newclutchlogoblackThere are two steps you can take to start your natural hair journey – “transitioning” or “the big chop”. In the end, however,both will end with the same result – cutting off the permed hair. There is no such thing as washing out or stripping a perm – a perm is just as it’s name states – permanent. The natural texture of your hair is permanently changed unless you cut it off and start again.

Now the most dramatic way to start your natural hair journey is to do a “big chop”. Big chop meaning shave your head bald. Although this may sound drastic, it is the safest and easiest way to go natural because you don’t have to worry about dealing with two textures of hair, permed ends and natural new growth. You can camouflage your new ‘do by purchasing stylish wigs and even hats. Another bright side is you wouldn’t have to worry about buying styling products for a while; use that money on pretty scarfs or head ties or earrings to accessorize your new ‘do. You can also do a big chop after you grow an inch or two of new growth. Then you will be sporting a ‘TWA’ – Teenie – Weenie – Afro.

“Transitioning”, of course, is less dramatic. Transitioning is exactly what it sounds like; you are moving from one state- permed hair, to a new state – natural hair. As you are transitioning from the perm state to the natural state, you are allowing your hair to grow, new growth to come in without re-perming, i.e. no touch-ups. Now during this transition some still apply heat, curling iron and/or straightening comb to the new growth area to keep the textures looking the same, but this isn’t a good idea because the heat will have to be applied too often and will eventually damage the new growth, and you’ll end up having to do a ‘big chop’ as a result.

Unfortunately, there is really no other guaranteed way to keep the new growth and the permed hair looking the same while you are transitioning, so the best thing to do is to camouflage the new growth. This can be done by using a non-alcoholic gel, pomade, or even a little water and conditioner (depending on the texture of your hair) to smooth/brush down the new growth, then cover with a silk/satin scarf to set it in place, and this will have to be done every night or even in between outings.

Or, you can simply purchase scarfs and/or headbands to wear on top of the new growth to camouflage it. You can also opt to wear your two-textured hair in transition styles such as braids – extensions or using your own hair (not done too tightly) or curly wet sets, which will blend in the two textures nicely. One of my favorite transitioning styles was wearing cornrows or flat twists in the front of my head (braiding/twisting the new growth area) and the rest of my hair (permed portion) out either straight or curly in the back.

The one thing you have to be extremely careful of when transitioning is dealing with the two different textures of hair. New growth is very fragile and can not be handled the same way as the permed texture. You may even have to use different styling products to deal with the two textures of hair.

The best thing to do is to focus entirely on your new growth.

You will have to experiment with different (preferably natural hair products) on your new growth as it gets longer and use these products on your permed ends as well.

The other thing you must do is as your new growth comes in, start cutting off your permed ends. I recommend when you have at least an inch of new growth, cut off an inch of your permed ends, and keep doing this until you have a head full of natural hair. The average hair growth rate is about a half an inch a month, but depending on your health/diet and heredity this can vary. So therefore, I can not give an exact range of time when you will have a complete full head of natural hair. But for more information on the rate of hair growth check out www.pg.com/science/haircare/hair_twh_21.htm.


For more information on going natural and to connect with a community of beautiful Black women with natural hair please visit nappturality.com and motowngirl.com.

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  • I have been transitioning for a year and over 3 months now. I find that as someone that always had long hair but is now thinning, letting go of perms was initially hard to do until I discovered weaves. Why weaves you ask? Any type of hair extension would help me to transition. I was too scared to do any more big chops- I looked and felt naked, LOL! The most memorable big chop I did as a young adult was for jerry curls at that. The connection is very emotional. Do you blame me then for offering women like myself who cannot let go of their hair all at once an option to do transitional styles such as Tree Braids

  • Cee

    Hello, it’s been a few months since the last post but I have questions/concerns. First, some background. My last perm was January 10 (all new growth), then on April 9 (edges only). On August 9, I cut approx 5 inches so now my hair is just below my shoulders. On October 4th, I plan to trim the ends. I am bi-racial. I guess my hair “type” falls somewhere between 3a-c, but I really am not sure. Just guessing.

    Now for my questions/concerns. I really have absolutely NO idea what to do with my hair right now and I am VERY concerned about what products to use. In the beginning, I spent an exorbitant amount of money on leave in conditioners, frizz tamers, glosses, etc. As time passes, I realize that I don’t want to use products with long lists of ingredients/chemicals. Recently, I started using coconut oil. I put it in my hair once a week overnight and wash it out the next day. What should I use AFTER washing my hair? I always let it air dry but don’t know what to put in it after washing. The coconut oil is kind of heavy. Is there another kind of oil I can put on wet/damp hair that will keep it moisturized without weighing it down?

    • vern

      why are you using coconut oil if by racial i recommend just some grapeseed or rosemary oil.

  • Brittney

    i guess you can say i been transitioning for two years i tried every braiding styles i keep my ends trimmed i can not find a product that does not dry my hair out any suggesting

  • LaLa

    I am a 19 yrs old freshman in college and decided to take the transitioning route. I have very full and thick hair(even with a relaxer). I haven’t had a perm since September 2012. I have been wearing sew-ins and braids through the process. It has now been 7 months and I have not worn my hair out. I feel that I am now ready, but I’m afraid and do not know were to start or what to use. Any Advice?