3. Is there a regimen I can follow?
Right now, we’re going to tackle question number 3. For answers to 1 and 2, click the questions to find those answers!
Although I never developed a rock-solid regimen during my transition, I did have some general ideas around how frequently to do certain things based upon maintaining the health of my new natural hair, and salvaging what was left of my stringy heat damage. Here’s an overall guide to regimen building, stemming from how I handled things during my 21 month transition to natural hair:
Note: These are merely suggestions based upon my transitioning experience. These suggestions are meant to help new transitioners develop a system for managing new growth alongside older relaxed or heat damaged hair. This is by no means gospel, or a strict set of guidelines. Feel free to add, remove, move around, or completely ignore some of the suggestions — every head of hair is different, and will respond differently!
Pre-Poo Treatments, Detangling, and Cleansing
As a transitioner, I found that pre-pooing, detangling, and washing my hair on a weekly basis was optimal in terms of managing breakage, tangling, and giving my hair and scalp a clean slate. Although over-manipulation is the enemy of transitioning hair, going too long between washes is an even more egregious offense. Transitioning hair is more prone to tangling and knotting, because the ends of the hair that are relaxed or heat damaged tend to have rough or raised cuticles and get caught in one another. To help protect strands, a pre-poo treatment is highly recommended before washing. A hydrating treatment with virgin unrefined coconut oil, Infusium 23 Renew and Repair Leave-In Treatment, or a conditioner of your choice left on the hair for at least 30 minutes before cleansing will help strands glide past each other in the detangling process. Even if you choose not to wash your hair weekly, detangling it at least once a week will help prevent unnecessary knotting and tangles while sufficiently hydrating your hair along the line of demarcation to prevent breakage. Infusium 23 Repair and Renew, Kinky Cury Knot Today, Lawrence Ray Concepts Shake & Go, and Soultanicals Mango Dip Detangling Slip are all great pre-shampoo and midweek detanglers.
Deep conditioning is absolutely vital in terms of hydration, moisture retention, breakage prevention and length retention. No wash day should pass without a deep conditioning session. Even if it only lasts the duration of your shower, that is better than skipping entirely. Hair that is properly and regularly deep conditioned is softer, shinier, smoother, retains moisture better, and is overall less prone to breakage. Protein or strengthening treatments are only necessary on a once every 1–3 month basis, depending on the health of your hair. Click here for some great deep conditioners for transitioning hair.
Moisture, Sealing, and Styling
Hydrating and sealing in moisture before styling are also integral to preventing breakage along the line of demarcation. After pre-pooing, cleansing, and deep conditioning, layering a leave-in conditioner and a creamy moisturizer onto the hair will help ensure maximum hydration and improve elasticity in the hair. Click here for some of my favorite moisturizers for transitioning hair. If your hair can handle additional oil or butter on top for sealing, you can definitely do so. I recommend jojoba, argan oil (blends, pure can be quite expensive), and apricot oils for sealing transitioning hair, as the are the lightest.
Nighttime Routine and Refreshing
How often you rehydrate and seal moisture into your hair is totally dependent upon how you style it. If you keep your hair in a bun or updo for most of the week, you can afford to add moisture and seal your hair as many times as you wish, because water or water-based products will not have any impact on the outcome of your style. If you prefer texture blending styles like braidouts, twist and curls, or bantu knot-outs, refreshing and nighttime maintenance gets a little tricky. For the duration of your texture blending style, adding any products with water signals instant demise. If you can work enough moisture into your hair prior to styling (prepoo, cowash or sulfate-free shampoo, deep condition, hydrate and seal in moisture, air drying hair), you will be able to successfully avoid adding more product for the duration of your style. However if you must, I suggest using as little as you can get away with — rubbing that infamous “dime size” amount in your hands, and scrunching it delicately into the areas that need it the most. Or if you’re feeling fancy, the Q-Redew is a great way to rehydrate and refresh the hair without ruining transitioning styles.
As far as nighttime routines go, things get even stickier. The key here is to accept that in some way, shape, or form, your day 2 style will not look exactly like day 1. Whenever I rocked buns (a staple for me in the first year of transitioning, I kept my nighttime routine simple by adding a little water-based moisturizer and keeping my hair stretched with a few chunky, loose braids or by banding. But if you’re looking to preserve a braid-out or twist and curl, a little more ingenuity will be required. I never, ever, EVER advocate that transitioners pineapple, because it will stretch your braided, twisted, or bantu-knotted hair back straight. You can re-curl, twist, braid, or knot the hair for bedtime if you wish, but I personally find that to be a little too much on the manipulation front. As a transitioner, when I slept on braid-outs or bantu knot-outs, I pushed my hair back, and covered it with a satin scarf, and left the ends out while I slept on a satin pillowcase. Yes, some strands will fall flat, but with a little fluffing or a bobby pin here and there, the style comes back to life the next day.
There is not set schedule for trimming transitioning hair, or even how much to trim. You can trim monthly, every 4 months, or every 6 months depending upon the health of your hair. But to give you a general idea of frequency, barring any major incidences of breakage or hair fall that would suggest a more immediate need, trimming every 3–4 months is sufficient. Depending on the overall health of your ends and the growth rate of your hair, trimming anywhere from 1/4 of an inch to an inch of hair should do the job. Of course, if you want to accelerate your transition, trim more. To stretch it out, trim less. For more general trimming guidelines and tips for transitioners, click here.
A note about protective styling:
Many ladies turn to protective styling as a means of length retention and busting over length retention plateaus. There is nothing wrong with wanting to tuck your hair away from time to time, for convenience and length retention reasons. But doing it excessively and repetitively can lead to scalp trauma, breakage, and traction alopecia among other things. I do encourage all transitioning ladies to spend some time learning and working with your hair. Loving, learning, and understanding your hair throughout the transitioning process makes embracing the natural hair journey and eventual chop that much easier.
Happy transitioning! Be sure to visit “All Things Transitioning” on my blog for more information on the journey!