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

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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 :)

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 would­nt… 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 break… 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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