There are two ways to begin your natural hair journey: a big chop or a more gradual transition.
A big chop is like diving headfirst into the deep end of the pool. You have to cut off all of your chemically-treated hair –and potentially all of your length – all at once. If you’d rather dip your toe into the water and avoid any big chop mistakes you might prefer to slowly transition from relaxed to natural hair.
The transitioning process can last a few months to over a year. And as your healthy hair journey continues, you’ll learn what works for your unique texture. To help make the process easier, we’ve put together this guide on how to transition to natural hair.
The Basics of Transitioning Your Hair
So, how do you start transitioning to natural hair?
You simply allow your natural hair texture to grow out without a chemical processor, like a relaxer, Keratin Treatment, Brazilian straightening or perm. As time goes on, you’ll trim the relaxed ends, eventually ending up with an all-natural texture.
Choosing this path comes with several benefits. For example:
- Length retention – A big chop can leave you with instant healthy hair, but it may result in a few less inches of hair than before. If you're someone who prefers longer locks, then transitioning is a definite solution.
- Styling versatility – There are so many hairstyles for transitioning hair. Transitioning hair can be rocked in a wide variety of styles while you wait. Go from Bantu knots one week to finger coils the next. The possibilities are endless as you get to know your coils and curls.
- Healthy, hydrated hair – The right curly hair products + little to no heat styling = healthy and hydrated hair. It's simple math!
Now that you know how to transition to natural hair, you’re probably curious about how your once relaxed hair vs natural hair will progress over time.
The Stages of Transitioning Hair
Your natural hair journey can be a source of empowerment, but it’s okay to feel a little uncertain at the beginning. If you’ve been using relaxers for a while now, then going 100% natural may feel like unfamiliar territory.
Knowing what to expect will give you that extra boost of confidence and assurance as your hair goes through different stages of growth. Here are the transitioning hair stages:1
- One month to three months – You’ll have a little new growth, so this is a great time for experimentation and trying out new curly hair treatment products.
- Four months to half a year – Protective styles are your hair’s best friend. The line between your relaxed and natural hair may become more apparent. At this stage, incorporating extra nourishing hair care products will be essential for strengthening your natural locks.
- Six months to a year – Regular trims and avoidance of heat styling tools will help to keep split ends and single-strand knots at bay.
At the one-year mark on your journey, you may start to see some significant length. Those with tight, bouncy coils may see more length when their hair is stretched. If you’re still transitioning at this point, a consistent wash-day routine will maintain your hair’s natural bounce.
Next, we’ll dive into our favorite tips and tricks for keeping your hair happy and hydrated at every stage of the journey.
Tip #1: Deep Condition Once a Week
Naturals swear by their deep conditioner’s hydrating and curl-defining powers, and for a good reason. A quality deep conditioner or product like our Transition Mask can help hair retain key nutrients and stay moisturized between wash days. Once you develop a solid and consistent routine, you can kiss your hair’s dry spells goodbye.
Generally, deep conditioning once a week with an ultra-nourishing product like PATTERN’s Heavy Conditioner is enough to get the job done. But your ideal routine depends on your schedule. If once every two weeks or once a month works better, then honor that. Just keep in mind that anything more than once a week may be too much of a good time.
The best judge of what your hair needs is your hair. So, listen to your coils and curls for when they need some TLC.
How Often Should You Wash Transitioning Hair?
Similar to your deep condition routine, how often you wash your transitioning hair depends on your schedule and your hair needs.
Washing once every two weeks and co-washing once a week works for some. But, others may prefer using a shampoo, like our Clarifying Shampoo, once a week. The start of your journey is the best time to experiment with your routines to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Tip #2: Detangle with Care
Detangling hair with two textures will require patience. The line of demarcation between them is fragile and can break if you’re not careful. But, with the right techniques and products, you’ll be a detangling professional.
So, what do you need to detangle?2
- A comb, like PATTERN’s Wide Tooth Comb or Hair Pick
- A hydrating conditioner with maximum slippage such as PATTERN’s Leave-In Conditioner
- A spray bottle of water
Your transitioning hair is easier to manipulate and detangle when wet—so a spray bottle like our Mist Spray Bottle is perfect for dampening your hair. Give it a spritz, then work in small sections and brush from the tips to the roots. This guarantees that you don’t miss any knots or tangles.
Is Shedding Normal?
After a few washes, you may notice that your ends are thinner, and there’s significant shedding. Before you panic, take a deep breath. It’s all a part of the process.
It’s normal for transitioners to experience a bit of shedding and breakage. Transitioning hair is more fragile, especially after your new growth reaches a certain length. But, if you’re worried about your hair health, here are some ways to prevent further breakage:
- Wrap your hair at night or sleep on a silk pillowcase.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your hair hydrated.
- Be mindful of your hair’s line of demarcation, the weakest point of your locks.
- Keep your protective styles in for no more than six to eight weeks at a time.
- Give your hair a break in between protective styles.
There may be some shedding-heavy days along this journey. But, the overall reward is learning more about your natural texture and watching your curls and coils flourish.
Tip #3: Cut Back on Heat Styling
We’ve mentioned that you should avoid heat styling a few times already. Why?
Several inches of new growth later, your transitioning hair may be too fragile to handle heat styling tools like flat irons and blow dryers as it did before. These tools can dry your hair out or leave you with heat damage before you’ve even had the chance to experience your natural texture.
If you enjoy a sleek silk press or want a blow-dried look, you may be wondering how to prevent your transitioning hair from getting heat damage. For starters:3
- Spray your hair with a heat protectant before using flat irons or other heat styling tools.
- Rinse your transitioning hair under cool water to seal your hair’s cuticle.
- Dry your hair with a microfiber towel to help speed up the process.
- Keep the blow dryer at least five inches away from your hair.
Sometimes, heat styling is necessary to achieve the desired look. However, with the right practices and styling products, you can rock your desired look without sacrificing your hair’s health.
Tip #4: Seal in Moisture with the LOC Method
Moisture, moisture, moisture! When you keep your locks moisturized, your hair maintains key nutrients it needs for overall health. Plus, hydration helps prevent split ends and single strand knots. ‘
So, how do you ensure your hair stays moisturized even in the coldest of climates? You may have seen the term LOC method tossed around the natural hair community in connection to moisturizing your hair. But, what does it stand for?
This acronym ultimately spells out the order in which to apply products to your hair for maximum hydration. Another variation is the LCO, where you apply your cream before your oil. Feel free to choose the method that best agrees with your hair’s porosity and texture.
Tip #5: Trim Your Ends Regularly
Last but not least, trim your ends.
But, how often should you trim your transitioning hair? The answer to that is up to you as long as it’s on a consistent schedule. But, most professionals recommend you trim half an inch of hair every two to three months to maintain a healthy look and feel.
Best practice is to trim your ends based on your personal hair and length goals.
Transition to Natural Hair Smoothly with PATTERN
Transitioning to natural hair requires patience and dedication. But the reward of healthy, juicy curls and coils is well worth the wait.
At PATTERN, our products are here to make that transition a little smoother. We formulate our products to guarantee your hair gets the hydration and nutrients it needs for a successful transition. For example, our new treatment collection includes a rice water-infused Treatment Mask that strengthens your strands and curls your coils. Our Scalp Serum treats your hair at the roots for a fresh, calm feel thanks to a mix of lavender, rosemary, and peppermint.
Give your new journey the best possible start with PATTERN hair care.
- Samaroo, Jacqueline. "Transitioning Hair: Its Stages and 12 Helpful Natural Hair Journey Tips." Curly Nikki. https://www.curlynikki.com/2021/12/transitioning-hair-journey-stages.html
- Perkins, Sabrina. "How to Detangle Your Transitioning Hair." Naturally Curly. 25 August, 2015. https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/transitioning/how-to-detangle-your-transitioning-hair-si
- Watson, Kathryin. "How to Treat Heat-Damaged Hair Without Cutting It." Healthline. 23 September, 2019.