newclutchlogoblackThere are two steps you can take to start your natural hair journey – “transitioning” or “the big chop”. In the end, however,both will end with the same result – cutting off the permed hair. There is no such thing as washing out or stripping a perm – a perm is just as it’s name states – permanent. The natural texture of your hair is permanently changed unless you cut it off and start again.

Now the most dramatic way to start your natural hair journey is to do a “big chop”. Big chop meaning shave your head bald. Although this may sound drastic, it is the safest and easiest way to go natural because you don’t have to worry about dealing with two textures of hair, permed ends and natural new growth. You can camouflage your new ‘do by purchasing stylish wigs and even hats. Another bright side is you wouldn’t have to worry about buying styling products for a while; use that money on pretty scarfs or head ties or earrings to accessorize your new ‘do. You can also do a big chop after you grow an inch or two of new growth. Then you will be sporting a ‘TWA’ – Teenie – Weenie – Afro.

“Transitioning”, of course, is less dramatic. Transitioning is exactly what it sounds like; you are moving from one state- permed hair, to a new state – natural hair. As you are transitioning from the perm state to the natural state, you are allowing your hair to grow, new growth to come in without re-perming, i.e. no touch-ups. Now during this transition some still apply heat, curling iron and/or straightening comb to the new growth area to keep the textures looking the same, but this isn’t a good idea because the heat will have to be applied too often and will eventually damage the new growth, and you’ll end up having to do a ‘big chop’ as a result.

Unfortunately, there is really no other guaranteed way to keep the new growth and the permed hair looking the same while you are transitioning, so the best thing to do is to camouflage the new growth. This can be done by using a non-alcoholic gel, pomade, or even a little water and conditioner (depending on the texture of your hair) to smooth/brush down the new growth, then cover with a silk/satin scarf to set it in place, and this will have to be done every night or even in between outings.

Or, you can simply purchase scarfs and/or headbands to wear on top of the new growth to camouflage it. You can also opt to wear your two-textured hair in transition styles such as braids – extensions or using your own hair (not done too tightly) or curly wet sets, which will blend in the two textures nicely. One of my favorite transitioning styles was wearing cornrows or flat twists in the front of my head (braiding/twisting the new growth area) and the rest of my hair (permed portion) out either straight or curly in the back.

The one thing you have to be extremely careful of when transitioning is dealing with the two different textures of hair. New growth is very fragile and can not be handled the same way as the permed texture. You may even have to use different styling products to deal with the two textures of hair.

The best thing to do is to focus entirely on your new growth.

You will have to experiment with different (preferably natural hair products) on your new growth as it gets longer and use these products on your permed ends as well.

The other thing you must do is as your new growth comes in, start cutting off your permed ends. I recommend when you have at least an inch of new growth, cut off an inch of your permed ends, and keep doing this until you have a head full of natural hair. The average hair growth rate is about a half an inch a month, but depending on your health/diet and heredity this can vary. So therefore, I can not give an exact range of time when you will have a complete full head of natural hair. But for more information on the rate of hair growth check out www.pg.com/science/haircare/hair_twh_21.htm.

gonatural

For more information on going natural and to connect with a community of beautiful Black women with natural hair please visit nappturality.com and motowngirl.com.

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  • Wander

    I love your article and the links are great. I do disagree with one thing: new growth is not “fragile” or more fragile than the relaxed hair. In fact it is the other way around. The fragilist part of transitioning hair is the demarcation point – that part where the new growth and the relaxed hair meet. That is the point where the bulk of breakage will occur if one is not very careful in handling the hair and diligent in general care.

    Maintaining a good moisture-protein balance is essential. Relaxed hair usually needs protein, while natural hair tends to need more moisture.

    I suggest to those who are transitioning (like I once was) to be diligent with moisturizing and look into using natural oils like almond, coconut, jojoba, sesame and others or butters like avocado or shea.

    Another good resource site (NOT mine) that has helped thousands transition is: http://www.growafrohairlong.com/ This site has tons of pictures, how-to videos and step by step corn rowing tutorials like: http://www.growafrohairlong.com/crownandglory.html

    Youtube is also an inexhaustible resource with hundreds of natural ladies and transitioning ladies demonstrating their how-tos and regimens. Also, visit fotki.com to see more natural and transitioning ladies and their hair.

    Finally, use Google to search for hair blogs and hair forums. You will find the hair forums and blogs indispensable.

    Hope this helps and have a wonderful time on your hair journeys.

    • This is true. That was one of the reasons I did the big chop. I had been transitioning and mostly just wore my hair pulled back into a bun. Well, right in the top of my head, all of the permed hair broke of from the new growth! No matter what I did, I could not get that portion of my hair to lay down! I started the day with my hair neatly pulled back into a bun and by the end of the day the front was sticking up all over the place. I did not want to straighten it for various reasons so I just took the scissors and cut it.

      To keep your hair from breaking where the permed hair and new growth meet, I recommend a few things. 1. Deep condition 2. When wet use a wide tooth comb to comb out the hair starting from the ends and working up to the roots. Do this while the hair is soaking wet with conditioner in it. 3. Keep heat to a minimum. Heat breaks hair. 4. Tie your hair up EVERY night with a satin scarf of bonnet. Cotton pulls the hair out.

  • Ms. Barbara

    I really enjoyed reading all of the posts. I am 5 and a half months into my transition. I am SOOOOOOO afraid to cut my hair. I have ROCKED the same salt-n-pepper bob for the past two or so years, and people are always complementing me on how pretty my hair is. Whenever I try to change up my style, my coworkers “bust me out” and talk about how they don’t like it and how it’s this and it’s that. That’s one of my main reasons for not doing the BC right now. I am trying to let my hair grow at least 4 inches before I cut it (I currently have about 1.5 – 2 inches).

    The reason I am going natural started with my daughter and her friends’ decisions to go natural, so I thought, why not give it a try. I always thought I had “really bad” hair until after about 2 months without relaxing it, I realized the my natural hair is actually kind of wavy/curly.

    My question: How do I get over my fear of my coworkers’, friends’, and family’s negative reactions?

  • @ Ms. Barbara – I would suggest you join a natural hair community site – you will be surrounded by other natural hair wearers, and will be able to look to them with your questions and for support. By reading other natural hair journeys/experiences you will be able to learn and gain the confidence you need in dealing with your coworkes, family and friends. I would even suggest you start your own hair diary/blog and document your experience this will not only be therapeautic for you, but will also help others in similar situations as yours.

  • Andi B

    I am 18 years old and would very much like to transition. I want to know if the few inches of new growth you get when you still have a realaxer, is what your hair texture will look like when it grow out fully?…can anyone who has transitioned tell me please?

    Like I said, after all the scalp burns and breakage, I think it would be a lot better if I just went natural, but I sometimes get told that its harder to get a job or a date because a lot of people are indifferent to our type of hair and I know I shouldn’t care what other people think, but I can’t help it, can anyone give some encouraging words?

    • Kay

      Personally, my hair went through a lot of changes when I decided to go natural. I transitioned for about 8 months and had some breakage where the new growth and permed hair met. After that, I did the big chop. It immediately looked different to me and was tighter and curlier than I thought it would be. Now, one year later, it still has a different texture than what I thought. Honestly, it was frustrating to go through so many changes and figuring out how to care for it (what products to use, how to style it, how to keep it looking fresh and moisturized, etc…) If you can afford it, it may help to go to a natural hair stylist in the beginning so that you can learn your hair. However, I did not. I did my own chop and have not been to a stylist in years even before I went natural. Don’t be discouraged though. It is beautiful, and I love it. I will never go back to relaxing! As a matter of fact, I don’t even straighten my hair. And, as I said, I LOVE IT!

    • Alex

      I did my big chop 2 months after my last “relaxer” in March 2008, so I can’t help with transitioning. But I would suggest research on products good for natural hair, styling and grooming options/tools, etc. Google and youtube, hair care forums, amazon (books) etc have a plethora information (sometimes conflicting), but a lot of it is useful. Trial and error sometimes is the best way to find out what works for you.
      I had some reservations about going natural, but I was so ready for a change. I don’t regret it. I WILL NEVER PERM MY HAIR AGAIN. I haven’t even straightened it. I love my natural hair and get compliments (from all types of ppl of various ages and races including young black men). I’m employed and dating (i went on interview w/natural hair, met my boyfriend with natural hair). Do it, you won’t regret it. It may be frustrating at times, but there are many resources and people willing to help. But the more info you get before you transition the better, easier, less stressful it will be IMO. I did research after my bc, wish I did some before hand.
      But I have to warn you. Natural hair can be addictive. Between products, playing with and experimenting, not to mention you may want to get some extra memory cards for your camera. And when people say “uh what did she do to her hair?” they really mean “Damn, that looks kinda fly. I wish I could do that”. :)

  • shaunnie

    let me start off by saying that i just made the decision to go natural last night and I am terrified of the big chop! i have been partially relaxing my hair for about 5 months meaning that i am getting it sewn in and my stylist is only relaxing the portion being left out which is more damaging than i can say! the rest of my hair is not even being processed so i need to wait for the relaxed portion to grow out but i fear that I will end up having to do the big chop because my hair is so damaged. also with the sew in it is preventing me from washing my hair correctly once a week as i cant get all the way down to my scalp and it is absolutely frustrating! i havent seen my natural texture since i was about 6 years old. I am now 22 and just tired of the stressful styles on my hair. my boyfriend was initially really against the BC but we talked about it and he said he thinks it would be best. But i just dont know if i can do it. any advice anyone? oh and by the way the article was great! im so excited to know that these forums exist because before last night i had no idea even what transitioning was! please help a frightened novice trying to stay positive about going natural! thanks girls:)