Q: What’s the best way to maintain my natural hair during transitioning? I don’t want to cut the residual perm off! I like the look and feel of longer hair.
While many opt for the Big Chop (chopping off all chemically treated hair at once), others choose to slowly grow out the relaxer, or “transition.” The benefit of transitioning is that you get to keep your length while your natural hair grows in. Since your hair has two very different textures, breakage and shedding can become a problem. Here’s how to have a smooth, successful transition:
1. Avoid Heat
Excessive heat styling is dangerous as it compromises protein bonds. Using heat as a crutch while transitioning can result in an uneven curl pattern, loss of curl and breakage. Sadly, this damage is irreversible and you’ll be facing yet another transition.
2. Try Low Manipulation Styles
Choose styles that seamlessly blend the two textures (and don’t stress your edges!). Twist and braid-outs, pin curls, roller sets, buns and braids should be your style staples. Handle your hair gently and infrequently and remember to moisturize.
3. Gently Detangle
The line of demarcation is where your natural hair meets the relaxed hair. It is a point of weakness and the source of breakage for many transitioners. For this reason, use your fingers instead of combs and brushes when detangling and styling.
4. Deep Condition
Your relaxed ends need protein to maintain strength and prevent breakage. I recommend monthly protein treatments and weekly moisturizing deep treatment with heat. Your hair will thank you later!
5. Have Patience
You’re gonna need it. The two very different textures can be overwhelming, often the reason why many women chop prematurely. A hasty Big Chop could lead to a return to the relaxer, or months of confidence issues related to your hair, so take a deep breath and understand that it’s a process.
Q: On many of the blogs and forums, I see talk of being careful with your curls because they are so fragile. It makes me feel like it’s dainty fine china and I’m almost afraid to touch it. I thought that my hair would be stronger and more resilient than when I had a relaxer. Am I wrong for thinking this?
Our hair, in its natural, highly textured state, is delicate. Each bend along the strand creates a point of potential breakage. To be honest, I felt like it was easier to retain length when I was getting my hair pressed bi-weekly or monthly. The heat was killing it in the long run, which is why I now opt for sets. I do, however, feel that my hair is more resilient post heat abuse, as do many naturals who left the relaxers behind. The heat and relaxers are no longer breaking down our strands and we have a little wiggle room to enjoy a variety of styling options and the opportunity to experiment with products and even color.
I think the focus on treating our hair like “delicate lace” comes from our re-education. After some thought, we decide to transition from relaxed to natural hair as a healthier alternative. We get on the web and research, and take care to purchase the right tools, the right products, and explore our styling options. We develop goals for full, healthy, natural hair and do our best to achieve it. We join communities with other transitioners and naturals, and meet up in real life to share tips and provide encouragement. I believe that all of the time and energy we put into our ‘new hair’ makes us more likely to treat it better overall. We’re much more mindful than when we frequented the salon and let Mary or Sue wash and set our hair.
So yeah, I think it’s a residual effect, ’cause all highly textured hair (whether it’s relaxed, heat styled, or in it’s curly state) is delicate, and should be treated as such.