Me and my transitioning hair, circa 2013…lol (stretched wash n’ go)I haven’t done a great job of showing it lately, but I get a lot of reader e-mails with questions about transitioning to natural hair. Some ask for product recommendations, others want to know how to get their curl back, so forth, etc. I love being able to offer advice and suggestions tailored to individual heads of hair, but there are some truths that hold universal. If you’re transitioning or considering a transition to natural hair, check out this compilation of 5 myths about transitioning (inspired by said e-mails), and the truth about each one:
Myth #1: You can only transition from a relaxer.
Totally and completely untrue. The whole idea behind transitioning is a move from unhealthy and damaged hair to vibrant, natural hair. Of course, many women transition from relaxers. I hadn’t had a relaxer in my hair since my first (and last) kiddie perm around 6 years old. So what am I transitioning from, then? Heat damage. There’s plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence supporting the fact that repetitive exposure to heat (and it doesn’t even have to be super duper high) causes heat damage; which loosens or completely straightens natural hair to the point where it looks relaxed. Permanent color can alter texture as well, or your hair could just be suffering from mechanical (high manipulation) damage. Any way you have it, there’s something to transition from and transition to.
Myth #2: You will get your curl “back”.
I can’t stress this enough. A continuing theme in a lot of the e-mails I receive is an expressed desire for a curl or texture to return. Unfortunately, if your hair is damaged, that is not the case. There is no treatment you can do, no product you can buy that will make your curl return to you. Damage is damage is damage. Now, there is a caveat to this. Let’s say all along your hair has been healthy and textured, and you decide to flat iron it one time on a temperature that’s a wee bit too high. As a result, your coils don’t spring back to normal; they’re a little drab and stretched-looking. To help rehab your hair, you can pick up a product like ApHogee 2-Step Protein Treatment, or Aubrey Organics Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner. Even with these protein and moisture restoring products, there is no guarantee that your hair will be as it was before. But if you’re a chronic straightener (like I was), or had a relaxer, neither of these treatments will do anything for you. Instead of wasting time and money on products that won’t do anything but disappoint you, focus on what is working well for the new curls coming in that are replacing the long gone ones.
Myth #3: You don’t have to comb your hair.
Any transitioner or natural will tell you that this is an outright lie. Sure, there are many who transition using low-manipulation or protective styles that don’t have to be touched for days or weeks at a time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t comb our hair. It has to eventually be detangled, to release shed hairs that get caught up in the mix. I personally detangle my hair once or twice a week. Most mornings I pull my hair into a bun or some sort of updo, but I don’t need to rake a comb through it every day. Truth is, most transitioners don’t comb their hair every day. The only exception to this was within the first 2 – 3 months of transitioning, where my hair was mostly heat damaged and combing/twisting/braiding every day and night didn’t cause many problems. But the further I got into my transition, the less I tried to manipulate my hair during the week because that line of demarcation is a doozy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t comb my hair at all. Perhaps the way to make this myth into a transitioning truth is to state that “I comb my hair less”.
Myth #4: “Curl enhancing” products are for you.
As tempting as it sounds, put that jar/bottle/tube down. I know you hear bloggers and vloggers (myself included) raving about xyz products making their curls pop, have super definition, and everything else. But dial it back to point #2 for a second. These products will only work on hair that already has a curl/kink/coil pattern. It won’t re-activate a curl that’s gone, or put one back where once once was. Let’s take my hair for example. I recently cozied up to Miss Jessie’s Super Sweetback Treatment (because it was on sale for $14.99 at a local Beauty Supply Store), and tried it as a leave-in for a wash n’ go. It worked quite well, defining my curls to the max. But it didn’t do diddly squat for my heat damaged ends. They remained straight. Same story for every curl enhancing, curl defining, curl sculpting, and curl making product out there. No matter what the ingredients are, their properties will only bring textured hair to life. Not relaxed or heat damaged ends. So instead of focusing on curl definition during the early part (first 6 – 9 months) of a transition, become more acquainted with retaining moisture and hair strength.
Myth #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 concluded that the answer was both yes and no. Yes, because length is an indicator of health (not saying short hair is unhealthy, or long hair always is). No, because the very nature of the transition is to gradually cut off damaged ends over time. For almost the first year of my transition, I was much more concerned with length retention because my goal was to hold on to the long hair I was accustomed to. I would trim minimally, protectively style diligently, and put extra emphasis on my scalp and ends. As I approach almost 1.5 years (the official mark is September), I realize that for me, now growth is far more important than length retention. Not to say that I ignore my ends and don’t protectively style, but I acknowledge that much more of my energy and attention should be devoted to the natural texture I am growing out; making sure it is healthy, strong, moisturized, and in tip-top shape. I even find myself trimming off some ends about every few weeks. Once I fully transition, this paradigm will shift again and I will likely become obsessed with length retention, because I will not have a reason to trim so often. So in conclusion, there is nothing wrong with a concern for length retention. But that isn’t ALL she wrote.
What are some of the other myths surrounding transitioning hair that you’ve shattered, or learned otherwise?