gray hair

Going gray while transitioning to natural curls can require a long grow out period.

Going gray at the same time you're transitioning to natural hair from chemical straighteners seems like a no-brainer. Both require a long grow out period, with multiple trims along the way to the final reveal. So what’s the catch?

Going Gray and Natural Can Be Stressful

A dual detox from relaxers and color to gray hair and natural texture is one of the most challenging transition journeys you can take. This is especially true for ultra-curly 3c, 4a and 4b textures. It is an adventure that will change the way you see yourself and the way you think others see you. Obstacles like dry hair, breakage, hair loss and more cause many women who start the journey to become discouraged and want to relax again. But chemical straighteners won’t help and can cause even more thinning, dryness and breakage.

Take heart, double transitioners! If your hair has had it with the double chemical whammy of color and relaxing, you can bring it to optimum health with these tips and make your double down transition a win-win.

Why Does Gray Hair Feel and Act Differently?

Hair texture changes when it loses color. You may find your grays are more wiry or coarse. Gray hair is more susceptible to dryness and breakage, which can be caused by decreased moisture levels in the hair, tension between the new and old growth, or both. And if you are going gray during perimenopause and experiencing thinning or breaking hair, hormone loss or change in thyroid levels can be the culprits.

Rules for a Healthy Double Transition

The first rule of going gray? Your hair needs a lot more moisture than any other color. Eliminating harsh cleansers and products with stripping power is the first major step to healthier looking, moisturized, more supple gray hair.

1. Give your hair moisture, moisture, moisture.

If you have been bumping along using the same products you did on your relaxed hair, change your hair routine to one that nurtures gray hair. Do it now. Do not wait. Do not sleep on it. Take these protective steps:

2. Take strain off your strands -- big chop now, not later.

Want to minimizing breakage? Cut off those relaxed ends now! What are they, keepsakes? No matter how careful you are, the point at which relaxed hair turns natural is where much breakage occurs. Letting the natural growth run free without fighting for dominance with relaxed ends will help stop breakage in its tracks.

If you decide not to chop and wear a bun, consider braiding, twisting or bantu knotting instead. Pulling the hair back stresses the hairline and can cause breakage at the binding point. Protect the hair when sleeping with a silk or satin pillowcase.

3. Stop treating hair like laundry!

Eliminate shampoo, especially any shampoo with laurel or laureth sulfates. You may as well wash your hair with Tide or Dawn; that is how harsh these shampoos are. Women with stick straight hair who need to control the amount of sebum coming down the hair from their scalps can use them. We ultra-curly 4a and 4b women have no such problem -- the first coil or kink stops the sebum in its tracks, resulting in dry brittle strands. Instead, use light conditioners to cleanse the scalp and hair.

gray hair

Eliminate shampoos containing sulfates.

4. Eliminate products that indelibly coat the hair.

Eliminate conditioning and styling products with silicone, heavy waxes, mineral oil or paraffin. That means most products in the Ethnic Hair section at the drugstore whose first or second ingredients are mineral oil. Follow a no shampoo method, and after 2 to 4 weeks you will start to notice the difference.

5. Let your clean, uncoated hair soak up moisturizing conditioner goodness.

Splurge on rich, moisturizing, detangling conditioners and deep conditioners with balanced moisture and protein and use with every wash to restore gloss and shine to your gray hair. Condition often with completely water-soluble conditioners and leave-ins. Cool water rinse, leaving some conditioner in, or add some back after the rinse. Then “seal” that conditioner in hair with natural oils, butters and soft gels.

If you can go a day or two without re-cleansing, maintain softness and moisture on your dry hair with a small amount of product like Devacurl Set it Free or Qhemet Burdock Root Butter Cream.

6. Treat your hair from the inside out.

The second rule of going gray is to improve the health of your hair from the inside out. Effective treatment starts within your body. A medical check-up, exercise, good nutrition, vitamins and mineral supplements will all help enhance the look and feel of your gray, natural, curls, coils and kinks.

As women age and enter perimenopause, there is more going on than just the hair turning gray. Our hormone levels -- the building blocks that regulate almost every function of our bodies -- drop drastically and continue to drop throughout and after perimenopause. This can cause the hair to thin -- along with mental fuzziness, breast pain, weight retention, digestive and bowel issues, food cravings, migraines, drier and less elastic skin, lowered sex drive, vaginal dryness, interrupted sleep cycles, hot flashes, night sweats and more.

The good news is that hair loss due to decreased hormones is usually temporary, especially if you modify your diet and lifestyle to increase hormone consumption and improve circulation.

7. Get a check-up that includes testing hormone and thyroid levels

Get a thorough medical checkup with an endocrinologist, gynecologist or hormone specialist who understands the issues aging women face and can recommend several options to treat perimenopausal as well as possible thyroid symptoms, which also cause hair loss. Many doctors just think menopause is our cross to bear. Back away from those doctors quickly.

8. Add nutritional supplements.

Eat foods containing phytoestrogens, cruciferous vegetables, and soy isoflavones. Because there are many healthy hair benefits of Omega 3, you should take supplements containing Omega-3s and magnesium, as well as probiotics.

With knowledge, determination, and care, your transition to natural hair and gray, curly locks can be a beautiful one.