Two years ago I did not process my hair for close to a year. I had two textures dealing with, my real natural curly hair and relaxed hair. Everyone wondered why I did not go to the hairdresser to get it relaxed but the truth is I was toying with the idea of going natural completely and I was learning about my two textures in the process. For newbies, transitioning is moving from relaxed to natural hair. Most persons who do a long stretch with relaxed hair are technically transitioning and those persons who are tired of relaxed hair and want to wear their own hair are definitely transitioning.
Many persons including myself shudder to think of getting the big chop, that is, cutting off all the relaxed hair and starting afresh. So transitioning in this case is the only option because there is no option for getting rid of the relaxed part of your hair but to cut it off. Relaxed hair cannot revert to natural hair.
While transitioning you will notice that your real curly hair is stronger than the relaxed portion and this demarcation will create a problem on your head if you do not know how to handle it. I consider myself a veteran these days in handling the two hair textures because I do long stretches between my relaxers. On my long year and a half stretch between relaxers, my hair did not break or shed excessively. Here’s what I did:
Keep Hair Moisturized.
Yeah, yeah we have heard this all before. Moisture is key, blah blah…Hold a sec, if you believed moisture was key when you had your hair relaxed, when you have two hair textures it is another story. Some days I found myself moisturizing my hair and one part of my hair responded better to the moisture than the other. It was a delicate balancing act for me and it may be the same for you too. What I found is that my natural hair responds better to certain oils than my relaxed hair. So, while olive oil as a sealant reacted better to my natural hair, my relaxed ends hated it. I came up with a compromise with castor oil. I washed my hair twice per week with conditioner and then I sealed in the lovely moisture with castor oil. Both my textures loved it, it took a while for me to find the perfect moisturizing combo which was really condition wash and then seal while hair is damp with natural oil, paying close attention to the demarcation line.
No Petroleum, Sulfate or Mineral Oil
This is the key. The one big thing that will cut down on breakage when you are transitioning. These ingredients are a big no-no on a regular basis. However, when transitioning they are especially not to be used. Sulfates can be found in shampoos (the thing that gives shampoo the suds), petroleum and mineral oil can be found in hair grease. If they are in the top five ingredients in any hair product, don’t use it. Ingredients are generally listed in order of activity, so look closely at your product label before you buy anything while you are transitioning. Some great alternatives for shampooing is–condition washing, add some baking soda to your conditioner and wash your scalp with it. Notice I did not say hair, the hair can be washed by default. Apply the paste to the scalp and massage it in. You can do a final rinse with apple cider vinegar; it softens hair and makes it supple. This can be done up to three times per week to keep your hair nicely washed and conditioned. If, like me, you are wary of excess manipulation of hair, then once per week is fine to wash, especially if you are wearing a curly hair style. Put a tea rinse (like mint) in a bottle and spray your hair when it needs to be refreshed and then seal with an oil.
Forget about using heat to dry your hair or to style your hair. When transitioning do not try to straighten your natural hair to look like your relaxed hair, this will create problems. Your hair won’t like it and it will break. I know that other persons have done it but if you are transitioning for the long haul and you don’t want breakage then you need to forget about heat. This means no hot combs, flat irons, blow dryers or other heat appliances. Besides, you are transitioning so that you can experience your natural curly hair in all its glory, the best styles for your hair at this point should be curly hair styles. Air drying your hair whether it is relaxed or natural will give the hair time to absorb moisture and to be more supple.
Have you ever really considered how persons with dreadlocks or sister locks can have long hair in a matter of months while your un-loc’ed head just won’t grow? Well, it all has to do with manipulation of the strands and you can achieve a good amount of growth and less or no breakage while transitioning with low manipulation hair styles. I strongly suggest wearing your own hair and not to add braids or weaves while transitioning, too many persons wear braids and then complain of alopecia (hair loss) after they are taken out. Low manipulation styles can include, curly styles that you do not have to comb out in the week, ‘bunning’ hair, cornrow or twists. You don’t have to let out corn row or twists until the day before you wash your hair so that you can rock a curly hair style at the end of the week and then wash it and comb it and do it all over again. The key to these styles is not to do them too tight and to moisturize the hair thoroughly before you do them.
There is an art to detangling your two hair textures that you can use to your hair advantage, detangle the ends first. The ends are the weakest/driest and this is especially so when you have the two hair textures. Part your hair in four sections and start detangling from the ends and work your way up to the root of your hair. Use a wide tooth seamless comb. I know some persons who are married to their medium sized comb with the grooves at the bottom. Never marry your comb. There is always something better and bigger at Walmart or any retail or beauty supplies store. I got my comb for 99 cents. I ended up buying one each for my friends who were married to their combs that were causing their hair to break overtime. Invest in a proper comb while transitioning, it is very important and even when you are tempted to brush down the ‘buffy’ part of your natural hair resist. Instead, dampen your hair and then seal. Catch it up and tie it down with a silk scarf. It will lay flat after that. Also remember if at all possible detangle your hair when it is wet and has the delicious conditioner clinging to your strands. Do not agitate the hair when doing the final rinse. Instead, you can allow the water to flow freely through your strands.
Hair grows at a rate of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch per month. If you want to get rid of your relaxed ends while maintaining length you may consider, cutting off the corresponding relaxed ends every month. This means your hair will not be looking any longer or shorter either but you will slowly be getting rid of the relaxed part of your hair. After a while when your hair has grown to about eight inches of growth you will realize that the relaxed hair just looks odd, straight and lank compared to your plush new hair growth. Eight inches of natural hair is not a bad length to completely remove the relaxed part of your hair. This will take approximately 16 months to transition to a reasonable length. That is of course up to you.
I know that the first inclination many persons have when they are attempting to do anything with hair is to find out what products to get to achieve certain results. Start thinking natural and organic. Since you are transitioning, this is the best advice for your natural hair anyway, so you would be starting a great practice for when your hair is unprocessed. My great grandmother’s grandmother arrived in Jamaica as a slave from Africa. She had no access to fancy hair products yet, she had long, kinky hair almost to her waist. She maintained her locks by using what she could from the land. She used her coconuts and castor oil and mint and sorrel tea and garlic and pepper. Not a hairdresser or fancy hair product was in sight. The truth is, the closer to nature we go for our ingredients, the better off our hair will be. Try making your own hair recipes or using your organic food products to get best results for your hair. As my grandmother loves to say, ‘nature has a remedy for all ills’. This is also true for our hair.