Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails and questions about tips, advice, product recommendations, and secrets for successfully transitioning to natural hair. Once you’ve made up your mind to go natural, it’s pretty easy to become obsessed. And with a plethora of blogs, websites, YouTube videos, Instagrams, Pintrests, Facebook pages and Google Plusses, the world of natural hair is never more than a few clicks away. Before your eyes glaze over, or you find yourself caught in the whirlwind frenzy of products. pH balancing, porosity, and parabens, take a second and breathe. Transitioning may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

FYI: I’m not there yet! June marks 16 months in the struggle (lol) for me….and I’ve got at least 3 more to go before I’m done. While I haven’t reached the promised land yet, I have definitely had my share of stumbles and successes. Keep reading  to get a general idea of what I went through my first year of transitioning, as well as some do’s and don’ts to help encourage and keep you on track. Every transition isn’t the same, but hopefully there are some tidibits in here to help you along the way!

 

1 – 3 Months: Excited and Gullible

The first three months of my transition, I was doe-eyed…to say the least. I spent a LOT of time oogling over the likes of Hey Fran Hey, Naptural85, and Mahogany Curls — longing for the day my tresses would hover in their territory. I also found myself obsessed with what I later found to be the biggest waste of money for a transitioner — styling products. Even though I knew and accepted that my hair was heat damaged, I held out hope that some miracle potion would deliver rejuvenated curls as promised on the label. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

DO: If you’re just beginning your transition, commit the first three months to developing good haircare habits — they’ll carry you further in the long run. If you don’t already, sleep with a satin (or silk, if you’re fancy!) scarf, bonnet, or pillowcase. Learn how to properly moisturize and seal hair. In the first three months, practices like finger detangling aren’t vital, because most of your hair will still be straight (whether heat damaged or relaxed), and fairly easy to comb through. Months 1 – 3 is also a perfect time to clean house in terms of products. If you’re transitioning from a relaxer and you still have some creamy crack stashed somewhere, throw it out or give it away. Or, if you just so happen to have the receipt, return it. For those transitioning from heat damage, store the irons out of sight, or put them in someone else’s care. If you’re giving up sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, petrolatum, parabens, etc., chuck those products as well.

DON’T: Waste money or time trying to “get your curl back”. It’s not coming back. More than likely, it left the building a LONG time ago and you were too busy flat ironing or relaxing to notice. The first three months is also not the time to buy into hair typing (if ever at all). It’s much too early in the game to decipher how your natural hair will behave, and hopping on the typing bandwagon (among others) will serve you absolutely no purpose. Also, avoid immediately slapping your hair into box braids or Havana twists. With only a small amount of new growth, your hair is highly susceptible to breakage from the stress and weight of added hair at this point. Save those styles for later on down the line.

 

4 – 6 Months: Why Did I Do This, Again?

After the first leg of my transition was down, I found myself excited when I straightened my hair for the first time. It was longer, stronger, and thicker than what I started with. That alone kept me encouraged through month 4, and into 5. Then I hit a wall. My go-to styles were no longer working. My banana clips (God, I loved me some banana clips) wouldn’t stay closed to save my life, and I couldn’t fake the funk with my pseudo wash n’ go anymore. I was frustrated. I had doubts. Everything I was learning seemed for naught. My hair was driving me crazy.

DO: When you hit a wall in your transition, change something up. This is the perfect time to start experimenting with transitioner styles that blend textures, finger detangling, protective styling, and maybe even a new product or two. This is also the right time to start paying extra attention to the line of demarcation between your new and old hair. Gentle handling, regular deep conditioning, and protective styling combined with those moisturizing and sealing techniques you learned early on will help minimize breakage. Lastly, find the best detangling products and method for you. Get a handle on it now, because as any naturalista would tell you, you’re gonna need it in the future. Like next week.

DON’T: Give up and go back to what you were doing out of frustration. It’s ok to use heat seldomly (once every 3 months or so), but don’t start flat ironing on a weekly basis because you hate the way your hair looks right now. It will only lead to more damage.

 

7 – 9 Months: That Awkward Moment…

For me, months 7, 8, and 9 were just plain awkward. Although I was loving my hair and digging my new growth, I found myself in an unflattering in-between stage, reminiscent of wearing a training bra. Too much to not need anything, not enough for the real deal. I found myself wanting out of this stage ASAP. I buckled down on my vitamins, scalp massages, and even subjected myself to some totally unflattering hairstyles in the name of growth progress.

DO: This is the perfect time to adopt washing your hair in sections, to prevent re-tangling during the cleansing process. Continue to be diligent. Your hard work is going to pay off. Keep detangling gently, cleansing regularly, deep conditioning, moisturizing and sealing. If you’re into building a regimen, then create one at this point that works for you. If not, you can always go ahead and with listening to your hair and acting accordingly.To help keep your mind off of the starkly different textures, find a few staple styles that are great for blending — like satin strip braidouts, straw sets, twist and curls, flexi rods, bantu knot-outs, or Curlformer sets. Master these staple styles, and make them your go-to when you get tired of buns, updos, or just looking at partially textured, partially straight hair.

DON’T: Start curl coveting, or beating yourself up over growth progress. Yes, Mahogany Curls, Naptural85, Hey Fran Hey, and Chime Edwards all have GORGEOUS hair. And if you follow many of their journeys (especially Mahogany Curls and Naptural85), you’ll see that they didn’t get those amazing manes overnight. Everyone’s hair grows at a different rate, so don’t get all up in arms if you only get 1/4 inch of growth per month, instead of 1/2 or 1 inch. Besides, your hair might be growing faster than you know — but you just can’t see it because its all curled and coiled up.

 

10 – 12 Months: Closer to My Dreams…

Once I got closer to the year mark, I really hit my stride. I had a firm grasp on what worked for my hair, and what didn’t. I could do my favorite styles in my sleep. At this point, I could really see my texture coming through, and I was more committed than ever to seeing this thing to the end.

DO: Get ingredient savvy. Sure, over the past year you’ve learned all about silicones, sulfates, parabens, mineral oils, petrolatum, and other generally “red flag” ingredients. But have you educated yourself on fatty alcohols, humectants, ingredients that penetrate, and those that repair? Now is a great time to get beyond surface level and really understand the products you’re using, or interested in using. Jc of The Natural Haven, The Beauty Brains, and the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database are great resources. You can also get into the DYI trend, if that tickles your fancy. Making your own flaxseed gel, whipped shea butter, oil blends, and more is a great way to save money and use quality ingredients.

DON’T: As you approach or hit the one year mark, try not to fall prey to product junkie-ism. Because you see your hair texture more, you might be more prone to scooping up everything that says curl defining on the bottle — but don’t. Experimenting with a product or two is always fine, but don’t go burning through a wad of cash at this point…or ever.

 

1 Year + : It’s All Up to You

After you hit the year mark, it’s really whatever you want from your hair. If you’re ready to cut, cut. If you want to keep going, keep going. I’ve personally been transitioning for 16 months, with at least 3 more to go before I consider chopping the rest. Once I got to 15 months, I found myself comfortable rocking wash n’ go styles. I still protectively style, but not as diligently (because I love my hair so much, I want to wear it out like all the time). I’ve become more diligent about the connection between healthy hair and a healthy body. Regular exercise, a cleaner diet, drinking plenty of water, vitamins and supplements are all as important to me as henna treatments, gentle handling, and maintaining moisture. The only major change to my regimen I’ve made is steaming my hair during detangling, pre-pooing and mid-week for moisture…but that’s a story for another time. The bottom line is, after a year all the grueling work is done. Everything pretty much runs like clockwork. Just figure out what you want to do next!

 

It’s important to remember, there is no set timeline on the following things during your transition to natural hair:

  • When to trim your hair. Trim your ends as frequently or infrequently as you wish, according to your level of comfort and the health of your hair.
  • When to switch up products. Switch as often as you feel so inclined…or stick to your tried and true staples for as long as you wish. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
  • When to do deep treatments. The transitioning process is a great opportunity to learn your hair’s needs. If you feel your hair is weak, limp, and lacks strength, do a protein treatment. If it’s dry, brittle and lacks elasticity, do a deep moisturizing treatment. There’s no timeline on these things. Just take stock of what your hair needs, then do it.
  • When to chop. This is perhaps the biggest one. As I become more public with my transitioner progress, I get more and more encouragement and pushes to cut the rest off. With all due respect, when I chop is my decision. The same goes for every other transitioner. Chop when you’re ready…and not a moment sooner.

 

Lastly, here are some things to avoid at every stage of your transition:

  • Texturizers/Silkeners. I don’t care what you read, or what so-and-so said; a texturizer (silkener) is nothing but a perm that you leave on your hair for a shorter amount of time. If you’re looking to truly embrace your natural texture, why fake the funk with a baby perm?
  • Too much heat, too often. It has already been shown that heat damage from too high temperatures, too often damage the hair almost as much as a perm. It is perfectly okay to straighten your hair with heat safely on occasion — but straightening to transition from relaxing is a recipe for danger.
  • Neglecting hair in covered styles. Box braids, Havana twists, wigs, and weaves are all great ideas for avoiding high manipulation. But don’t forget to actually take care of the hair underneath. It still needs to be detangled, cleansed, and moisturized regularly.
  • Ridiculously expensive products. In my humble transitioner opinion, there is no reason to ever spend more than $15 on any given hair product…and that’s cutting it close. More often than not, you’re paying for a name and fancy packaging. Most conditioners and styling products contain similar ingredients, so don’t pay $30 for a 6oz bottle of styling product that you can find a comparable version of elsewhere for $8.
  • Negativity. Don’t let folks that don’t have to wear your hair kill your vibe. You’re embracing your natural texture for whatever reasons YOU decided. Not to please anyone else. If anyone (I don’t care if it’s your mama or your BFF) speaks negatively to you about your transition to natural hair, promptly show them the stadium and let them know they can have several seats.

 

Above all else, remain patient and enjoy your transition!!!

Ladies, can you relate to this timeline? What was your transition like?

For more from Christina check out her blog, The Mane Objective. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

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.

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75 Comments on "What to Expect in Your First Year of Transitioning to Natural Hair"

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Celeste HJ Links
Thank you so much for this post. I thought I was the only one too scared to cut it all of and start from scratch, it is nice to know I have fellow transitioners. I am currently on week 2 of transitioning and my hair is in a weird length to begin with, according to me. I am definitely going to try out the protective styles, because I really want to start out right from the beginning, no matter how frustrating and tiring it may get. I am getting a lot of insulting advice from my colleagues about my new… Read more »
Alisha Scott
First, I must say Thank You to the person/people wo run this site. I just chanced upon it from a different Facebook site. Anywho, I just recent transtitioned to natural hair, and I must admit, have been devastated ever since. I made the transition due to extreme damage from years of relaxers, braids, and having to pull my hair back into tight styles. I say have to because I am an active duty Marine, and the hair regulations are very strict! Not to mention that I was never very good at taking care of my own hair and it has… Read more »
transitioningchica

Thank you for your service to our nation!! I hope your transitioning is going well 🙂

Tam

I love everyone’s positive & supportive comments. I started to go Natural in mid-2011, then felt the need to return to relaxing last May. After constantly killing my hair every few months w/ relaxers, I’ve FINALLY decided to stop. My last perm was 11 weeks ago & I don’t miss it because for me, it’s like swimming upstream: straightening my hair doesn’t allow me to get to know my curly roots. So, I’m going to be patient w/my hair & strive to style it some kind of way that helps me to tolerate the 2 textures.

Delia

Very good post ..I went throughout all the stages and so many different products ..I am finally down to 2 that works for me!!! ..started transitioning 2 years ago …did the BC 6 months ago and I am loving it …oh wow my hair has grown a lot. EMBRACED !!!!

KiKi

Ok This post made me happy.. I am going natural…….. Again
I have crazy breakage and I miss my natural hair. Love the site

'Quel

OMG. When I read that last part, “promptly show them the stadium and let them know they can have several seats,” I ’bout died!! LOL. But, seriously, I experienced some negativity early on from my elders, but they got over it once they realized I was really dedicated to my hair and my transition. Just gotta stay with it and stay positive 🙂

Lana

OMG YESSSSS!!! SAME HERE!!! ??? I was roooolling when I read that lol!! Too funnyyy

Belinda

YIKES!! My typos!! “I wish I had seen THIS INFO while I was transitioning”…”the message that is most important IS to love what you have…” Mea culpa. Blessings.

Belinda
Great article. I wish I had seen while I was transitioning! It mirrored my feelings almost exactly as I went through a 21-month transition. A couple of the lady vloggers that you mentioned are faves of mine, and very informative and inspirational. Just an observation: in viewing the natural hair journeys, several of these ladies had long hair even before they began their journeys. Genetics do count for something; I think that, ultimately, the message that is most important to love what you have and care for it at each stage, because all of us won’t grow waist length hair… Read more »
Tiff
Much to my surprise, my 24mth transition wasn’t that hard. I only relaxed 2-3 times a year so I was used to handling a lot of new growth. The only issue I had was around months 9-10 when detangling became a nightmare. I discovered Vatika oil as a prepoo and that stuff saved my transition! I was able to detangle with ease after that. My staple style was the braid and curl so I had a cute style to rely on too.I learned so much about my hair during my transition. I am 6mths natural now and that knowledge has… Read more »
Zainy

I decided to go natural about 2 months ago and im already weary. I have about an inch of growth then the rest is straight (i used to relax my hair).. What should i be doing with my hair to a)speed up the growth process and b)look more decent??
Also, i’ve been dying my hair black, is that a no-no?

Phoxxie
There is really not much you can do to speed up the process. Everyone has their own growth rate. All there is…is time and delicate haircare practices to really see growth. To enhance the hair you have growing in, you can 1. Live a healthy lifestyle (fruits and veggies, exercise) 2. Take a multivitamin, Biotin, MSM or all of the above 3. Drink lots of water everyday (this will actually give you moisture in your hair AS its growing in as well) “decent” hairstyles would be twist outs, bantu knots, braid outs or just leave twists or conrows in. I… Read more »
ChakaKhanian

When I first went natural, I transitioned for one year and four months. One thing that I didn’t expect after that long transition was my hair ‘tricking’ me of my natural hair’s new length.

Bobby

I transitioned for 20 months..fully natural May 2013…and it was well worth it!! The more natural my hair got the easier things got, the key is having a go-to hair style and ditch the heat!! I havent used any form of heat since 3 months post now Im 21 months post and loving my hair, I wish I did this yrs ago.

treece12

Unemployment caused me to put off relaxing for a year. Then relaxed for and interview and then missed my kinks (got the job!. So now, I am once again 4 months post and hit a wall this morning. My hair is so big…ugh. I wish I could just wear cornrows all year. Maybe if I find a decent wig, I’ll just wear it. Except, I hate wigs

Phoxxie

Sorry but I hate everything about your comment. Yes, its just my opinion.

Kate

I definitely got into my stride at about 9 months. A few weeks til I hit a year!

adashofk.blogspot.com

Tabatha
I didn’t do the BC I did the gradual grow out and cut off the relaxed ends. I have a big head and I just felt that I couldn’t rock that look. My first few months were a nightmare! I had to use my blow dryer trying to get through it wet was a NO GO! Same with finger detangling. I was raised to sleep with scarves, bonnets, and silk pillow cases, so that wasn’t hard, but then I had to change up my products and I had to find moisturizers that would keep my hair moist, so it would… Read more »
Terri F.

Thank you for this. Although I’ve never had a perm or relaxer, I have been getting a press and curl since I was 9 years old. I’ll be 40 in September. Can you say HEAT DAMAGE????!!! I am at a loss. I have an afro in the back and straight stringy pieces in the front. It’s a hot mess. However, this article has given me some hope that it won’t be a hot mess always…:-)

Laketa Brown

Hi! I need help. I have been natural for the last 6 months. I use Cantu products. I two twists and pin curl every night. I use a satin bonnet….but it is thinning out!?!? I don’t know why. Do u have any suggestions. I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks

ChakaKhanian

Hi!!! When you pin curl are you using closed bobby pins? If you do this every night, this can definitely increase hair thinning.

Laketa Brown

Hey! Yes that’s it I have been using the closed Bobby pins the whole time. Thanks, I have been trying to figure this out!

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