Transitioning to Natural Hair 101

So you've decided to take the plunge and go natural. Congratulations! Now that you've made the decision to embrace your natural hair, you've decided to do it without a big chop, because short hair just isn't your thing. Keep in mind, eventually, you will end up cutting your straight hair, but the process will be gradual.


As your natural hair exits the scalp, you will realize that some of the products and methods you used while grooming your straight hair no longer work at the roots of your hair. The area where your natural hair meets your straight hair is called a line of demarcation. You may experience tangling in this area but the key is to be patient and handle your hair as gently as possible to avoid breakage. 

Here are a few suggestions that may help you get over the hump of your transition: 


1) Avoid handling hair if it is not moisturized prior to cleansing and grooming. Dry hair has the potential to break, so keep the hair well moisturized or lubricated so it's more pliable during manipulation.  Before cleansing or grooming, use a moisturizing spray or light oil (especially at the roots). This will make separating the hair easier. By eliminating excessive tugging or strain on the hair, you are lessening the potential to damage the hair. 


2) Once you've properly prepared your hair for cleansing, make sure that you always have the right kind of cleanser on hand to help get the job done. There is a lot of controversy surrounding shampoos with certain sulfate ingredients, cleansing creams, co-washing and other wash day conundrums. Keep it basic. You don't need to add 1,001 ingredients to your shampoo to get good results. You just need to learn your hair to select the correct cleansing agent for your needs. Moisturizing shampoos are a good place to start for many people. Cleansing creams are also good options for some people at certain time and are becoming more popular in the hair world. Typically, co-washing is not something we recommend. Co-washing isn't really "washing" in the sense of cleansing your hair, at all. Co-washing is essentially coating your hair with conditioner to keep it in a moist state. This is problematic because you can't clean the scalp effectively with conditioner. That's a fact. Like, not debatable at all. Conditioner is formulated to soften and smooth the hair by way of the cuticle. That's it. It's not a cleanser. Having said that, too much conditioner can build up on the scalp and hair creating an atmosphere of nastiness and suffocation of your strands. 

For our transitioners, it is not uncommon for us to have their hair shampooed with two different types of products to avoid tangling and shedding and breakage. One shampoo for the natural hair which is applied from the root to the line of demarcation, then rinsed. The other shampoo for the straight hair that extends beyond the line of demarcation. This is usually a shampoo especially formulated for straightened hair. This helps limit the  tangles. It's not the fastest process, but it yields good results. 


You can deep treat your hair using a traditional conditioner or natural oils to help moisturize the hair. You can deep treat using heat or by simply applying your chosen treatment for an extended period prior to rinsing. Experiment with each method to find out what works for you.  


Detangle with the utmost of care. Use tools like wide tooth combs or Denman brushes to detangle hair while it's wet, preferably with conditioner in it. Sectioning the hair off can help ensure that all areas are addressed during the process. Once each section is detangled, rinse thoroughly. 


Outside of clipping obviously split ends, trim a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of straight hair every 4-6 weeks until your transition is complete. During that 4-6 week period, the average persons hair will grow a little more than that amount, so the loss of length will be less evident as the newly grown hair compensates for the length of the clipped ends.  

Protective styles keep the hair stationary for certain periods of time. Traditional braids, crochet braids, french braids, flat twist and other styles can be used to protect the hair during and after transitioning. This is because the need to manipulate the hair decreases once the hair is placed in a stationary style. 
Press and curls are not protective styles. This is a question we get quite frequently in the salon. The reason a press and curl and/or other thermal styles are not considered protective is because they will eventually straighten the hair out over time as the bonds of the hair become broken by the heat and once they become broken, the curl is destroyed. So, if your goal is to grow your natural hair out, thermal styling can be counterproductive when not done properly, or done too frequently. 
In each stage of your transition, remember your goals and be patient in achieving them. With good care, results will happen!

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