stuck it out for the long haul. See what they do then tweak it to fit your hair and life style.  I use to be one… Read more »

I didn’t do the big chop because I have a BIG head too. I’m trim­ming as I go. I don’t care what any­body says about that, its my head.

I like this arti­cle and yes I’m biased because I was a long term tran­si­tion­er (24 months). The big chop was not for me because 1) I also have a big head 2) I’ve always had long hair and 3) I don’t know how to act if I can’t put my hair in a pony­tail. lol But seri­ous­ly; it was my hair and my jour­ney so I could not care less about how anoth­er per­son thought I should tran­si­tion. As long as my hair was healthy which has been the ulti­mate goal; I was con­tent. Now the thing is nat­u­ral… Read more »

I did a BIG chop! I went nat­u­ral because the relax­er was dam­ag­ing my scalp and hair. I was waist length when relaxed and I orig­i­nal­ly planned to tran­si­tion for 2 years, but deal­ing with the two tex­tures was killing me…I didn’t even make it to 5 months before I cut to 2″. It was the best feel­ing ever, even though my hair was super short I felt so free!

Girl I big chopped too, talk about lib­er­at­ing and one of the best expe­ri­ences of my life :) I have a huge head and I’ve always had long hair but I wasn’t about that tran­si­tion­ing life plus my relaxed hair began to look weird so I BC’d to half and inch of hair. My mom on the oth­er hand tran­si­tioned… She was ter­ri­fied of doing the BC even though she’s worn short relaxed styles on and off forever. She was in the mil­i­tary and didn’t have time to take care of her hair and as a result it broke all… Read more »

Yes yes n yes again lol! I strug­gle with this every time I chop my hair,thinking I’m final­ly @ this length do I real­ly need to cut it off?!.but I Remind myself y I’m tran­si­tion­ing n it helps me trudge for­ward!! This hair jour­ney is no joke lol

I’m 22 months deep in my transition,and length was the pri­ma­ry rea­son I decid­ed to fore­go the big chop. No big chop for this big head! I decid­ed to just trim my relaxed ends as often as I would trim my hair if it were 100% nat­u­ral. It’s going to come off any­way, but if it’s not split­ting or knot­ting up, I could live with the two tex­tures. Plus I like the idea of pro­long­ing the even­tu­al trims on my nat­u­ral­ly kinky hair. I get to start off with (hope­ful­ly) 12″ of nat­u­ral fresh ends when I do chop off… Read more »

I went with­out a relax­er for a year because I wasn’t ready to chop it off ear­ly into the tran­si­tion. I was more wor­ried about the length of my hair once I BC’ed since I was gonna cut it off even­tu­al­ly. I didn’t care about the length of my hair dur­ing my tran­si­tion since I wore it in pro­tec­tive styles most of the time any­way. I just want­ed to give my my hair time to let the relax­er grow out. That was my main objec­tive.


Length reten­tion for me was very impor­tant dur­ing my 2 yr transition!As you stated,it was an indi­ca­tor that my hair wasn’t break­ing off.I also thought of my relaxed hair pro­tect­ing my nat­u­ral hair from damage.I didn’t have to wor­ry about knots and split ends on my nat­u­ral hair so it could grow freely.To each their own!

Hi There, Per­son­al­ly, I don’t think it mat­ters too much about length when you’re tran­si­tion­ing. For the most part you will be wear­ing pro­tec­tive styles to pre­serve the health of your hair. Over­all, I think hav­ing healthy hair is far more impor­tant than long hair. I recent­ly B.C’d and I’m not going to lie, i was scared and had that inter­nal strug­gle for weeks! For me it came down to not want­i­ng to look after two tex­tures and want­i­ng to see i I could rock a twa. It was a shock I can tell you! I had grown my relaxed hair… Read more »
I agree!!! I’m so glad to hear some­one else say this. I’ve been in tran­si­tion for over a year now and I get so tired of hear­ing peo­ple (includ­ing styl­ists) tell me to just cut my hair. My per­med hair was not dam­aged when I decid­ed to for­go relax­ers, I nixed the creamy crack bc I real­ized it wasn’t nec­es­sary even if I want­ed to wear my hair straight. Why use chem­i­cals when you don’t have to, right? I chose a long tran­si­tion bc I’ve had long hair my entire life (minus the short bob I briefly had at age 14).… Read more »

your hair grew SOOOO long dur­ing that 4 mon­th peri­od im so jeal­ous