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Should Transitioners Be Concerned with Length Retention?

• Feb 8, 2013

My September-December Side By Side

via Instagram @maneobjective

I’ve been grappling with that very question for the past two weeks, namely as I grow more accustomed to the new stuff coming in…and more annoyed by the heat damage.

Should I just cut it all off? I mean, it’s going to get cut eventually, anyway…

I love my long hair. I don’t want to chop it all off (again).

Ugh, this heat damaged hair is dreadful.

Those are just a few of my internal struggles as it relates to my transitioning hair. The longer I transition, the more I begin to wonder about my own hair goals. Is it length? Thickness? Just to have healthy hair? After a couple of weeks of digging and soul searching, I have developed an answer to the question previously posed.…

Yes, and No.

Here’s Why Length Retention Does Matter…

1. You Didn’t Big Chop For A Reason

Midway Jan 2013

Midway point: January 2013

Maybe you didn’t have the cojones. Or perhaps, your head is too big (one of my excuses). You might even just be accustomed to longer hair (hello!). Whatever your rationale, the point is that you didn’t big chop. For the ladies that BC’ed, I commend you. I don’t think I’d every be ready for that undertaking. For those engaging in a long-term transition, you obviously have some affinity for your hair length — and there is nothing wrong with that. Sidebar Soapbox Rant: I’ve seen comments on blogs attacking ladies that choose to transition — citing that they’d rather maintain two raggedy textures than to be bold enough to chop it all off in favor of one. I would just like to say, however you go about your natural journey is a personal decision. Why hate on someone else’s methods? Their heat damage doesn’t cause you breakage, right? Okay, off my soapbox. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, why you didn’t big chop.

The bottom line here is, you care about the length of your hair to some degree, and you made that decision. I am not ashamed to say that I have enjoyed longer hair for most of my life, and this transition phase for me is no different. I like my long hair. My boyfriend likes my long hair. I have a big head. Therefore, I am transitioning. Whatever your reason is, is yours and yours alone. Not doing a big chop doesn’t make you any less legitimate in the natural community, and it doesn’t make the opportunity to learn to care for your hair any less valid.

2. Length Is An Indicator Of Health.
Wait, wait, WAIT! Hear me out, now. I am by no means saying that long hair is healthy hair, and that short hair is unhealthy. I’ve seen the complete opposite be true too many times for that to be the case. But in the journey of the transitioner, hair length can perceived as a vital sign of sorts. If you have been transitioning for 6 months, and you have more breakage than you’ve ever seen in your life, that is a strong indicator that something is going wrong. Perhaps your products aren’t working, you lack protein or moisture, you’re styling too tight, or the tools you have are ripping your tresses apart. Whatever the case may be, if you remain unable to retain some length (or at least break even), you may need to re-evaluate your transitioning practices. 

And Here’s Why It Doesn’t…

1. You’re Going To Chop It Off (Gradually) Anyway…
This was the pill that I had to swallow in order to move forward. Regular trims or mini chops are a part of the transition. The point of a transition isn’t to forever maintain damaged and natural hair — it is to gradually get rid of the overworked, overprocessed stuff. Now, how much you cut and how frequently you do it is all a personal matter. Some transitioners do 3–6 month trims, others do a series of mini chops. Personally, I just cut whenever my hair looks extra raggedy or janky on the ends (which is bound to happen because well, it’s heat damaged and prone to splits and dryness). That typically happens once every 2–3 months, and I take off about an inch or so of hair. Inbetween those times, I may do a super light dusting, or search and destroy. Sometimes, I hate to see the inches go, but then I look at how uneven and dry they are, and how much better my hair looks afterward.…and that helps me understand that I made the right decision.

What say you, ladies? How important is length to you in your transition?

About 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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23 Comments on "Should Transitioners Be Concerned with Length Retention?"

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your hair grew SOOOO long during that 4 month period im so jealous

I agree!!! I’m so glad to hear someone else say this. I’ve been in transition for over a year now and I get so tired of hearing people (including stylists) tell me to just cut my hair. My permed hair was not damaged when I decided to forgo relaxers, I nixed the creamy crack bc I realized it wasn’t necessary even if I wanted to wear my hair straight. Why use chemicals when you don’t have to, right? I chose a long transition bc I’ve had long hair my entire life (minus the short bob I briefly had at age… Read more »
Hi There, Personally, I don’t think it matters too much about length when you’re transitioning. For the most part you will be wearing protective styles to preserve the health of your hair. Overall, I think having healthy hair is far more important than long hair. I recently B.C’d and I’m not going to lie, i was scared and had that internal struggle for weeks! For me it came down to not wanting to look after two textures and wanting to see i I could rock a twa. It was a shock I can tell you! I had grown my relaxed… Read more »

Length retention for me was very important during my 2 yr transition!As you stated,it was an indicator that my hair wasn’t breaking off.I also thought of my relaxed hair protecting my natural hair from damage.I didn’t have to worry about knots and split ends on my natural hair so it could grow freely.To each their own!


I went without a relaxer for a year because I wasn’t ready to chop it off early into the transition. I was more worried about the length of my hair once I BC’ed since I was gonna cut it off eventually. I didn’t care about the length of my hair during my transition since I wore it in protective styles most of the time anyway. I just wanted to give my my hair time to let the relaxer grow out. That was my main objective.

I’m 22 months deep in my transition,and length was the primary reason I decided to forego the big chop. No big chop for this big head! I decided to just trim my relaxed ends as often as I would trim my hair if it were 100% natural. It’s going to come off anyway, but if it’s not splitting or knotting up, I could live with the two textures. Plus I like the idea of prolonging the eventual trims on my naturally kinky hair. I get to start off with (hopefully) 12″ of natural fresh ends when I do chop off… Read more »

Yes yes n yes again lol! I struggle with this every time I chop my hair,thinking I’m finally @ this length do I really need to cut it off?!.but I Remind myself y I’m transitioning n it helps me trudge forward!! This hair journey is no joke lol


I did a BIG chop! I went natural because the relaxer was damaging my scalp and hair. I was waist length when relaxed and I originally planned to transition for 2 years, but dealing with the two textures was killing me…I didn’t even make it to 5 months before I cut to 2″. It was the best feeling ever, even though my hair was super short I felt so free!

Girl I big chopped too, talk about liberating and one of the best experiences of my life 🙂 I have a huge head and I’ve always had long hair but I wasn’t about that transitioning life plus my relaxed hair began to look weird so I BC’d to half and inch of hair. My mom on the other hand transitioned… She was terrified of doing the BC even though she’s worn short relaxed styles on and off forever. She was in the military and didn’t have time to take care of her hair and as a result it broke all… Read more »
I like this article and yes I’m biased because I was a long term transitioner (24 months). The big chop was not for me because 1) I also have a big head 2) I’ve always had long hair and 3) I don’t know how to act if I can’t put my hair in a ponytail. lol But seriously; it was my hair and my journey so I could not care less about how another person thought I should transition. As long as my hair was healthy which has been the ultimate goal; I was content. Now the thing is natural… Read more »

I didn’t do the big chop because I have a BIG head too. I’m trimming as I go. I don’t care what anybody says about that, its my head.


transition as long as you want, it’s your hair.
however, what annoys me about long term transitioners is complaining about what your hair won’t do. how you wish you could wear certain styles. how your straight ends get on your nerves. how your heat damage is so unattractive. if you don’t want people to tell you to chop the isht off, stop complaining about it.

Lol I agree. Of course there is nothing wrong with a longer transition. Nothing wrong with wanting to keep your length either. Just don’t make it a security blanket. I’m sure many of you look just as beautiful with short hair as you do with long hair. Hair doesn’t make you beautiful. Just concentrate on taking good care of your hair. If length matters to you try to look for examples of other women who stuck it out for the long haul. See what they do then tweak it to fit your hair and life style. I use to be… Read more »
J. Nicole

I too was a long term transitioner. I thought I was the only one concerned about the size of my head! Glad to know I’m not the only one who wrecks turtle necks when putting them on.

It is a bit annoying when people tell you to “just chop it off”, I find its just another example of unwarrented advice. I cut the rest of when I was ready, because the last I checked it belonged to me. All of these decisions are personal & you should be comfortable with the outcome-no one else.


It didn’t really bug me but my mother cried. This is the same woman who goes to the barber once a month to keep her hair as close to her scalp as possible.


you should do whatever is works for you.


sorry.……whatever works for you

My hair used to reach my waist (I could actually sit on parts of it) but over the years I let weave wearing stylists convince me to cut my hair to make it more manageable. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t to make it more manageable to me, but to THEM! I only relaxed my hair 3–4 times per year. So when I decided to stop relaxing my hair, there was absolutely no problem dealing with new growth. Even when I went months between relaxers it was hard to tell where the natural and relaxed hair met.… Read more »
Kis Kadee
I just passed the one year transitioning mark. Now I have six inches of new growth and six inches of relaxed hair. This year I’ve decided to try really reaaaally hard to keep as much of the remaining relaxed ends as possible, while growing out the hair. Besides the preference for long hair, I think that the relaxed ends are protecting the natural ends from single strand knots, as well as stretching the new curls growing in. Nothing is wrong with wanting to grow out both your natural hair AND your length during a transition. And no, I do not… Read more »
Amber Nefertari

Whatever works for you.
People need to just let other folks rock.


I am 8months in with transitioning and I am so scared to cut my hair off. I already have about 3″ of new growth. So I am long term transitioning, and gradually cutting my ends when
They need trimming.


[…] #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 […]


[…] #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 […]

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