May 22, 2012

It's Only Natural..."The Big Chop and Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair"

The one thing I hear from anyone contemplating on going natural is this..."I would love too, but I don't want to cut off all my hair" or "I would go natural, but it seems like a lot of work" or my all time favorite..."I would, but I don't think I would look good with natural hair".  It is also a the fear of a lot of women that if you decide to go natural then it would mean an automatic bald head. In some cases, this is the route that women choose in order for an easy transition into going natural. No fuss, just going for the big chop. I always admired the decision  and I did something similar myself, but just not quite to the point of an actual big chop. I noticed my hair literally falling out due to stress (induced by the misery that can come from finals week in college) and realized that walking around with stringy hair would only make me look crazy. So I started wearing microbraids. I wore them for about 2 months and when I took them out, I stared long and hard at the mess that was on top of my head. I then took a pair of scissors and went to it. I chopped and chopped until I had about two inches of hair left and wore a scarf until I could get my hair braided again. I put in kinky twists for the remainder of my transition period and until my hair grew to a point where I wanted to wear it out freely.

My Kinky Twists in 2007

I wasn't as sure of myself or my hair back then as I am now or I would have just gone through with wearing my hair short and free, but alas, I can't turn back the hands of time. I can however, understand the questions and uncertainty of leaving the world of relaxers to go au natural. When you have become used to wearing your hair chemically straightened, the notion of starting fresh and kinky-curly can be a bit of a shock. We have little understanding of taking care of our natural hair the longer our hair has been exposed to relaxing. The commitment of transitioning is one that you have to stick with and believe in. The hardest part is acknowledging, starting and finding the right process for you. Once that is done, the rest should hopefully flow easily and with less hesitation. Understanding the options that are available to make the journey a pleasant one is important. Here is a list of some style options that may help with transitioning from relaxed to natural hair:

Solange Knowles with her infamous big chop
  • The Big Chop:  The Big Chop is the process of cutting off all relaxed hair and starting with a short crop. This is the fastest way of achieving natural hair, although it may not be the easiest on many women's self-esteem. A complaint that women have is the fear of looking too masculine with a freshly cropped cut (it was a fear of mine as well, which is why I wore the kinky twists. I was scared of being mistaken for my brother...). My advise for this is to get a cut that has tapered sides and a little bit of length on top.
If the big chop is too drastic for you, growing out your relaxer the other great alternative and there are many ways to do so.

  • Twists and braids extensions: Wearing twists and braids is a great way to transition to natural hair. The extensions can be worn as your hair is growing out the relaxer. 
  • Weaves: Just remember to take care of your hair underneath to ensure healthy hair growth.
  • Wigs: Just as with wearing weaves, remember to take care of your hair underneath.
  • Twist Outs: This form of transitioning is a terrific way to blend the texture of your new growth and your relaxed hair. 
  • Flat Twists and Cornrows: A great way to camouflage new growth and protecting them at the same time.
  • Curling Iron/ Flat Iron/ Straightening Combs: these techniques are used when trying to make the new growth look and blend in with the relaxed hair. To me, this can be tricky and a risk to your fragile new growth. Heat can be very damaging and you can sadly start "training" your hair to stay straight, ruining the curl pattern and overall health of your strands. If you choose to use heat during your transition, try to use it sparingly and at a low setting to protect the new growth.
These techniques can help ease you and your hair into being natural. The key to all of this is to moisturize your hair. During this process, the difference in hair texture can leave the strands dry, so remembering to moisturize is important. There may be times when you may be tempted to give up and relax your strands again or this may be your second, third or fourth time transitioning, but if you stick with it, the results will make for a journey well worth it.

Since going natural is a process that many women have embraced, there are many products that are designed for transitioning hair. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Carol's Daughter has a 3 step transitioning kit that is available for pre-order, that is said to help with shedding, moisture and attaining a healthy scalp.

Kinky Curly products such as the Knot Today can help to detangle and moisturize the new growth and relaxed strands. The products may not be specifically for transitioning hair only, but the Knot Today has always been a Godsend.

And finally, Shea Moisture also has a transition kit that is great with helping the strands stay healthy and strong.

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