mane objective transitioning natural hair before and after

Transitioning in and of itself is a challenging journey, wrought with excitement, frustration, progress and potential. Amidst all of the advice, methods, regimens and products, sometimes the most confusing thing about the journey is knowing when to chop. There’s pressure on all side. Some fellow naturals think transitioners are dragging their feet, clinging on to their relaxed and heat damaged ends like some sort of security blanket.

Trust me, I know the feeling. I was consistently pressured via social media. People would tell me that I needed to go ahead and cut my hair. I respectfully declined each and every time, refusing to acquiesce to anyone’s wishes but my own.

For whatever reason, transitioners can decide to hold on to their ends for as long as they choose. Maybe you’re not ready for all-natural hair. Maybe you’re not ready to embrace full shrinkage and enjoy the extra length your ends provide. I transitioned for nearly 2 years (21 months to be exact) before chopping my ends in December. My goal was to transition for two full years, because I’ve only had short hair once in my life. However, my hair and patience had other plans.

One piece of advice that I often share with transitioners is to begin with the end in mind. When you set out on your journey, have a goal; whether it’s time, getting rid of old hair color, or achieving a certain amount of growth. I didn’t make it to my goal of two years, but that’s okay. Even if you don’t stick entirely to your goal, things always work better when you have something to aim for.

With that being said, when should transitioners chop? When is it time to draw the line and let the ends go? There’s no cut and dry answer, but here a few signs that will help you determine when you might be just about ready to make that move:

1. Breakage and thinning are out of control.

Along your transitioning journey, some thinning and breakage is to be expected. We know the line of demarcation between the new natural and old damaged ends can be very fragile. Continuously handling transitioning tresses while incurring minimal damage can become increasingly difficult. If you reach a point in your journey where your ends are constantly snapping off and your hair experiences severe tapering or thinning, it just might be time to cut your losses. In this extreme case, a trim is not going to solve anything. Chopping is the only way to preserve the health and integrity of the rest of your hair.

2. You’re losing patience.

If you’re at the point in your transition where you’re beginning to loathe certain parts of your regimen, you may be chop ready. If your preparation for detangling requires you to drink two Red Bulls, listen to 30 minutes of turn up music and have a pre-game huddle with your products, chopping may be in your near future. If you need to do a transitioning style like twist and curl in preparation for a night out with your girls and you choose to sit at home with Netflix instead of going out, you’re a chop candidate. These may be extreme examples, but there is something to be said for reaching the point where you absolutely have zero patience for putting up with your transitioning hair.

Around October, I really started losing patience with my hair. I had long since given up styles in favor of wash and go’s, but even those were getting on my nerves. The time it took to detangle those dreaded damaged ends was wearing on me. The fortitude to do satin strip braidouts, bantu knot outs and other styles was virtually nonexistent. Impatience for your transitioning hair opens the door for lax practices that can result in unnecessary damage to your hair.

3. You keep trimming. And trimming. And trimming.

Getting scissor happy is probably one of the clearer signs that the chop may be near. When you continually trim away at your damaged hair in such a small amount of time, you’re pretty much setting yourself up to chop soon. Nothing about trimming twice a week suggests that you’re trying to keep your transitioning hair for as long as possible. The message you’re sending to yourself is, “I’m tired of looking at this damaged hair,” and you’re already taking action. Right before it was time to chop, I found myself trimming my ends every week for a month. That was easily 2-3 inches in one month.

4. You’re no longer enjoying the journey.

The moment transitioning stops being a fun, exploratory journey where you’re learning and growing in how you manage your hair denotes the end of that phase of your natural hair journey is likely near. The transitioner journey is a unique experience full of twists and turns (literally and figuratively). There will be days where your hair amazes you and days where your hair gets on your last nerve. Although the roller coaster ride won’t last always, it should be like an exciting courtship period for you and your hair. But once it turns into that stale, dead end relationship where you’re just going through the motions, it may be time to let those ends go.

 At the end of the day, you’ve got to chop when you’re ready and not a moment sooner. What were your warning signals that chop time was near?

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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19 Comments on "4 Signs It’s Time To Chop Your Transitioning Natural Hair"

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Belle

Oh boy, do I know how that feels. I’ve been there and i resorted to chopping my hair short until I already have 1-inch long hair. I don’t recommend doing this esp if your face structure needs a long hair.

Claire

Thanks for the tip! I try to think that I don’t need to chop it but the restlessness just creeps making me want to scream and grab kitchen shears.

Claire

I think im in phase #2 where im losing my patience! Only problem is my natural hair has grown for only barely an inch. It really bugs the hell outta me. Im thinking of getting a pixie cut just to get rid of it but im really not confident about it.

Irene

Ive tried castor oil for hair growth before! It works girl! You should try it. That is, if you’re really going through cutting your hair.

Claire

Castor oil? That’s new. I’ll look it up. Thanks! Im getting more convinced that I should just cut it.

Irene
Erika

I agree with Mariana. I mean you can always just grow your hair. You can actually use the classic castor oil for hair growth if you want to speed things up.

Mariana

well if you really feel bad about it i dont see anything wrong with the pixie cut. besides, it would be nice to have a fresh look.

ChristianSingleMom

All this reminds me of my journey. I have battled with my hair and at times would rather just not go anywhere because the braiding and rodding is time consuming. I have been transitioning for over a year and due to the breakage and dangling as you described… Yes it is time for the chop! ?

Rikki Sian

Kiki! Great points to be aware of. I think i am fast approaching that big chop time. I want my hair to look nice and healthy but don’t know how i would even manage if i big chopped. my hair is just below my shoulders now, been transitioning for 6 months, the goal is to grow out my natural hair till its on my shoulders then cut, but the ends (mainly the back are seriously breaking off) im doing mini cuts at the back every other month!!

Stacey

Not only is this good for transitioners, but it is good for those that have been natural for a while, such as myself, and just need a refresher. I shaved mine damn near bald and I feel so liberated once again. Mine was damaged from too much coloring. Plus I have a thin spot. I should have listened to my boyfriend months ago.

Kay Von kent

When my ends were so dry that no matter what I did, my hair wouldn’t retain the moisture. Also, when I got tired of the duel maintenance. You know what I mean: doing one thing to the natural hair and doing quite another to the relaxed hair.

Bumper1959
Very short cropped hair does not look good on me (been there done that as a result of a curly perm disaster by a stylist who didn’t know what she was doing). When I finally decided to transition from a relaxer, I transitioned for about two years with braid extensions, cutting off an inch of relaxed hair whenever I gained an inch in new growth. It worked very well for me and as natural hair was not all that popular at the time (I was the first in my group of friends to go natural), no-one was urging me to… Read more »
Jinx

“If your preparation for detangling requires you to drink two Red Bulls, listen to 30 minutes of turn up music and have a pre-game huddle with your products, chopping may be in your near future.” That line had me rolling so hard ^_^

Shaniqua

For me, I knew it was time to chop when my relaxed ends became gross to me. I was so excited to be able to do wash and gos and have curls that the idea of continuing to transition was just intolerable.

Maria

Great article, my little sister(8) is transitioning and has about 3 inches of natural hair & 5 inches of relaxed hair.

I plan on cutting an inch of her relaxed hair each month(She doesn’t want to BC), so early next year she’ll be totally natural.

T

My relaxed, straight ends were constantly getting tangled up with the natural hair when I washed it. That is why I chopped them off after 8 months. Now, it is so much easier to detangle, although I do miss the length.

Castor Oil

The constant breaking off of ends is so true. I was afraid to chop because I like having length. But you gotta know when it’s best to just let it go.

Queen D
This was actually right on time! I originally set out to transition for one year. A year came, and my shrinkage is CRAZY and I’m used to at least shoulder length hair. I don’t mind it a little shorter, but I wanted another few inches if I could hold out. I’m now at 14 months and slowly losing patience lol. My natural hair is neck length when stretched, and my relaxed ends go from there to my collarbone. So there’s maybe about 3 inches of relaxed ends left. I’m getting frustrated because my staple styles like flat twist outs and… Read more »
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