Beginner Wednesday – Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair

22 Feb

A few years ago I went through a stint where I kept my hair natural for 4 years.  The reason I chose to go natural at the time was because I was pregnant and decided I would go relaxer free until I had stopped breastfeeding my first baby.  I then became pregnant with my second child and so didn’t relax my hair until I had stopped breastfeeding him.  It was a personal decision where I also gave up other things like coffee.  Unfortunately I did not have any hair care knowledge at the time so all I did was braid and wear weaves back to back for 4 years.  I hardly moisturised and washed my hair irregularly.  I hardly deep conditioned my hair.  The result was that my hair broke and my hairline was seriously damaged.  After a few months I went to a hairdresser and asked her to cut off the relaxed ends so I was fully natural.  After 4 years of being natural I decided to relax my hair again and I have kept it relaxed since.

Many readers of this blog are either in the process of going natural or are thinking about it.  I thought I would dedicate a post to those who are relaxed and have decided to go natural as well as those who are in the process of going natural.

To begin with, I need to explain that relaxing is a chemical process that results in permanent changes to the hair structure.  It cannot be washed out or reversed.  The only way to get rid of relaxed hair is to cut it off.

There are two ways to go from relaxed to natural – a ‘big chop’ (also referred to as BC) or transitioning.  A big chop is simply cutting off all the relaxed hair and remaining with only your natural hair.  This can be quite a sudden change especially if your relaxed hair is long.  Transitioning on the other hand is more gradual.  This post will focus on transitioning.

Like I said above, transitioning to natural hair is a gradual process.  When transitioning you trim your hair regularly and gradually get rid of the relaxed ends until all your hair is natural.  This can take quite a bit of time depending on how much hair you trim and also how often you trim it.  Some women even transition for 2 years.

When transitioning to natural hair there are some things to take note of:

  • Care need to be taken when you have two hair textures i.e. natural hair as well as the relaxed ends.  The line of demarcation where the natural hair meets the relaxed ends is quite fragile.  This is why in some cases you do not cut your hair but over time you realise you have hardly any relaxed ends left.  It’s because they have broken off!
  • Be very gentle with the hair.  Detangle from the ends towards the roots to prevent unnecessary breakage.  Remember that the line of demarcation makes your hair very fragile.  Always detangle with a wide tooth comb when your hair is wet and slippery with conditioner.
  • Make sure your hair is adequately moisturised.  Deep condition the hair regularly, once a week if possible.  If you choose to braid or weave the hair while transitioning, remember that your hair will need moisture even with these styles.
  • Practice more protective styling to help reduce breakage.
  • Use as little heat as possible.  Try and resist the temptation to flat iron your hair to match the two textures.
  • You may find that you need to change your products and use products more suited to natural hair.  Many women find that natural based products work best for natural hair.  Also the focus becomes more on moisturising and softening the natural hair.
  • Once again moisture, moisture moisture!!  Natural hair needs moisture!

Remember the idea is to trim the hair gradually until all the relaxed hair is cut off.  You can trim the hair every few months or whatever suits you.  Look after your hair to prevent unnecessary breakage.

Are you transitioning from relaxed to natural hair?  How is it going?





41 Responses to “Beginner Wednesday – Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair”

  1. Thembie 22 February, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    I am at this point. Am 16 weeks post. A week out of a protective style. I wld like to give my hair a two week breather before going for my next protective style. But the two hair textures are making this difficult. What products can I use to moisturise my NG

    • Tendayi 23 February, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      The longest I have ever gone is 24 weeks post (after spending 8 weeks with braids). That worked for me was making sure the new growth is moisturised and super soft. I find Scurl (or any water and glycerin based moisturiser) works best for me. It makes the growth really soft.

      • Kris 24 August, 2012 at 3:28 am #

        My name is Kris. I hope you still visit this site. I am trying to go natural gradually also. I have been checking out “the curly girl method” on youtube. I like what I see on there. I have been following “mahoganycurls” on youtube also. She has some pretty great videos that help give ideas on what to do with natural hair. A lady came to the store where I work and I inquired about her natural hair (so cute!) and she gave me those on youtube about the curly girl method (mahoganycurls follow this method.) They talk about the big chop and moisturziing too. please respond back. thanks! I love this site. it is needful.

      • Tendayi 24 August, 2012 at 10:54 am #

        All the best to you Kris. Youtube is a great source of inspiration.

  2. sithandekilendekile 22 February, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I decided on the Big chop 5 years ago and i don’t regret it!!! Didn’t have the patience to transition.

    • Tendayi 23 February, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      You are brave Sithandekile!! I dont think i would be able to do it!

  3. Lulu 22 February, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Mine is going terribly, I have been trying to transition for 6 months now and my hair keeps breaking and getting dry all the time. I’d like a do a BC, but I’d never here the end of it from my friends and family coz I’ve done that a lot of times. I trimmed the hair twice now in the six month period. What hair products would you recommend for moisture? The one I use usually has my hair dry by mid day and this is very frustrating. So since I can’t cut it all off and I’m trying by all means to keep off the relaxers, help?

    • Tendayi 23 February, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      I find glycerin based products (particularly Scurl) work well for me by softening the growth. I always have a bottle and I use it daily especially when I am past 10 weeks post relaxer. When moisturising make sure to moisturise in sections so that the hair gets maximum benefit. Also moisturise the growth and do not forget the ends. You may also benefit by moisturising twice a day – morning and before bed. I find that deep conditioning really helps with the moisture for my hair. Daily moisturising then compliments that.

  4. Ruwa Varaidzo Mgodi 02 March, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    I am not transitioning but I go 6 months without relaxing my hair. I manage by co-washing (washing with conditioner) twice a week and keeping my hair in a bun. I use glycerin and rose water to moisturise; it works wonders for me. Sometimes after washing I just leave in a bit of conditioner in my hair and add coconut oil to it. That leaves my hair very soft.

    • Tendayi 03 March, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Would really love to see your hair Ruwa. It sounds like you are taking great care of it. Please share the ratio of rose water to glycerin in your moisturising mix.

  5. rue 04 March, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    this blog is really good thank you all!! i recently cut my hair after 6 yrs ad i am loving the low maintenaince 🙂 its about 2cm’s long now, im busy reading up on how to maintain my hair and love it so that it grows!

    great that you got Lira, she is amazing. there is this lady who acts on Zone 14 and does clothing adverts i don’t know her name but she has an AMAZING fro!!

    have a great week all 🙂

    • Tendayi 05 March, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Thanks Rue! There are some women with great hair out there. I will try and get as many of them as I can to answer questions for the blog!

  6. barbara 20 May, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    i am thinking of transitioning because i hate relaxing my hair. it breaks my hair. and im in love with natural hair. i havent relaxed my hair in 2 months. still counting 🙂

    • Tendayi 21 May, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      Good luck Barbara! SOunds like you are definately a candidate for natural hair!!

  7. wanja 07 July, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    my natural hair is v hard how do i soften it?am tempted 2 relax it bt am afraid it mit break coz am breastfeeding .i also domt like plating my hair,wat do i do pliz gals help! g

    • Tendayi 09 July, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      Natural hair tends to be hard if not moisturised adequately. That may be the issue in your case. You need to wash and deep condition it at least once a week and moisturise it daily (even twice a day). Use moisturisers that soften the hair. These usually contain glycerin. I love Scurl Activator Moisturiser. I find it softens my new growth even at 12 weeks post relaxer. My sisters also love it (they have been natural for years).

  8. pupwithstyle 13 July, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    November 26 I believe will make it a full year of my transition to going natural. It seems like a very slow process in which I’m straddling the fence on. Somedays I’m fine with the process taking as long as it is and other days I wish it would pick up speed. From what it appears, my natural growth is probably less than 6 inches (is that normal?) and I deal with that transition by flat ironing it. As I’ve been reading on blogs that’s not really the route I should go is it? I go to the hair salon every week to get it professionally done and I try to stay up on my deep conditioners and trims. Maybe you could help me with some products I could use. Thanks

  9. Joy 16 July, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi Tendayi. I am 12 weeks post relaxer and I am thinking of transitioning to natural hair. My natural hair is 4c type and I wonder if I will be able to handle it natural. I went through your archives for articles on transitioning and I now know that I need to keep a regimen to keep the natural hair healthy. One of the reasons why I want to go natural is because I am very active, exercise a lot and the other reason is that I am curious to find out how I am going to look like with my natural hair. My hairline is also damaged and it looks like some follicles are dead because it has been months without seeing hair growth. One last thing, I am struggling to find S curl Activator moisturizer in Clicks and Dischem, where else can I look for it?

    • Tendayi 16 July, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      All the best Joy. I would say focus on keeping your 4c hair moisturised and soft. That way it becomes easier to handle.

      Scurl Actuvator Moisturiser has been discontinued in Clicks. You can find it at Jumbo as well as Africa Cash and Carry. In Capetown its found in Station Cosmetics. There are also other smaller shops that sell it too.

      All the best.

      • Joy 16 July, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

        Thanks Tendayi, I appreciate. I will look for it at Jumbo. I am not going to do a big chop though, I’ll transition with the relaxed hair on, I’ll keep you posted.

  10. Yolanda 04 August, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    I am transitioning and it’s going great! I feel really motivated and it’s extremely liberating to get happy when you see new curly growth and also, I’ve stopped blow drying my hair after washing to see my growth clearler. That feels amazing. It’s been 3 months since my last relaxer and I personally don’t feel like transitioning will be/is a problem- im just looking forward to all natural medium length hair in 2-3 years 🙂

    • Tendayi 06 August, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      All the best Yolanda!! Exciting times ahead for you!

  11. Lukundo 12 August, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    I just had the big chop. Two weeks ago to be precise. From my almost 8″ hair to only bout 2cm of natural hair. It got preaty damaged after childbirth so I want to start over with a regime similar to yours. I would like to see how I’ll do by the end of the year

    • Tendayi 13 August, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      All the best Lukundo. It will be a fun journey I can promise you that!

  12. Kris 24 August, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Sorry if that sounded kinda strange. you tube is ok but I was saying I love your website and yours is needful. I saved yours as one of my favorites! thanks!

  13. MaSibandah 03 September, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    hi tendayi. wild guess, r u from zim? i was going to go natural (ive had relaxed hair since i was 6, im 20 now) and i love the the fuller, thicker look but i also like my hair straight, and so ive decided to texlax and get the best of both worlds 🙂 im currently 24 weeks post. love the blog.. and following u on twitter

    • Tendayi 03 September, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Yes I’m from Zim 🙂

      I texlax too. Its great for volume especially for those with thin hair. 24 weeks post is great. I can only achieve that with braids along the way!

  14. Ziyanda 10 November, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Hi, I’m 6 months post relaxer and so far so good,. Do you perharps know where I can buy Shea butter, jojoba oil and aloe Vera in cape town? I’m still struggling with a bit of shedding.

  15. kpetigo prisca 15 December, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    please what of if i do not want cut the hair but mentain it

    • Tendayi 19 December, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      Yes you can look after it without cutting it – thats what is called transitioning. You will be trimming it bit by bit but it remains long. The relaxed hair will eventually be trimmed off after some time, depending on how often and how much you trim.

      • Yolanda 14 March, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

        I don’t see how a person can avoid breakage when transitioning. I am transitioning and my relaxed hair is breaking badly. I do everything to moisturized my hair but nothing helps.

        My natural hair roots coming out are as tough as wire though. Very kinky.

    • Yolanda 14 March, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      You won’t be able to maintain the hair. It will break off. So I disagree with the other women on here claiming it won’t.

      • Tendayi 15 March, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

        Many women have done it successfully Yolanda. There are so many examples out there.

  16. Yolanda 14 March, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I last relaxed my hair four months ago and it’s been hell ever since. I had never seen my natural hair and it is very kinky. I can barely part the hair, that’s how kinky it is. My relaxed hair is falling out. I don’t wear weaves. Never have. I don’t wear braids. I have simply been putting my hair back in a ponytail (the little I have left) and I never do it wear its stretched tight.

    I have bought everything in the book to keep my hair moisturized from Jamaican castor oil to coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil and vitamin e.

    Yet the breaking is continuing. Not from the root where my natural hair is tough and wiry but from the relaxed.

    I finally decided to call a natural hair shop in Dallas and they charge $80.00 upwards and I was shocked by that price.

    I can’t afford that. Not all the time.

    So now I decided to go back to getting my roots straightened. My mother straightened my roots for 18 years and my hair was long and healthy. Quite beautiful. Never had any breakage.

    So it is admirable to want to go back to wearing the hair without any manipulation only using coconut oils, Shea butter (oh yeah I bought that too… Almost forgot) but come on.. You become a SLAVE to your hair.

    Those black women talking up natural hair have a point but what they won’t say is all the work that goes into working with 100% black african hair. For the first time I can understand why black women went to relaxed hair and straightened hair. It may look better if you believe in Eurocentric standards of beauty (which I don’t I love natural hair styles and the way they look) but it is so difficult to manage.

    My god.

    Yesterday I washed my hair. I had hair knots all over my head. Large ones. I have never gotten hair knots. They were so large and so matted it looked like I had something holding them together like gel but I did not. I worked for hours trying to loosened just one of them and had to take breaks in between. But I could not loosen the knot. No. Not at all.

    So I cut it. I cut them all. Large portions of my hair. I could have cried. I thought about just getting my head shaved.

    At 35 years old.

    And that won’t fly.

    So now I am going back to straightening my roots. No more relaxers. But I certainly won’t toy with the idea of working with my natural hair. It is fine for women with hair skills who can do all those cute styles but not for me.

    • Tendayi 15 March, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      In my opinion you can successfully have natural hair and take care of it and have it thrive. What I have learnt (from being relaxed and taking care of my daughters hair which is natural) is that there is some difference in how you care for natural hair vs relaxed hair. With natural hair the focus is on moisture as well as making it soft. When natural hair is moisturised it becomes soft and much much easier to manage. It also thrives. You mention buying oils for your hair. These oils will not moisturise your hair. They can help to seal in moisture though. If you apply oils onto dry hair you will get breakage and all the things you describe because your hair needs moisture. The source of moisture is water so you need water are waer based products. You can then apply the oil on top to seal it in. Yes, your hair can be ‘kinky’ but adequate moisture will make it soft and manageable.

  17. Hannalyn 11 January, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi thank you so much for posting this! Really helpful and inspiring! I can totally relate to this. Please watch my video on my journey of transitioning from relaxed her to natural hair, it would be gladly appreciated!

    • Tendayi 12 January, 2014 at 12:11 am #

      Will take a look 🙂


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