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The Cotton Crown: How To Transition

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I’m back everyone! I apologise for taking so long but I was wrapping up grad school. Now thankfully, it’s all done and I have time on my hands again.

In my last post, I received a lot of questions on transitioning so that is what I will be addressing today. Veterans, feel free to add your own tips in the comment box.

So what is transitioning? It’s simply the process of going from relaxed to natural. Some people choose to transition by letting their hair grow out for a while before cutting, while others opt for cutting off all their hair and starting from scratch. This is known as the “big chop” (My mom will be big chopping soon and I will be documenting the process on my blog if anyone wants to check it out).

I only consciously transitioned for three months. I didn’t relax my hair for six months prior to my big chop. I always stretched between relaxers anyway so by the time I was due for a touch up, I just decided to keep going.

A bantu knot-out I did while transitioning

So how do you transition?

  1. First and foremost, STEP AWAY FROM THE RELAXER AKA CREAMY CRACK: Hide any boxes you have, throw them out or give them away. The important thing is to get the temptation away from you.
  2. Decide how you want to transition: Will you chop your hair off and start right away or will you grow it out and trim it as you go along?
  3. If you decide to big chop right away, then you’re done. Transition process over. We will get back to you in the Natural Newbies post. Go out and take over the world! If you decide on a lengthy transition, then read on. You don’t have to decide how long you want to transition, just go with the flow. Bear in mind that the longer you struggle with two textures, the stronger the temptation will be to relax.
  4. Research, research, research: You have to do all the research you can to find out how to care for your hair. There are books, blogs, websites and videos. The internet is a great resource. I’m assuming that if you’re here reading this article, you at least have access to the internet. Start from there. Search Google or YouTube for natural hair.
  5. Realise that the texture of your new growth and your relaxed hair will be different: You will need to use different tools and products in your hair. You will also need to change the way you style your hair.
  6. Find a transition hairstyle that works for you: The best kinds are the ones that blend the two textures or cover the hair completely. If you’re the type that likes to play in your hair, twist-outs, roller sets, coil sets, bantu knot-outs etc are a great way to blend the different textures. If you’d rather keep your hands out of your hair, then braids, weaves and wigs will be a good alternative. This link contains lots of videos with tutorials on transition hairstyles.  Avoid styles that will cause your hair to tangle, like tiny braids.
  7. No matter what transition styles you choose, be sure to keep your hair moisturised: The moisturisers that are suitable for kinky hair might leave the relaxed part of your hair feeling too oily so you need to find a balance. The best way to moisturize your hair is to apply a water based moisturizer, like a leave-in conditioner, then seal with an oil. Sealing basically keeps the moisture in your hair and the oils you can use for this include olive oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil and castor oil. I’m partial to castor oil myself.
  8. You will have to stop combing your hair dry or without products at this point: This is because the point where the two textures meets is very prone to breakage and can be a major source of frustration (and pain) if not handled properly. The easiest way to detangle is to wet hair and/or saturate it with conditioner then gently detangle with a wide tooth comb or your fingers in sections. Your hair will thank you for this care. Styles that stretch out your hair like roller sets and twist outs will make the hair easier to handle too. Start a regular deep conditioning routine too. Always detangle from ends to roots. When washing your hair, don’t pile your hair up on your head as this will cause tangles. Rather, let your hair fall as it does naturally and wash it that way.
  9. Realise that your hair will shed during this process: Don’t be alarmed, it comes with the territory.
  10. If you will be trimming your hair regularly, make sure you get a pair of scissors specifically for this purpose. Do not use it to cut anything but your hair.
  11. Find products that work for your hair: It will take a lot of trial and error and the urge to try everything (i.e. be a product junkie) will be there but find what works for your hair and stick with it. I am always hesitant to recommend products to people because I’ve realised that everyone’s hair reacts differently to products even if the textures are exactly the same. For example, naturals with my hair texture have been advised to use conditioners that are made for dry/damaged hair but I’ve recently discovered that the conditioners that work best on my hair are the types that are made for coloured hair. I use only three or four products on average, depending on how I’m styling my hair. I shampoo with CURLS Curlicious Curls Cleansing Cream, I condition with Herbal Essences Ignite My Colour, use the Herbal Essences leave-in for split ends and then seal with castor oil.
  12. Learn to style your own hair: There are few salons and stylists that can handle natural hair (especially in Nigeria) so learning to manage your own hair might be the only way to make sure it isn’t mishandled and yanked off. YouTube is a good place to learn as there are an abundance of easy to follow tutorials.
  13. Be patient: Don’t just focus on the end result, but enjoy the journey and all the stages that your hair will go through. Try to remember to work with your hair and not against it.

These are just a few tips that might prove invaluable during the transition process.

Any questions? Ask me in a comment or on twitter via @missfizzy87. Good luck!

32 Comments

  1. Blossom

    September 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Cool. Could we see a pic of what you hair is like now? How long so far have you been natural?

    • Oshokeme

      September 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Blossom, I didn’t feel it necessary to put pictures of my hair now because the post discusses transitioning. Those pics will come in later posts. For now, you can visit http://www.leaveinthekinks.com and click the hairstyles label for recent pictures of my hair or visit the Leave in the Kinks facebook fanpage and visit the hair gallery. I also have a fotki but I haven’t updated it in a while http://public.fotki.com/MissFizzy/ I hope this info helps. 🙂

    • kamasutra

      September 28, 2010 at 2:20 am

      aren’t you Miss Fizzy? I’ve seen your hair and must admit its long and beautiful. nice post by the way.

  2. nomad

    September 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    as someone who wears braids as a protective style (i’m lazy jo) and still managed to grow a healthy head of natural hair that my braider admires even if she gets annoyed, i have some tips also, if people want to go that route, because you cannot just leave your hair like that.
    MOISTURIZE YOUR SCALP! i get itchy and dry scalp after braiding and what i find that works for me is to blend your favorite hair moisturizer (no pink oil or anything with mineral oil or alcohol! i use l’occitane shea butter moisturizer but it’s pricey. ordinary shea butter will work great) with a mix of your favorite oils (i use coconut and jojoba) and some drops of tea tree oil once or twice a day. Dandruff will run away.
    WASH your hair: seriously! because your hair is in braids don’t mean that you should not wash your scalp weekly. natural hair needs moisture to grow. massage your scalp and lightly rub your braids and use a conditioner

    when you take your braids out (3 months at the VERY maximum), deep condition your hair to deal with the inevitable breakage.

    as for products etc, i’m a junkie and just bought a very expensive serum over the weekend that i’m already regretting haha. but natural remains the best. shea butter, natural oils for your daily routine and GOOD shampoo (no silicones) and conditioner weekly

    • jane doe

      September 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm

      Nomad, do you have a link as to where you buy your l’occitane shea butter moisturizer?? i would really apptreciate it. i have googled it but i can’t find the right one

    • nomad

      September 21, 2010 at 7:52 am

      this is the US site http://usa.loccitane.com/FO/shea-butter-ultra-rich-hair-mask.htm, but it’s also fairly widely available in Europe. It can be a conditioning mask but I use it as a hair cream, VERY rich so a little goes a long way and moisturizing but honestly it’s not a by-force product. i like it tho

    • KemiPen

      September 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      I googled it also and it seems the store “Sephora” [Perfume store…not only perfume] carries their products…I will check it out this weekend…

    • Lola

      September 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Nomad, thanks for the l’occitane tip – is it a hair conditioning cream or a body one which you just use on your hair? also, any tips on where to find non-alcohol infested jojoba, tea tree , coconut or shea butter oils or names i can look for?

    • Tangled Hair Techs

      September 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

      Hi Nomad,

      you made the comment that women should only wear braids for 3month (maximum) to avoid inevitable breakage…. Actually women can leave their braids in for 6 months and don’t have to suffer any type of breakage at all!!!

      Because we deal with very matted/tangled hair 7days a week-we use a product called the Take Down Remover Cream. It detangles hair that is as hard as a stone or that is so stuck together it looks like a birds nest. We use it for matted wigs, braids, or to comb out dreadlocks.

      So if women want to leave their weaves and braids in for more than 3 months, or if their natural hair tangles for any reason-they can save all of their hair immediately.

  3. Nma

    September 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    ummmm pics would so suffice o!

    • Oshokeme

      September 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Nma, I put a link to a bunch of videos and tutorials on transition hairstyles. I figured that videos would be more illuminating than pictures. Later posts will deal with styling in depth and contain lots of pictures so please stay tuned :).

  4. Ezi

    September 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    This happens to be my 2nd post on Bella 😉
    Well I have been natural for 4yrs and going. I didnt decide on going natural it just so happened cos my relaxed hair was not the best and i was tired of smelling the harsh smell of relaxer. So i choped my hair off and starting growing it out. I get most of my products from Whole Foods Market in the States. Convinced almost 5 of my friends to go natural and so far they are loving it. I think Natural is the best way to go. Thanks for Brings Naturelz to Light.

  5. Adura

    September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I have natural hair too (I have a Fotki album where I documented my transition and still update once in a while with some natural hair pictures).

    I transitioned for 18 months and I actually enjoyed it because I got to understand my natural texture as it grew out.

    I agree with your points. Especially deep conditioning and moisturising often, that definitely helped (and still helps) a lot. And you’re right – Finding styles that you are comfortable doing yourself is really useful because a lot of salons still don’t know how to deal with natural hair.

    Very helpful info 🙂

  6. Sugabelly

    September 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Amazing post!!!

  7. Jane Doe

    September 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Thanks Nomad. I’m transitioning by doing briads and full weave. I dont have the boldness to cut my hair just yet and my hair gets VERY VERY dry, so i might just have to buy this product.

  8. Jmk

    September 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

    in the transition process already (12months) but i have a challenge with getting products for natural hair here in Lagos,Nigeria and can anyone please recommend salons in Lagos?am tired of wearing braids.

    • Katho

      September 26, 2010 at 12:13 am

      Jmk, why don’t you check out thekinkyapothecary.blogspot.com? it’s a natural hair shop and best of all it’s in Lagos!

  9. uchechi

    September 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Finally, i wondered what happened to you as you respondedto me in your last post to wait for this. I actually did follow some of the suggestions you highlighted, my hair has almost transitioned, just little bits of relaxed hair here and there. I’m really liking it though. Will follow your post though. Ta

  10. extremely p!nk

    September 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I’m transitioning presently and it feels like the craziest thing I’ve done in a long while. I wanna lock my hair towards the end of October, so i’m putting together a list of very correct places in Lagos where i can do it properly. I want neat locks-my last attempt was a huge no-no. Pls anyone with salon names and locations in Lagos where i can lock my hair NEATly should pls lemme knw. Thankx….
    email: [email protected]

  11. extremely p!nk

    September 22, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Hey Fizz,jst looked up LITK-great site!…….i thot it wld be cool to free-form(i guess that means an afroish look kinda like d bohemian look?) then lock my hair. wat do u think/ wld really appreciate a reply from you. Thank you!

    • Oshokeme

      September 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      Hi… freeforming is when you let your hair lock naturally…. like dada basically. It’s up to you though however you want to wear your hair. If you feel locking is what you want then go for it. Locks are a bit less maintenance than afros so it’s really up to you and how well you feel you can manage your hair. Let me know what you decide though 🙂

  12. Adwoa

    September 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    i have grown my hair all natural and i love it. i transitioned by braiding for a year without any relaxer. for me share-butter really helps.

  13. TallChica

    September 26, 2010 at 5:01 am

    I just returned from a trip back home to nigeria, and believe me, most of the stuff i use on my natural hair (1 year strong baby and looooooving it….i hated relaxers), is from home. Find someone who knows where to get proper shea butter and find a store that sells vegetable glycerine. And also I only cowash (I suggest you find a conditioner with low sulfate content or none if possible and wash your hair with that). The mix I am currently using is super moisturizing:

    Lemongrass-Peppermint Shea Butter Cream
    1 cup slowly melted shea butter
    1/2 cup glycerin
    1/4 cup castor oil, olive oil, or coconut oil
    a few drops essential oil (I use a mix of lemongrass extract and peppermint)
    1/2 cup aloe vera gel (this is a recent addition and works to make coils form( if you have them))

    You don’t want to destroy the bonds in the butter first of all so slowly melting the butter, adding the other ingredients once the butter starts cooling and then whipping the above mixture with a mechanical mixer (or just letting it set on its one while stirring as it resolidifies) creates this beautifully moisturizing cream that keeps your hair soft (with 1 more step i’ll explain later). The essential oils might be harder to find in Nigeria, but there are ways around it. You can learn to make rose-water and distill that and use that as your fragrance to hide the smell of shea butter (pretty much steep the rose petals or some other fragrant flower in water, and slowly evaporate most of the water away. Strain, add some sort of preservative (maybe citric acid) and add to the mix).
    I have heard of people using coconut milk (from the can) in their moisturizer to make it more like a souffle, but I’ve not tried that yet so I can’t say.

    Now the cool thing about using the above mix is that it works best when your hair is damp. Use sparingly. To dampen your hair, or refresh a style, make your own spritz:

    Spritz:
    1 cup distilled water
    1 cup aloe vera juice (optional, but oh so good; replace this portion with more water if excluding from mix)
    1/2 cup aloe vera gel
    1/8 cup glycerine
    1/8 cup my favorite conditioner (Tresseme all the way baby)
    a little bit of castor oil, or olive oil
    some essential oil

    (I also added some silk protein, but that is fancy-shmancy and not necessary)

    Put all these in a spray bottle and shake. Dampen your hair with this first, then melt the shea butter mix in your hands and thoroughly work through your hair (best to work in smaller sections depending on the length of your hair). And voila, nicely moisturized hair with ingredients that arent proprietary. In fact alot of them (fragrance and conditioner and the aloe vera juice) are optional. I just found that this makes my hair happy. Disclaimer: I did not transition. I just vexed one day and lopped all my hair off and I’ve been natural for a year, so i’m not sure how this works with relaxed hair. My sister however is relaxed and uses the shea butter mix sparinginly on her hair and she says its stopped the breakage. Go figure.

    Happy experimenting…I offer no guarantees, but rather just throwing out ideas and what has worked for me so far. P.S. try using the butter and do twists on your hair overnight and take them down in the morning…they look pretty nice and at least for me, make my hair look glossy and feel soft.

    Ciao Bellas

  14. caramel

    September 28, 2010 at 5:02 am

    nappy hair is too much work! I have gone natural b4 and I am sticking with my perm and weaves:)

    • Ayodeji

      October 5, 2010 at 4:00 am

      Me too! My hair is ‘shigidi’ without my perm. It hurts and I CANNOT comb it no matter how much I moisturise!

    • Ogo

      January 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Well, the key is to comb from tip to root w/ very curly or kinky hair. Also most people make their hair wet/damp + moisture products (conditioner or shea butter) BEFORE attempting to comb. I myself finger comb my hair mostly.

      I’m natural and wear a mixture of braid w/ extension, braid w/o ext and fro styles.

  15. Oshokeme

    October 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    @Kamasutra thanks for the compliment 🙂 Thanks to everyone that provided tips, I will try to incorporate some of them into future posts.

  16. mallia-girl

    October 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I have seen a few protective styles but i dont think putting bonds in your hair or even making long braids with attachments. the braids will be too heavy on your real hair, and might weigh it down, and likewise bonds, as you need to use alot of products in its removal, and some products might contain too much sulfate or other harmful chemical, and you are still not certain, your hais wont shed.

    Good luck anyway, i have my hair relaxed , and do this twice a year only, and i do alot of moisturising, with my olive oil, egg yolk, Apple Cider Vinegar mixture. I use shea butter or coconut oil on my scalp, when i am going to put on a weave to avoid dryness .

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mallia-Hair/124149224262407

  17. Omoyele

    December 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I fully transitioned 2 years ago after my wedding because the stylists in Nigeria felt it was a plague touching my un-relaxed hair. I reside in the U S and I refuse to pay for the over priced products out here. I use the natural Shea butter (Ori) mixed with Olive Oil and Glycerin. After two year, I’m happy I took the bold step.

  18. Ogo

    January 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Why perm your hair if you wear a weave?

    I don’t understand if you wear a FULL weave (no hair out) then why perm your hair? The perm WEAKENS your real hair and makes it more prone to breakage. In addition, why perm if you’re going to cover it w/ “attach”?

    How to Comb:
    The best way to comb if from tip to root. That way, you eliminate the knots and shed hair. (Everyone sheds hair.)

    Most naturals prefer damp hair; damp from some water and some moisture (shea butter or olive oil) and then go for it!

    Use a wide tooth comb or your fingers. They are made for AFRICAN hair.

    Never rip the comb through your hair. It causes breakage and PAIN. Remember you must CARE about your hair CARE if you want the BEST results! <3

  19. Tangled Hair Techs

    September 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Great post Oshokeme,

    Thanks for making it easier for women to absorb and read easy by dividing the information into 13 tips. With tip number 6 you made the statement that women should”..Avoid styles that will cause your hair to tangle, like tiny braids.”

    We hope that women will not use this as an excuse to give up on the transition process. We wanted to actually explain further from our experiences-that there are so many ways that hair can tangle apart from tiny braids. We have had clients that have had their hair become severely matted/tangled from conditioners and shampoos that did not mix with their hair textures(natural or chemically treated). For some women, if they leave their braids or weaves in 1 month their hair tangles.

    Because we use deal with very matted/tangled hair 7days a week-we use a product called the Take Down Remover Cream. It detangles hair that is as hard as a stone or that is so stuck together it looks like a birds nest. We use it for matted wigs, braids, or to comb out dreadlocks.

    So if women want to leave their weaves and braids in for more than 3 months, or if their natural hair tangles for any reason-they can save all of their hair immediately.

  20. Chioma

    January 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I’m interested in dreading my hair preferably sister locks. Can you please recommend a good salon or salons I can go to? I leave in yaba. Thank you

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