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FEATURES Apr 22 2013 5:26PM

The Four Stages of Transitioning to Natural Hair

by Chime Edwards


THE LOST STAGE:  You've made the decision to go natural, now what? Most naturals feel lost during this phase. You have let go of the chemical relaxer and committed to start a new journey that embraces your natural hair texture. This can be challenging because you must learn to care for a hair type that you are unfamiliar with. On your quest to natural hair, it is best that you keep this in mind during those moments of frustration.  This is all new for you, so it will take time to adjust and learn the ropes.

First, find a go-to book or website like TransitoningMovement.com that you can use as a point of reference. Everyone needs a guide, and if you attempt to transition alone without any knowledge prior to starting your journey, you may end up ugly crying a bucket full of tears every day until you Big Chop. Next, decide how you are going to transition. Are you going to utilize weave, braids or style your own hair? Then choose the products you will use. Most women over-think this. It is okay to use over-the-counter products. A shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner and an oil are the main hair products you will need to keep your hair healthy. Don't get caught up in finding the perfect products or only using specific brands. If you do, you may easily become a product junkie and, after an intervention, quickly shipped off to Product Junkies Anonymous.

"WEIRD HAIR" STAGE: At this point you've been transitioning for a while now and more and more new growth is showing. People are even beginning to notice and have begun to inquire about what's going on with your hair. Most likely you have "weird hair" and must find a style that blends the new growth with the relaxed ends. This is very challenging, especially if you aren't closely caring for your hair; it can easily look like an old, rained-on dog's coat or a bird's nest, as my mom liked to call it. This can trigger the urge to flat iron your hair. You must realize that you're not going to be able to style your hair the same way you did when you had a relaxer. You may have some bad-hair days, but you will survive—hats and hair accessories become your new best friends. Don't worry, this phase won't last forever.

COASTING STAGE: You've found styles that work and have a routine down, but the anticipation is killing you! You just want to be fully natural—already. Usually, during this phase, transitioners are itching to have the relaxer gone, but they still desire to wait in order to gain more length. I shared the same feelings around the year and half mark of my transition. My goal was to wait two years, but I wanted to see what my natural hair looked like so badly, and I was sick of transitioning. But what helped me was the fact that I knew my hair had not yet reached a length that I was comfortable with. I witnessed my friends'  Big Chop and how they hated the length so I didn't want to experience that same trauma. I imagined myself looking like a one-year-old baby boy before his first haircut and said, "You need to wait." Stay focused on your goal and practice patience; nine times out of 10 if you Big Chop earlier than your set goal, you'll wish you would have waited. 

PREPARING TO BIG CHOP: You must prepare yourself mentally for this last stage. Your expectations should be realistic. On second thought, try not to have any expectations for your hair. Don't attempt to imagine what your texture will look like or what your shrinkage percentage may be. This will save you from being disappointed in the end. If your hair doesn't live up to the expectations you have, you'll likely end up disliking your natural hair and wishing you had someone else's mane. I always say this and it sounds a bit cliché, but going natural is all about excepting the hair that God has given you, no matter how kinky or curl-less it is.

True enough, the transition to natural can be a trying journey, but it is well worth it. Transitioning is most definitely a labor of love, but it gives you time to connect with your new texture, form a love for kinks and curls and gradually learn how to care for your new hair. Transitioning is kinda like giving birth.  In the midst of labor, you hate every second of it, but once you see your baby, the pain you just experienced doesn't compare to the prize. All in all, it's worth it in the end.

Transitioners, what stage do you think you're currently in?


Chime Edwards (HairCrush)





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