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If you are currently in transition from heat damaged to healthy hair, you may be wondering how long the process will take. To help us create a transition timeline, we contacted stylist and hair healer Brandie Kekoa of Be Kekoa hair studio in Southern California for her feedback. She states that it takes most of her clients “from two to three years to transition”. While this may sound (and feel) like forever, consider the following. In general, hair grows at approximately ½ of an inch per month. If you were to cut your hair at the root, when wet it would be:

  • Short crop length (six inches) at one year.
  • Medium length, hair touches the nape of neck when wet (ten inches) at one and a half years.
  • Shoulder length (twelve inches) at two years.
  • Reaching the middle of your back (sixteen inches) at two and a half years.

And to make the process seem even slower, healthy hair is going to curl up a lot more than heat damaged hair which will make it shrink when it dries. Keep this in mind if you are contemplating a big chop.

Transitioning without a big chop takes approximately the same length of time but presents you with some additional challenges, as heat damaged ends will have lost their true curl pattern and be difficult to maintain. Brandie advises readers to also be aware that weakness where the healthy hair and damaged hair meet on the hair shaft which is prone to breakage.

Her advice for trouble-free transitioning includes:

  1. For tighter curls and coils: consider protective styles such as box braids, bantu knots, flat twists, and passion twists. Passion twists are a better choice than braids, because they put less stress on the hair. Hair as short as five inches can be put into a protective style, and then hair can be added for length.
  2. For looser curlies: scrunch using a refresher product with a little bit of protein in it. “Protein,” she states, “gives curls some structure and support.” Be Refreshed-Curl Refresher Spray is a good choice for looser curls and waves because it is moisturizing without being too heavy. It can help curls keep their shape without being weighed down.

If you are going to co-wash try to use a product that cleans well in addition to providing your hair with needed moisture. Be Clean Cleansing Conditioner has extra cleansing agents.

Clarify! Often, curlies apply conditioner on top of conditioner on top of conditioner. All of this builds up and is detrimental to hair and scalp health, and over time can weaken hair follicles

Curlies should clarify at least once per month. Healthy hair is about balance. While it needs moisture, it needs cleansing, too. Just like you would not bathe in lotion, you would not want to overload your scalp with moisturizers without cleansing it as needed. Be Clair Clarifying Shampoo is extremely gentle, yet it will rid your hair and scalp of build-up.

The following timeline will help you to visualize heat damage recovery from start to finish, and provide you with some additional pointers to help you along the way.

Month 1:

  • Determine your current curl pattern(s), density, and porosity. This will help you shop for products. Revisit periodically as these variables change.
  • Eliminate shampoos, conditioners, and stylers that contain sulfates, parabens, drying alcohols, and silicones that are not water-soluble. Replace them with products that will nurture your curls and aid in healthy hair growth. Work them into a wash routine that incorporates gentle cleansing and clarifying. In addition to the Be Kekoa products above, some shampoos that work well for curl patterns in transition are:
  • Find a conditioner that will give your hair moisture without being overly heavy. Even if you are co-washing on a wash day, you may need a conditioner as well. Some great picks are:
  • Incorporate a leave-in conditioner into your regimen. While everyone’s product choices are going to be different, most of us benefit from leave-in conditioners. Naturally Curly Community favorites include:
  • If you are detangling your hair dry, or combing through it from top to bottom when it is wet, discontinue those practices. Instead, gently detangle using your fingers. If you need to use a wide-toothed comb, use it sparingly, and work from the ends up.
  • Abandon those plush terry cloth towels. Instead, scrunch out excess moisture from your hair with a microfiber towel or a cotton tee-shirt.
  • If you regularly use heat tools, switch to a dryer with diffuser that has a cool setting so that you do not damage your burgeoning curls. Here is a video by Curly Penny on how to use the Devafuser dryer.
  • Start sleeping on satin or silk pillowcases. Cotton ones will suck all the moisture out of your hair. You may also want to use a satin sleep cap.
  • Adopt a refresh routine.
  • Begin keeping a curl journal. Jot down the products that work well for you. Look at the labels to see what the first 5-6 ingredients are and make a list of them. Likewise, note products that your hair dislikes and write down the top 5-6 ingredients they contain. Note any scalp reactions, redness, dry hair, overly frizzy hair, etc. Some curlies have reactions to certain ingredients like propylene glycol, or are protein-sensitive, or have hair that frizzes when humectants like glycerin are used. For more tips on this, click here.
  • Experiment with different updos or protective styles that work with your curl pattern. If you are encouraging your natural curl formation, get serious about training your curls with scrunching and shingling.
  • Do regular deep conditioning treatments with a masque or conditioner that will provide deep hydration. Many salons offer this service as part of a steaming treatment that opens up the cuticle with warm steam so that the masque can work its way into the hair shaft. This is followed by a blast of cold hair that seals and smooths the cuticle. I had this done at Be Kekoa with Be Lola Deep Hydration Masque, and my hair was soft and moisturized for days. It also gave me incredible curl definition which kept my curls intact. Below are images depicting the effect of the steaming treatment on transitioning hair.

If you do not have access to a salon that offers a steaming treatment, and want to boost the power of your deep conditioning masque while reducing the time it takes to work its magic, use a Hot Head.

When deep conditioning your hair at home, do not over-condition it which can lead to hygral fatigue. With dry ends, it may be tempting to deep condition every few days, but that would likely be more than your hair needs for its optimal health. Deep conditioning once or twice a month is a good rule of thumb for many curlies. Regardless of the frequency at which you deep condition, do not leave the conditioner on your hair more than the prescribed length of time, and make sure to keep it off of your roots.

Month 6:Your hair will likely be at an awkward stage with a visible level of new growth. Ideally, you will have had a few trims within the first six-months of your curl journey. If you are growing out a big chop, you may want to consider getting a fresh new cut that works for the longer length of your hair.

Depending on the time of the year that you started your curl journey, you will likely need to switch up your regimen for the change of seasons. For example, if you began in humid July, six months later, frigid, dry January will require products with extra moisture.

One year:You should now have a good idea of how your hair behaves in different seasons, and have regimens for the dry and humid months of the year. If you have been shingling, you will find that your curls are growing in the right direction without added work.

Two to three years:This is the usual length of time that transitioning takes. This does not mean that your curls do not have any more growing to do or that you will not require additional trims to get you hair to its final state, but this benchmark will let you see your crown in all its glory.

Below are some photos showing the transition from heat damaged to transitioned hair:

How long did it take you to transition? Let us know in the comments. Click here for more transitioning tips.