Instead of doing the Big Chop, many women choose to gradually transition to natural hair and let the relaxer grow out at its own pace.

While less abrupt than chopping, transitioning can be a challenging process. Though exhilarating at times, it can also be frightening and frustrating as you’re navigating through a new, uncertain world of styling and maintenance.

As I go through the phase myself, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that will help you make the most of your journey:

1. Moisture, moisture, moisture!

I can’t stress the importance of moisturizing your tresses as you transition to natural hair.

-Co-washing (washing without shampoo) is one of the best tips I’ve learned to retain moisture.

-When you do shampoo, look for sulfate-free products as sulfate can tangle and dry out your hair.

-Use oil to seal in the moisture.

-Deep condition regularly to help strengthen and add moisture to your hair.

2. Serve and protect

Since your hair is two different textures during the transition, it’s more fragile and susceptible to breakage than ever especially at the demarcation line where natural hair ends and relaxed hair begins.

-Wearing protective hairstyles (see no.5) will help curve damage.

-Use low heat, if any, as flat-ironing, blow-drying and pressing will cause hair to break.

-Be sure to keep your ends trimmed as your hair grows out.

-Detangle with care. Apply conditioner and detangle from the ends to the roots in sections. Be sure to detangle regularly to avoid knotting and matting.

3. Rediscover your hair

When going natural, you are getting to know your hair all over again. I’m thrilled to see every new curl but also frustrated when old products and techniques don’t work for me anymore. Be patient with your hair and yourself along the way.

And remember since your texture and curl pattern is unique, not every product and style that your girlfriend loves will have the same result on your hair. Learn what works best for you.

4. Be Healthy From The Inside Out

Most women forget that haircare starts from within. If your lifestyle is unhealthy, your hair is one of the first areas to reveal it. Drink tons of water, take multivitamins, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to reinforce strong and healthy hair.

5. Styles

When transitioning, protective styles are your best friend. They prevent breakage and reduce stress on your hair. Styles that hide your ends like buns, weaves (with proper care underneath), wigs, micro braids and cornrows are protective and also versatile.

There are also fun style options that blend the two textures such as roller sets, braid-outs, bantu knots and twist-outs. One style to avoid is flat ironing or straightening your hair as the heat and stress can cause excessive breakage.

Transitioning to natural hair can be as taxing on your tresses as it is on your emotions. As the process becomes more and more difficult, it’s tempting to run to the nearest salon for a relaxer.

Pictures of women with beautiful natural hairstyles have kept me inspired during my journey. Create a vision board or gallery as inspiration. Make sure you keep your vision in mind and remain determined, not discouraged. Be patient with yourself. It’s not an easy process and you may make mistakes along the way but trust in the end, it will be more than worth it.

-Jessica C. Andrews

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