Personally, I’ve never been one to do the whole transition thing. When it came time for me to go from relaxed hair to my natural texture, some clippers came out, my head was shaved bald and the process was done. But I do have quite a few people in my world who did go the transition route. When I asked them why they didn’t just take the TWA plunge like I did, what most of them told me was that while they were ready (or at least semi-ready) to let their hair chemicals go, what wasn’t up for negotiation was losing length. And so, transition was the compromise. I totally get that.
Image Source: @naturallycurly, of @jadenikaylah
What they discovered (mostly the hard way) was when your hair is in the process of going from one texture to another, in many ways, it’s at its most fragile. This means that if it’s not handled with extra tender loving care, you could look up and realize that doing “the big chop” may have been the better bet.
Hey, I’m not telling you all of this to scare you. I’m just giving you the heads up that transitioning requires quite a bit of forethought and effort in order for you to maintain the length you do have and to eventually gain a few more inches.
If that’s exactly what you want but, it seems like no matter what you do, hair breakage abounds, it’s probably due to one or more of the following things. The good news is, now that you know, you can get your transitioning tresses back on track.
You don’t get enough trims. Most of us have a really weird relationship with hair shears. There are plenty of blogs, articles and YouTube videos that let us know that hair health requires hair trimming, but there is still something in the back of our minds that would rather hold onto dry straggly ends than to cut them off. And when transitioning is going on, letting hair go is even more difficult! But here’s the deal—if you don’t get regular trims (every six weeks or so), your hair is definitely gonna break off at some point because having two extreme textures of hair at one time typically results in breakage. For the record? Trimming is not the issue. Getting a stylist who knows the difference between trimming and cutting is. For this very reason, choose your stylist wisely.
You manipulate your hair too much. Even when our hair is just the way that we want it to be, it’s pretty hard to keep our hands out of it. Trust me, I know. But when you’re in the process of going from chemically-straight to naturally curly, it’s important to accept that 1) sometimes there are gonna be bad hair days; 2) you’re gonna notice “poofiness” at the roots (and that’s perfectly normal) and 3) your hair is not gonna look like it used to because it’s in the process of becoming a totally different texture. On the days when dealing with the transition is too much to bear, put the styling tools down and, put on a (non-wool) hat, wrap your hair up in a scarf—or, even better, try a protective style. This actually brings me to my next point.
You leave your protective styles in too long. Protective styles are dope. I currently have a head full of medium-sized box braids as we speak. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because braids, twists, Bantu knots or even a wig or weave is making the whole transition process easier for you that you need to pretend that it’s your actual hair. While you’re transitioning, your scalp and hair need to breathe, be pampered and not have the tension of faux hair and extensions all of the time. If you’re not removing your protective styles every 6-8 weeks (max) and then giving your own hair a 1-2 week break before getting a new one, sorry to tell you this, but your protective style is doing you more harm than good.
You don’t deep condition enough. Us curly girls? Our hair is always gonna need moisture. That’s a fact. Plus, if you’re serious about length retention, something that should be a part of your weekly hair routine is deep conditioning. This is especially the case if you’re in the middle of transitioning because if there’s one thing that will help to reduce breakage as you go from one texture of hair to another it’s moisture that will penetrate deeply into your hair cuticles and, ultimately, your hair shaft. If you’d like some recommendations on which deep conditioners work best, we’ve got a few right here. Oh, and if your hair is feeling mushy and lifeless, it might be because you’ve been over-conditioning it. The remedy? A protein treatment.
You don’t detangle properly. If you don’t retain anything else from this article, please hold on and hold on tight to this one! Even though a lot of us go into complete denial of what I’m about to say, relaxed hair is hair that’s in a damaged state (if you don’t believe me, check out this study). This means that, off top, you have to be extra careful while handling it. Guess what? So is the case with natural hair. Although it is healthy hair, don’t think that just because your curls might be extra tight that they can take any kind of treatment that you give it. So, in between handling damaged hair and fragile healthy hair 1) there are bound to be tangles and 2) you need to be super-duper careful when you’re trying to get them out. If you go slowly and work from the bottom up, a wide-toothed comb may work. But honestly, probably your best bet is going to be your fingers as much as possible. That way, you’ll feel how much pressure to apply and where.
You apply too much heat. I’m not the person who says that heat is the devil when it comes to natural hair. I’m actually someone who’s seen more length retention since I decided to blow my hair out (with low heat and with heat protectant) on wash days and then braid it up in between. But what I will say is if you don’t have a really good dryer (read more about that here and here) and if you don’t make sure to take the “less is more” approach to heat, breakage will abound. During the transitioning phase, you’re gonna be tempted to use heat—especially flat irons—a lot to make your hair appear all one texture, but try and fight the urge. The last thing that you want to do is end up with irrevocable heat damage to your natural hair which would result in you having to cut it all off and start all over. Ouch.
You’re not taking your vitamins. As your hair is going from one texture to another, your hair follicles are going to need all of the nutrients they can get. Vitamin A is great for cell growth. Vitamin B strengthens hair follicles. Vitamin C fights off free radicals. Vitamin D helps to reduce the chances of experiencing alopecia. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is proven to improve hair growth. If you’re wondering what kind of herbs aid in hair health and growth, we’ve got a comprehensive list here. Oh, and don’t forget water—your hair and scalp always need plenty of that!
Again, hair that’s in the middle of transitioning tends to be hair that’s in its most fragile state. So, I’m not saying that, even with these applied tips, you won’t see a bit of breakage from time to time. But what I can assure you is if you do these things regularly, the season of transition will go by quicker, length retention will happen faster and not regretting your choice will be so much easier.
Check out these articles on transitioning as well!