Hair Therapy: The Physical and Emotional Process of Going Natural

Thinking about going natural? Hair therapist Nikki Walton reveals the secrets to having a smooth, successful transition.

Posted on | By Nikki Walton

The process of "going natural" is highly personal and there is no right or wrong way to do it. While many opt to do the "Big Chop" – or to chop off all of their chemically treated hair at once – others choose to slowly grow out the relaxer, or "transition." The benefit of transitioning is that you get to keep your length while your natural hair grows in. Since your hair has two very different textures, breakage and shedding can become a problem. Here’s how to have a smooth, successful transition:

From This Episode:

Mirror Mirror

Avoid Heat
Excessive heat styling is dangerous as it compromises protein bonds. Using heat as a crutch while transitioning can result in an uneven curl pattern, loss of curl and breakage. Sadly, this damage is irreversible and you’ll be facing yet another transition.

Try Low Manipulation Styles
Choose styles that seamlessly blend the two textures (and don’t stress your edges!). Twist and braid-outs, pin curls, roller sets, buns and braids should be your style staples. Handle your hair gently and infrequently and remember to moisturize.

Gently Detangle
The line of demarcation is where your natural hair meets the chemically treated hair. It is a point of weakness and the source of breakage for many transitioners. For this reason, use your fingers instead of combs and brushes when detangling and styling.

Deep Condition
Your relaxed ends need protein to maintain strength and prevent breakage. I recommend monthly protein treatments and weekly moisturizing deep treatment with heat. Your hair will thank you later!

Have Patience
You’re gonna need it. The two very different textures can be overwhelming, often the reason why many women chop prematurely. And a hasty Big Chop could lead to a return to the relaxer, or months of confidence issues related to your hair.

Transitioning to natural hair is not only a physical process, but a psychological one. It takes not only information and inspiration to rock curly hair in a straight world, but loads of self-confidence as well. In most cases, you must fake it till you make it. Pretty soon, the real confidence will come in – and not only will you notice, but everyone around you will too. Here are some tips to keep you motivated on your journey. 

Be Flexible
Transitioning and natural hair is anything but predictable. I’ve been natural my entire life, and can’t get "product x" with "styling technique y" to yield the same result on Monday as it did on Saturday. This is why you must be flexible! Go with the flow and exude confidence despite the fact you may not be 100% happy with the results. No one knows you’re having a bad hair day but you! Add some bobby pins, bun it, swoop it, pomp it, whatever! Your confidence will shine through and people will know, that you know, that they know you look fly!

Be Educated
I educated myself on care methods and styling options. I became an expert at looking after my curls. It’s the lack of skill and knowledge that will send you running back to that flat iron or relaxer.

Be Vocal
Vent! Vent online or to real life curlies at a natural hair meetup. You might be surprised that your problems are not unique to you. Sometimes, just the act of talking it out and getting it off your chest can be very cathartic!  You are changing a part of your self-image so some discomfort is expected! 

Be Health Focused
Refocus your energy from the aesthetic and styling techniques to overall hair health. Trust me, everything else will fall in place when you’re working with strong, healthy hair. It’s the foundation of awesome styles! So today, if you haven’t already, incorporate the pre-poos, the deep treatments, the finger detangling ... in a few months, you’ll be surprised at what styles you can pull off!

Be Mindful
Remember your reasons for going natural. Why did you decide to transition in the first place? Don’t lose track of your intentions. Nothing worth having is easy to achieve. Also, take less stock in other people’s opinions – that includes snide remarks and compliments. It is your thoughts and feelings that count most.

Article written by Nikki Walton
Hair therapist