Transitioning to natural hair after years of relaxing or straightening can be a very difficult task! Suddenly putting down the heat tools and relaxers pushes you to either “big chop” all of your damaged hair off or slowly grow out the damaged/relaxed hair you once loved and start from scratch, learning to effectively love and care for your natural hair!

It took me about two years to completely transition, with just two haircuts in between. Here is my pre-transition hair:

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But one year in and my curls looked defined, moisturized, and healthy! I just needed to get rid of the straighter/coloured ends and achieve more volume.

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Everyone’s head of hair is different, so let's see what a year-long natural hair journey looks like for other curlies. I have spoken to eight women who have been through this experience successfully!

Julie

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One year in to my journey, I was both surprised and pleased with the progress I’d made. Not only in terms of the health and condition of my hair, but I was also pleased with the growth too. I always knew I was making progress, but I didn’t really know how much until I compared the two pictures.

I’d been using relaxer for eight years prior to going natural, so I just continued to follow the same routine. I wasn’t tempted at all to go back! I’d been relaxed most of my life and had a successful relaxed hair journey, so I felt I’d achieved what I set out to do. As for length, it has taken me some time to adjust, especially going from long relaxed hair to short natural hair, but I’m used to my length now and trying to embrace the shrinkage too.

Shirelle

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My hair has started to thicken up a bit after a year and has started growing. I still didn't like the length that much so had it tied up a lot. I never got tempted to relax it because my hair stays pretty straight anyway but I was more tempted to straighten it because my length felt longer. I still felt like it wasn't a nice a nice length to wear down and curly because of shrinkage.

Candi

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I have always been natural but hid behind clip-in hair and ponytails, and straightening my hair. I was very tempted at the beginning to go back to wearing clip-in ponytails and straightening my hair because I expected to see results instantly and that is just not how it works.

A year on and I’ve seen a huge difference in my hair. My natural hair journey has also been a self-discovery journey. My hair is part of my personality, and my confidence has grown a lot since starting. I had a trim because, yes, my hair was long but it was weighing my hair down, and those dead ends needed to go. Because of this my hair has now bounced up so much healthier.

Chantelle

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When starting my journey I hated my "curls." There was nothing to them — no life, no real curls. I decided to make a change. A year later I had somewhat of an understanding of how to properly look after my curls (deep conditioning, pre poo, scalp massages and silk wraps/pillowcases). I was sometimes was tempted to go back, but after a year I was happy. I started to love my new curls and am still excited to try new regimens and new products.

Annabelle

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I've always had really long hair, so doing my big chop was terrifying and if I'm honest... I absolutely hated my hair after I cut it short! I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't get braids as it was too short and I didn't have the confidence for weaves or wigs.

I watched video of girls with looser curls and I longed for my hair to grow out, convinced that it would grow in to lucious, loose curls. It never did, so I cried a lot and I had a lot of regret and I thought it would never grow. Throughout the year it grew slowly and I was able to wear braids until it grew to a length I was comfortable with. Then I was finally able to begin experimenting and fell in love with my natural hair!

Ioni

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A year into my hair journey my hair was quite long actually, or voluminous at least, but with virtually no curl definition. I felt very 'up-and-down' when it came to my hair, as some days it would look exactly as I wanted and others it would be terribly frizzy and knotted. I had no idea how to care for my hair at this stage and had no particular regimen at all, so it really felt like a lottery when it came to styling my hair.

In my first year at university, my hair started to break off at the back, which was really stressful. I was never tempted to relax again but I did revert to straightening now and again. Over a year into my journey, I am so much more clued up and I would never ever touch my hair with straighteners again!

Yolanda

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One year into my journey I had quite a bit of regrowth and felt like it was long enough to wear on its own, without the relaxed ends. Cutting off my relaxed ends at 12 months post-relaxer was a spontaneous decision for me—I didn’t plan it at all. Once I cut it, I felt great. I wore it in my little afro puff (as pictured) and honestly, I felt like this puff was huuuge. I think because I was so used to my relaxed hair, which was very thin and lifeless. Natural hair of any length just felt so big to me.

I was never tempted to relax because I wouldn't have stopped relaxing unless I experienced some kind of shift in how I felt about my hair. When I started transitioning, I sort of had an epiphany were I thought, “Hold on, wearing my natural hair is actually beautiful.” Throughout my time I have never thought about relaxing my hair and I never will!

Tanisha

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One year into my journey I was pretty impressed how far I had come. My hair wasn’t where I wanted it to be but had improved a lot! I didn’t use any heat for a whole year and was starting to use the right products for my curly hair. My curls were getting tighter and actually forming nicely. I also noticed a lot of growth, too, just by changing products and doing regular scalp massages.

At this stage of my hair journey, I did NOT want to go back! I didn’t even miss my straight hair extensions, which I had LOVED! I got braver wearing my natural curls out instead of tying them up all the time and felt confident in my curly crown. I also started to get more into a hair routine after watching many YouTubers, and I fell in love with deep conditioning, which I still do now religiously! This saved my curls. I can’t recommend doing it enough!

How amazing is it to see the different hair textures and changes after a year of no damage?! I believe that sticking with your natural hair journey is totally worth it as your hair will flourish and you’ll begin to love it naturally just like all of the women above.

How far along are you in your hair journey? Comment your best transitioning tips!