Photo Dec 01, 7 54 41 PM

Although 2012 and 2013 seem like so long ago, I am still amazed at the fact that to date, I have spent more time as a tran­si­tion­er than I have with com­plete­ly nat­ur­al hair. I tran­si­tioned for near­ly 2 years (21 months), and chopped the rest of my heat dam­aged ends in Decem­ber of 2013. Along the route to Decem­ber 2013, I learned many valu­able lessons about long-term tran­si­tion­ing and han­dling my hair. Some lessons came on the heels of mis­takes, oth­ers were just learned as my tran­si­tion pro­gressed. These aren’t hard and fast rules, and since every tran­si­tion is dif­fer­ent, not all of the lessons may apply to you. Just take what you need :)

1. Wash n’ Go’s Are NOT the Dev­il.

Go to any blog or nat­ur­al hair web­site or talk to many nat­u­ral­is­tas, and they’ll con­vince you that pro­tec­tive styling is the way to go, and wash n’ go’s are the dev­il. Wash n go’s are gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as cute and fun, but prone to cause major tan­gles, break­age, sin­gle strand knots, split ends, reces­sions, glob­al warm­ing and stunt growth.

While it is true that a wash n’ go *can* cause the afore­men­tioned prob­lems (minus the two obvi­ous ones, lol), it is not a hard and fast rule or fact. Each head of hair oper­ates dif­fer­ent­ly and the tech­niques and prod­ucts used do make a dif­fer­ence. I find that if I use a prod­uct with a stronger hold for curls (and scrunch out the crunch if nec­es­sary), my hair tends to be less prone to tan­gling as the curls are clumped togeth­er. If I mois­tur­ize and seal prop­er­ly before apply­ing styling prod­uct, I don’t have to wor­ry about dry­ness. Since I (try to) keep my hands out of my hair, break­age doesn’t real­ly hap­pen. Sin­gle strand knots, I fig­ure are a way of life. I have a few, but they don’t both­er me…at least not enough to stop wear­ing wash n’ go’s.

Even though I rocked wash and go’s dur­ing the lat­er stages of my tran­si­tion, it didn’t ham­per my length reten­tion efforts. Besides, I con­sid­er it a low manip­u­la­tion style — not a lot of twist­ing, knot­ting, braid­ing, and curl­ing involved, and it can be left alone for up to 5 days with­out manip­u­la­tion. Sounds like a win-win to me. Don’t believe the hype! [Christina’s Choice 2014 Curl Defin­ers]

2. Your Go-To Prod­ucts & Rou­tine Are Sub­ject to Change

I think any­one who doesn’t make changes to their reg­i­men is crazy. You don’t have to go all prod­uct junkie crazy, but there are always new ingre­di­ents, for­mu­la­tions and break­throughs to try out — espe­cial­ly as you tran­si­tion. Some­times, a prod­uct may work fab­u­lous­ly for a cer­tain amount of time, but then your new growth punks it into not work­ing any­more. Per­haps you might decide to give up cones and embrace more nat­ur­al prod­ucts.

What­ev­er the ratio­nale is, accept that your hair, along with your prod­uct pref­er­ences will change. I thought As I Am Smooth­ing Gel was the best thing since sliced bread (it still is a great gel), until I met Obia Nat­ur­al Hair Care Curl Enhanc­ing Cus­tard. I still don’t see how I made it so many months with­out the Q-Redew. On the reg­i­men side, I found myself try­ing to extend the time between wash­es, for the sake of min­i­miz­ing break­age and shed­ding. What a bust. For about 10 or 11 months, that worked alright. But I even­tu­al­ly real­ized that I end­ed up spend­ing more time detan­gling than I need­ed to, if I had just washed my hair mid-week instead of will­ing it to wait. The bot­tom line here is, be open to change.

3. Learn How to Han­dle Mul­ti­ple Tex­tures

When tran­si­tion­ers think of mul­ti­ple tex­tures, it is often in the dichoto­my of relaxed and nat­ur­al or heat dam­aged and nat­ur­al. This frame of mind is total­ly fine with­in the first 7 — 9 months of tran­si­tion­ing. After that, it’s time to look at the big­ger pic­ture. You’re not going to have damaged/relaxed hair for­ev­er, so in the lat­er stages of your tran­si­tion, it would behoove you to begin under­stand­ing exact­ly which tex­tures and types of curl pat­terns you have. This does not mean you have to step into the typ­ing sys­tem, unless you want to. All it real­ly requires is a fun­da­men­tal under­stand­ing of your texture(s). If you’re blessed enough to have one uni­form tex­ture across your head, then you can skip this step. But for us mul­ti-tex­tured folks, this is espe­cial­ly crit­i­cal for han­dling, detan­gling, styling and more. For exam­ple, here’s a region­al break­down of my hair.

  • Back: Longer, loos­er curls (more wavy on left)
  • Sides: Fine hair, of sim­i­lar tex­ture to the back, but slight­ly more curly
  • Crown: Most coarse , incred­i­bly shrink­age prone, most dif­fi­cult to define
  • Front/Center: High­ly tex­tured with deep waves, and incred­i­bly shrink­age-prone.

Under­stand­ing the “zones” of my hair helps me when it comes to detan­gling, han­dling and styling my hair. When I detan­gle, I know that the back half of my hair is going to be a breeze — 10 min­utes flat (if that). The front half will require more time, patience, prod­uct, and del­i­cate move­ment of my fin­gers or Q-Redew. I also know that when I rock a wash n’ go, to pre­vent super-mul­let syn­drome, I need to twist/tuck and pin the front/center and the sides (some­what) to stretch them as they dry, so they frame my face bet­ter. [Under­stand­ing Your True Tex­ture]

4. Break­age is Unavoid­able

Break­age will hap­pen. Accept it. No mat­ter how gen­tle you are, no mat­ter how long you take to detan­gle, no mat­ter how care­ful­ly you unrav­el your twists, break­age will occur. Now, some break­age is pre­ventable and caused large­ly due to care­less­ness, rush­ing, rough han­dling and stick­ing with meth­ods and prod­ucts that don’t work for your hair. How­ev­er, there will be *some* break­age and there is noth­ing you can do about it unless you choose to live in a bub­ble, in the dark and nev­er, ever touch your hair.

Click here for some of my test­ed and true gen­tle hair han­dling tech­niques to pre­vent break­age.

5. Cheap­er Isn’t Always Better…but Nei­ther Is Super Expen­sive

I’m the queen of the dis­count, espe­cial­ly when it comes to two things: hair prod­ucts and work­out clothes. I NEVER EVER pay full price for either. I live by the mantra of the 3 C’s: Coupon, (price) Cut, and Clear­ance. If it doesn’t have a coupon, isn’t on sale (and it needs to be a GOOD sale) or on clear­ance, I bet­ter have a DARN good ratio­nale for need­ing it. I say all that to say, I hate spend­ing more than $12 on a hair prod­uct. BUT — one thing this small busi­ness spot­light has taught me is that some­times spend­ing the extra mon­ey is worth it. For exam­ple, my tran­si­tion­ing go-to-where-have-you-been-all-my-life wash n’ go curl defin­ers (Obia Curl Enhanc­ing Cus­tard and Soul­tan­i­cals Curl Blaze Hair Glaze) are $15 and $13, respec­tive­ly. I’ll shell out that dough, because the prod­ucts do what they say they’ll do with no fuss, and the ingre­di­ents are top of the top­pi­est of notch.

On the oth­er side of that coin, there are the prod­ucts that cost an arm, leg plus first and last month’s rent to pur­chase but aren’t worth their weight in prod­uct. For exam­ple, Miss Jessie’s Super Sweet­back Treat­ment. It costs about $50 for a 16oz jar and it just works…okay. Is it a good deep con­di­tion­er? Yes. Is it the best deep con­di­tion­er ever? No. Is it worth a tank of gas? Absolute­ly not. With that being said, prac­tice ingre­di­ent dis­cre­tion and set bound­aries for your­self.

6. Only Wash Your Hair When You Have the Time AND Ener­gy.

…unless you want to lose your hair. More times than a few, I found myself in sit­u­a­tions where I was short on time, ener­gy and/or patience, but my hair was chock full o’ buildup and need­ed a wash. Let me be an exam­ple of what not to do. In an attempt to save my hair from being a dis­as­ter area, more than a few times I forged ahead with wash day even though I should have put it off. The end result: I always lost more hair, caused more break­age, and end­ed up with a shod­dy style.

When you’re short on time, ener­gy or patience, rush­ing caus­es more harsh and force­ful move­ments in every­thing from detan­gling to cleans­ing and styling. I also real­ized that my styles always sucked after a rushed wash day, because I would apply prod­ucts and move through my hair so hap­haz­ard­ly.

The les­son here: only deal with your hair when you have the time. A bun for an extra day or two won’t kill you — and will cause a lot less trau­ma than the alter­na­tive.

7. Giv­ing in is Okay

When I first embarked on my nat­ur­al hair jour­ney aka no heat chal­lenge, I had zero con­cern for a tex­ture, curls or any­thing. I was real­ly just about that life of get­ting my rapid­ly thin­ning, weak and dam­aged hair back to health. Along the way, I began learn­ing more about nat­ur­al hair and even­tu­al­ly decid­ed a full-out tex­tured mane was my goal. Even though I was in pur­suit of my curls, I still want­ed to be able to rock straight hair some­times (because straight hair was all I had known in my teenage and adult life). With the prop­er tools and safe­ty pre­cau­tions, I was able to cave in a lit­tle and show off straight hair every 3–4 months. The tran­si­tion­ing process can be a shock and giv­ing in to your desire for straight hair every once in a while can help give you what you need to forge ahead.

8. Don’t Neglect Your Edges

Many tran­si­tion­ers do heavy rounds of pro­tec­tive styling to help ease the tran­si­tion­ing process and facil­i­tate more length reten­tion. In pur­suit of your hair goals, just don’t for­get about your edges. Fall back on too-tight styles and updos that tug at your hair­line. The last thing you want after all the work of tran­si­tion­ing is a thick, lus­cious mane with thin­ning edges hang­ing on for dear life. [All About Edges]

9. Steer Clear of Band­wag­ons

I’ve talked in more depth here about band­wag­ons tran­si­tion­ers should steer clear of and that rings true now more than ever. Every few months, a new band­wag­on, method or nat­ur­al hair “clique” pops up. I’m not say­ing there’s any­thing wrong with any of them (the­o­ret­i­cal­ly), it’s just that some practices/bandwagons aren’t meant for ladies that are tran­si­tion­ing — and the truth is, they can do more harm than good.

Get­ting caught up in hair­care trends can hap­pen almost too eas­i­ly if you’re not care­ful — espe­cial­ly, when you’re in that tran­si­tion­ing stage and soak­ing in nat­ur­al hair infor­ma­tion like a sponge. My best advice? Get your­self a great infor­ma­tion fil­ter. Learn how to dis­tin­guish between sol­id infor­ma­tion and nat­ur­al hair folk­lore.

10. Tran­si­tion On Your Own Time­line

When­ev­er I see a pic­ture of tran­si­tion­ing hair on social media, almost as if on cue, at least one com­ment brazen­ly sug­gests that “you need to go’n and just cut that off”. Tran­si­tion­ing to nat­ur­al hair is frus­trat­ing enough, even with­out all the addi­tion­al chop com­men­tary. Whether you’re 2 weeks or 18 months into your tran­si­tion, chop only when you’re com­fort­able. The jour­ney to nat­ur­al hair is about you — what you like, what you’re com­fort­able with, and what makes you hap­py. Don’t let any­one pres­sure you into any­thing you’re not ready for yet.

What lessons did you learn dur­ing your tran­si­tion?


To learn more about my 21 month tran­si­tion to nat­ur­al hair, click here!

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 Or, if you like pic­tures fol­low Christi­na on Insta­gram @maneobjective.

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6 Comments on "10 Critical Lessons I Learned During My 2-Year Transition to Natural Hair"

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#6! I need all of the time and ener­gy.


A year since I tran­si­tioned and it’s been a learn­ing process get­ting to know my tex­ture inti­mate­ly. I wash week­ly but before that, use the Hair Ther­a­py wrap on oiled hair (Avo­ca­do, Olive, Cas­tor) for 30 mins, fin­ger detan­gle light­ly, wash, DC, fin­ger detan­gle, rinse, blot, leave-in whilst finger-detangling…my hair is always thirsty so coconut or jojo­ba oils for me. Air-dry then ban­tu knot-outs for the week. I might cut my relaxed ends by the end of the year if they’re less than an inch.

Jasmine Jones

Dur­ing my hair jour­ney I learned that I need to deep con­di­tion my hair week­ly. With­out a deep con­di­tion my hair looks absolute­ly atro­cious and it is not a good look to walk around look­ing like a wild ani­mal all because I want­ed to be lazy on wash day.

Annie O
i can do no wrong with my hair its been 14 months no heat for my tress­es i wash week­ly and deep con­di­tion with ban­tu knot outs and it is going well so far. the only thing i dis­like is the look of my relax ends after 4 days but its work in progress that is how i am learn­ing on how to style it. i do have to keep it mois­tur­ized which my hair loves. am not plan­ning the BC at any­time soon for no one. you do have naysay­ers at time but i just ignored them what do… Read more »

14 months post here. I don’t know how long I’m going to go, but I do want some length before or IF I ever decide to chop off my relaxed ends. I’m not even com­plete­ly com­mit­ted to hav­ing 100% nat­ur­al hair, but I’m so curi­ous as to what my nat­ur­al hair even looks like, that I plan to keep on going…

For me, wash and gos are a no, no. I’ve tried so many times with so many prod­ucts, and its a big fat NO! I My scalp doesn’t like mois­ture on it for too long and with my sched­ule there isn’t enough time to use a blow dry­er with dif­fuser it takes 30 min. Just to get it to dry. I pre­fer pro­tec­tive styling that is what got my hair to grow. And I tran­si­tioned too. For tex­tures I had all 3! The strug­gle was REAL! I wasn’t sure how to work with it, but I tried to under­stand my hair with the typ­ing,… Read more »