Tuesday, March 19, 2013

RETURN to Natural: Transitioning Tips!

The transitioning process back to your natural hair can definitely be hard work, tedious and take lots of time! I've outlined some tips that I felt were the most important while I was transitioning and even some things that I wish I had known, which would've made the process a bit smoother. I hope this information is helpful, let me know if you have any questions!

1. Go Easy On The Heat

If your hair is currently relaxed and you wish to grow out some natural hair first before cutting the relaxed hair, it is IMPERATIVE to minimize the amount of heat you apply to your hair. I failed in this area because I was trying so hard to get my hair straight to blend in with my relaxed hair that i was flat ironing my hair constantly :( even sometimes more than one time a day smh.
Aim to style your hair in a curly form – twist outs, braid outs, straw sets, bantu knots and knot outs, curlformers and flexi rod sets should be your go to styles if you normally wear your hair free. Heat can permanently damage the natural curl of your hair. If you use a lot of heat while transitioning  to merge the relaxed hair with the natural hair you may find that your natural hair is more difficult to manage and in addition may be heat damaged <-- this happened to me, one side of my hair's curl pattern was more loose and had straight pieces due to the amount of heat I was using :(

2. Detangling: Take Your Time

Detangling natural hair is a skill that is learned over time. It is very easy to comb hair that is relaxed or where the curls have been loosened. However, natural hair is a WHOLE NEW ball game y'all.
My suggestion would be to put aside more than the normal amount of time needed to detangle your hair. With a relaxer it would take me anywhere from ten to twenty minutes (IF THAT!) to go through and thoroughly detangle my hair after a wash. When I was transitioning and even now, I have to set aside at least an hour and a half to two hours for this process.  Another key tip is to have some oil ready by the side (olive oil and castor oil are my personal favorites) and feel free to add some to your hair or conditioner should it not feel slippery enough when combing.
Most people start out detangling hair when it is soaked in conditioner as this is generally accepted as the easiest method <-- This is what I do, it is soooo much more easier and the slip the oil & conditioner combined provides is very helpful! Some will then move on to detangling dry prior to washing (note there are varying interpretations of the word dry as some use a leave in conditioner(this is how I started off), a small amount of water  and/or oil – the general principle is however not to have hair soaking wet). Find what works best for you and start with that method and only when it stops working or is ineffective, try a more advanced technique. The most important part is to take your time and thoroughly detangle all of your hair, it makes styling so much more manageable!

3. Watch That Demarcation Line

This tip is crucial if you are planning a long transition. The region where natural hair meets relaxed hair should be your top priority. Ensure that it is well conditioned and be careful when detangling or combing this particular section.Breakage will normally start at this point which is something you need to avoid until you are ready to do the big chop. If your natural hair has a lot of shrinkage, try to minimize this as much as possible by gently stretching out the hair for styling (any of the styles discussed in tip 1). This will help reduce the force required for the comb to pass through the demarcation line.

4. Accessorize

It is time to start accumulating your styling arsenal. Simple things like scarves, headbands, pins and flowers will help you during your transition and the early years of your natural hair. If you are planning a long transition, headbands and scarves can be used to cover natural hair instead of using heat styling. Later they can be used to accentuate your new shorter hair. Hair pins and flowers are useful tools for both helping to control hair as well as helping to save you from a bad hair day.

Many naturals will attest to the fact that when you are a new natural and struggling to style your hair, sometimes refocusing your energy to another part of your beauty routine such as your outfit and make up or even earrings and shoes can help give you a lift when you are unsure about how your hair looks.
Accessories were never my best friend until I did my BC. To not "look like a boy" haha I had to rely on jewelry, head bands/scarves, and eye shadow a lot to offset the attention from my shorter hair.

5. Moisturize

This is SUPER important! Learning how to keep your hair from drying out while transitioning or even as fully natural is a difficult task. Experiment with sulfate-free shampoos and learn which ingredients promote moisture retention and which do not. Avoid mineral oil unless you fully understand the downside of using it. Occasionally, you should 

use some type of protein conditioner or treatment as this will help fill in your hair cuticles and retain more moisture. On a daily basis, I spray my hair with water and seal the moisture with an oil or good moisturizer. I switch to a heavier oil (e.g., olive, avocado, or castor) or a thick butter (e.g., shea or cupuacu) to lock in that moisture during these cooler, drier months. Some naturals prefer to mix butters and oils together to create a more effective sealant.Get a thick satin scarf or bonnet to reduce moisture loss from your hair as you sleep.  Do you want to increase your moisture retention even more?  Switch to a satin pillowcase in addition to covering your hair with a scarf or bonnet.  Additionally, you can wear the satin scarf or bonnet under your beanie, head wrap, or winter hat (when the winter arrives).

6. Prepare Yourself and Others
:  We often talk about the practical aspects of managing natural hair but in truth one of the most difficult parts is the mental transition. The take home message is that there will come a day is the mental transition. The take home message is that there will come a day when you will be fully comfortable with all aspects of your hair but how long this takes is variable...instantly, days, weeks, months or years.You can prepare yourself by immersing yourself in the natural world. Look at all textures, not just the one you think might look like your future natural hair (or would prefer your hair to be). Watch videos, read blogs and visit forums to see how different naturals manage their hair and take note of any key similarities regardless of hair texture.
For the people around you, talk and tell them that you plan to go natural. Some will support and some will criticize( I definitely had more criticizers than supporters). You do not need to defend your corner, all you need is to assess how ready you are to hear these opinions and either absorb or ignore them depending on how much they help you. Keep working and building your confidence to be able to not let negative comments dictate how you feel about your hair or what you do with it. Admire, but don’t envy others and always appreciate the uniqueness of your hair. 


Feel free to share your transitioning tips!! 


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