The Basics of transitioning to Natural hair?
The next few articles will deal with all the major points en route to transitioning. The first article is dedicated to the decision to transition, The second styling transitioning hair and the third the interesting things I learnt both enrolee and during my natural hair stages.
For some the choice may be simple for others not at all. Here are some things to consider if your thinking of signing on the transition contract. In short the process of caring for your hair from the basics to the extras. What to do and not do. The various products, styling options and other aids. Also, what to expect of your hair and finally some interesting things to keep in mind about natural hair.
The first thing to consider and decide is if you would like to big chop and move on or if you would like to transition to an eventual big chop some time in the future.
The Big Chop:
To big chop or to gradually get length and then big chop in essence transition is your first decision. There are pros and cons to both so consider what fits into your life since once that hair hits the ground there is no going back. Going big chop can be life changing or it can be just another day. This will depend on your motivation to chop as well as whether or not you have ever had a TWA. Women who like short hair and those who have had very short hair may actually not feel moved by this experience at all. For them it is a non-event and once done it is done. For me the first big chop was a big deal. It was an emotional event and I felt relieved and excited and when that first shower hit my head it felt forever changed.
When I had processed hair I would mourn my hair for days. Going natural was still an emotional experience but the feelings were more relief and excitement than sadness. I felt like I had gained something instead of only losing a part of myself.
If you are going big chop for the first time there is no way of knowing how you will react and or respond at the realisation that your hair is no longer there. So be resolved about your decision before you take the dive.
Very Short hair
There are few things as liberating as having very short hair. The shorter the hair the more healthy it appears to be. Shorter hair appears more responsive and it will change as the hair ages and becomes more worn. My tightly coily short hair was a breeze to manage until it reached a mid afro state. Increased tangles, knots, product buildup, styling and all the rest can take a toll on your time and look of your hair.
The awkward growing stages:
Hair growth is a frustrating and slow process. Be mindful of this when you consider going big chop and factor a few years to grow length. There are clear recognisable growth points that will appear to allude you if length is your goal. Keep a photo diary to remind yourself of the changes. Otherwise you will feel eternally cheated by the growth chart. Your hair will appear to be a still life image for about a year. Often, many naturals become frustrated by feeling like their hair is not growing. So for arguments sake lets say you went brush cut, then you will have a twa, then below your ear, then you can pull it to your collar bone, then pull it to your shoulder and beyond. Note, I say pull because natural hair and particularly curly, coily and kinky hair can be very long and appear to be quite short. The power of shrinkage is real and it will frustrate you. You may want to use this to your advantage and enjoy the shorter looks for as long as possible because eventually your hair will get long and you will have new things to lament. At brastrap length my coils are only now reaching my shoulders. You can either enjoy this short look or you can use the various stretching techniques (twists and braid outs) to give a longer appearance.
Setting hair goals:
It is a good idea to set some hair goals so that you can see the progress you are making and to actually appreciate where you are in relation to where you were. However, we often put way too much pressure on ourselves and so set unrealistic goals. Hair grows at a very predictable rate of about 2 to 2.5 cm per month. And on my fingernail 2cm gives me very long nails but on my head it does almost nothing. However, fast forward twelve months and you will see the difference so, be patient. It will grow. I recall one of my favourite videos by miss Longhairdontcare where she said: “Yes, Lord black hair does grow” She had waist length natural hair and got so tired of people questioning this fact and actually questioning if her hair was real at all. In some of her videos she actually had to part her hair to show her scalp in all sorts of direction as well as to get in the shower to show people that her hair does revert back to being curly since she often used heat. She was one of the first US vloggers that I followed and she was one of the first very long haired ladies who shared how she did it and was totally unapologetic about doing it her own way. She sadly passed from a bout with Lupus a few years ago.
Setting goals need not at all be to grow long hair. Healthy hair is just as valuable. Maintaining healthy hair can be a very rewarding change. You may want to explore healthier hair by moving to better products or treating a scalp condition or to make it part of your overall health. There are lots of options in the product space and they are not equal. So perhaps invest in better understanding of what is actually in the products you choose and how that is impacting your health. Or in the treatment options for specific scalp conditions. There are very many topics to explore in the natural health division so do become more savvy if these interest you.
Taking care of your hair
Get to know what the basics of haircare. The quick view is that you have to aim to cleanse and condition your hair every week. You can stretch it to two weeks if you absolutely have to. You can add stuff to this process but taking away from it is not a good idea. Your scalp needs to cleaned to maintain a healthy balance. Your hair will also thrive on more moisture. Your hair is exposed to the elements and it needs stuff (moisture and other treatments) to keep it from becoming straw. Yes, there are some people who have amazing hair and don’t ever use a conditioner but these lucky few are a minority. For the majority of us product and process is our saviour.
The add ons:
There are several add-ons in a hair regime such as clay treatments, protein treatments, moisture masks. Clay treatments are used when one wants better curl definition, protein treatments are for overworked and frequently heat stressed hair. Moisture treatments are done to treat dryness and straw like hair. All of these depend on your preferences and desired outcomes. Further there are several stylers and sealants such as the gels, oils and wax used to finish a look or seal in your process. There are many of these products available on the market. Here you will have to exercise discretion with trial and error and to find the ones you like.