Thinking about going natural for the New Year?
As women, we’ve been taught all our lives that our hair was our crown and glory – for some women, it is a defining element of beauty. So how do we deal with our desire to cast off society’s chains – go natural – while still wanting to feel pretty?
It isn’t easy. Many women choose to transition rather than exposing themselves (quite literally) to the life-changing ‘big chop’. We may want to be natural, but we’re so attached to our hair that many of us will only go bald as a last resort.
Still, I’ve seen so many women (even transitioners) start their ‘natural hair journey’ only to quit less than halfway through. It’s sad, but I understand it. After a while, you just don’t like the way you look anymore. It wrecks your self-esteem and erodes your patience. We’ve all had that moment when a bad haircut or a poorly-executed hairstyle have made us despair… when we wanted to throw our hands up and refuse to leave the house; refuse to be seen in such a state of disgrace.
For women about to embark for the first… or even fifteenth time on this long, treacherous path, I’ve decided to craft a timeline to help you get over the inevitable bumps in the road. These tips can be used as a guide for your first year of transitioning.
If you want to go beyond a year, just keep applying the same rules!
I’m not saying that this will be easy, nor am I giving a precise recipe for success in transitioning… but if you follow most of these guidelines, your journey is likely to be a lot less painful and you are more likely to actually arrive at your destination.
1 – Plan your transition. Hair grows at approximately 1 inch every two months. Imagine how you will deal with one inch of new growth in two months. Then two inches in four months… research hairstyles that will be appropriate for each stage. Write it all down. Plan it carefully and then implement your plan. Don’t leave room for panic. Also, plan for when you want to cut all the straight ends off… and how you’ll deal with your hair once you do.
2 – Research good protective styles. You may not go for them now, but braids, weaves, crochet styles and wigs may save the day when your frustration with your two textures reaches its pinnacle. You’ll probably want to put it all away for a while and deal with it another day. Also, remember that you can do protective styles with your own hair – no extensions needed!
Your first/ second month
3 – Take your supplements. Moisturise regularly. Invest in a good satin scarf or bonnet. Take care of your straight ends and your natural roots to minimize breakage. Breakage, split ends and excessive shedding from poor hair-care will make your two-textured hair that much harder to maintain and may compromise your new hair journey.
Your third/fourth month
4 – Deal with your two textures separately. Your new growth might like moisture and oils, your straight ends might not. Your new growth will soon require wide-toothed combs and maybe even some gentle finger detangling (depending on your length). Give each part of your hair the treatment it needs. This is a good time to start researching products that your natural hair will like. Don’t go overboard; check online forums and YouTube to find naturalistas with similar textures and porosity levels. See what works for them. Try one product at a time, for a few weeks each and see what effect it has on the different parts of your hair… If it works, stick to it. Don’t be tempted to buy everything on the market!
5 – Start doing low-manipulation styles as often as possible. YouTube is a good resource for style ideas as well. Your hair is growing more fragile and can no longer tolerate as much pulling and tugging as it used to. Don’t be tempted to brush the life out of your edges to make them look smoother. Be gentle. Aim to style your hair only once every three days or so…
Your fifth/ sixth month
6 – Headbands, head wraps and head ties are your FRIENDS. So are bows, flowers… any adornment you can use to tame/conceal/ beautify your head as you grapple with your changing hair texture. Head wraps are particularly useful if you aren’t a weave/wig type of girl. They can be cute and trendy. Look into them. Eventually you may find that you don’t want these adornments… but don’t throw them away. You may need them again in the initial adjustment phase once you’ve chopped off all your remaining relaxed ends.
7 – Do away with straight styles. By this point, regardless of your curl pattern, you no longer have straight hair. Say it with me; “My hair isn’t straight anymore!” Believe it. Most of it may still look that way, but your roots are too obvious for you to pull off most straight styles without looking ridiculous. Avoid putting tension on your strands. Put away your hairbrush, fine-tooth comb, blow-dryer and flat iron. Rock Bantu knot-outs, twist-outs, cornrows and braid-outs. Your effort at this point is to blend your textures. Trying to make the roots lie flat is only going to cause tension and breakage where the two textures meet. The sooner you come to terms with this, the more hair you’ll conserve.
8 – Apply a generous amount of patience. When you are tempted to a/ cut it all off or b/ return to the creamy crack – just apply a little bit more.
Your seventh/ eighth month
9 – About six to seven months in (pat yourself on the back if you’re still hanging on!) you may have noticed significant breakage and thinning at the ends. Inevitably, although you may still be hanging on, some of your relaxed ends will have parted ways with their natural roots. It may be very difficult to style your hair and make it look decent. Consider trimming off a few inches of the relaxed ends (not all of it!) to re-create a recognisable shape and give the illusion of more fullness. This should also make blending a tiny bit easier.
10 – Distract yourself. Your hair is probably a chore to deal with and failed / imperfect hairstyles may affect your self-confidence. Focus on your outfit, your makeup, your jewelry… anything that can boost your confidence and take your attention away from your hair. Try a protective style, if you haven’t already.
Your ninth/tenth month
11 – Eventually, you’ll have a respectable amount of natural hair to work with. Blending will be super easy – you’re a pro at it by now! You’re starting to be very curious about how your hair would look if you just big-chopped now. Do it, if you want to! Otherwise, consider installing some small twists… which you can style with hair pins/ pull back into a ponytail if your hair is long enough. Or maybe you have enough length to do tuck-and-pin up-dos. Google is your friend. By now, you’re very familiar with your texture and curl pattern (many people don’t know theirs, at the beginning of their journey). You’re almost a full natural now, so it’s another moment to pause and do some research so you can figure out what your natural hair will best respond to.
One year in…
12 – How about that big chop? You’ve got almost six inches of lovely, natural hair! Six inches is a great ‘fro length, if ever there was one. Depending on your curl pattern, your six inches may only look like 3… but that’s ok… you’re definitely not bald, and that was probably the whole point of your choice to transition rather than big chop from day one! You’ve got enough length to style but not so much that you get overwhelmed. I think that this is a great time to take the leap!
I hope that these tips have been helpful. Unfortunately, our hair doesn’t come with a user’s manual, but through trial and error (and learning from other people’s mistakes) maybe we can create something close…
If you are transitioning or if you’ve already transitioned, please feel free to share your ideas! Remember, you don’t have to do the ‘big chop’ until you are CERTAIN that you are ready. If you want to transition for four years… guess what? You’re allowed! It’s your hair.
See you all in the New Year 😉