Ask a Naturalista: How to Transition from Relaxed to Natural Hair (without Losing your Mind)
This month, we are excited to start off our “Ask a Naturalista” segment with a first-hand tale of a transitioning journey. Transitioning is not for the faint-hearted, impatient or the lazy… Therefore, we applaud the brave ladies who do it long-term and we are always happy to hear their stories. In this segment, Judy will be telling us about her 8-month transition and offer tips on how to transition from relaxed to natural hair without losing your mind (and with grace).
Hi there, please tell us about yourself and why you chose to go natural?
Hi, my name is Judith currently living and working in Switzerland moved here a year ago, from London but originally from Uganda.
In January 2015, I started to notice my long time relaxed hair had started to give in. It had reached a plateau, I couldn’t recognise it any more and it was thinning out, was dull and not as thick as it used to be. It is from then that I started having those conversations with my self… you know, trying to convince my self that it would also be okay if I started afresh, cut it off and start a new!
But boy by the time I would be done with those thoughts I would have a cramp in my brain! It was nerve racking but I knew it was going to be either hair weaves or tracks to vamp up my thinning relaxed hair or go natural. And yup the latter won!
Why did you choose to transition rather than big chop?
Well, I was one of those girls that literally had to be convinced by the hairdresser at every retouch visit that I needed to trim off the dead ends. I never at one time wanted to loose an inch of my hair! I loved my length. So when I eventually came to terms with going natural, I chose transitioning as it was the only way to keep my dear length for a while, as I got in some natural regrowth! It was a win-win kind of arrangement for me!
What were your main methods of transition? How did you deal with caring for the two textures? You know natural hair loves water while relaxed hair doesn’t.
The first three months were unplanned… I kept a weave for that long as I was trying to settle into my new environment at work and during this time I read a lot about and watched videos of other transitioners.
When it came handling the two textures, initially it was so hard and annoying especially when it came to wash days. Trying to detangle the different textures was a nightmare until I discovered the magic of prepooing.
I would encourage any transitioner to incorporate prepooing in their washday routines because it makes the hair so manageable. The two textures are almost in agreement at this point! Detangling is just as easy as gliding your fingers in the hair!! I mainly used coconut oil for this. I melted it in the hair over night and would go on with the washday routine the next day.
I also used the divide and conquer method, which also played a big part. I learnt that trying to deal with the two textures as one unit was not happening and would take so long, but dividing the hair in four parts and washing,detangling each part was time and life saving.
Which styles dominated your transition?
I would say wearing a wig dominated most of my transition. I had my good old Peruvian hair I used for my weaves back in the day made into a wig and gosh it came in handy especially in the mornings after failed braid outs.
I also braided a few times or put the hair in a bun on some days.
How did you protect your edges from breakage while transitioning?
I tried a lot to keep away from braiding because that is how I mostly lost my edges and it was way too expensive to braid in Switzerland. So to protect the edges I had to go through a phase where I applied emu oil, which I read about. It helped me recover my hairline and kept it growing. Also at times I would spritz the hairline with simply water at the end of the day, which helped to avoid product build up on the delicate edges.
What were your holy-grail products and tools during this time?
My fave products were virgin coconut oil. My go to shampoo and conditioner was the Shea moisture Jamaican black castor oil line; which left my hair nice and soft. And being the DIY person that I am, I also went for the home made deep conditioning treatments of egg and mayonnaise or the hair smoothie (banana,honey, egg, avocado, coconut milk mix)
Many of us start off by transitioning (I did a whole 2 days) but give up sooner rather than later. What kept you motivated to keep going?
Hahahah two days, not so bad you did try! I think what kept me motivated was seeing the growth come through and also as the months went by, what I thought was going to get harder got easier instead, and that kept me going. I remember before I found out about prepooing, I dreaded washdays I would even get in a mood when washdays approached! But after watching other transitioning vloggers and how they dealt with it, and when I could eventually do it too, I thought to my self I can keep going for another while after all!
Did you ever get frustrated? If yes, what did you do?
Oh yes I did! Especially when I watched youtube videos and with so much energy and excitement, went on and tried out what I saw and the next day the results were just an epic fail just before I headed out to work! But with time I learnt it was okay and was not always going to work out the first time. I would then attempt again after some days and it worked for some styles and those that didn’t I learnt to tell my self it was not that serious otherwise I was just going to keep winding my self up.
Did you experiment with a texture-release system during this time? (e.g. texture manageability system)
No I didn’t. It was going to be hassle through the whole experience for me, or go home.
How did you feel when you finally chopped off the relaxed ends?
Hmm, it felt great!! I thought I would go through to at least 12 months of transitioning but at 8 months, I was getting inquisitive to see my natural hair texture. I had never really seen it, as I have never had my hair natural. So when the hair edges started curling and all popping, I was so excited and could not wait any longer! So I went for it. It felt amazing, all new and phone battery draining because I spent most of the time taking selfies from all angles to see what the new me looked like ! hehehe
What resources do you recommend for someone who would like to embark on a transitioning journey?
I would recommend a book by Audrey Davis – The Science of Transitioning. It’s a very interesting and informative book that almost mentally prepares you. It tells you what to expect from those around you, what to look for in products and what products to possibly avoid.
I also would recommend a visit to YouTube – there are so many vloggers and a lot of info but watch a few before you decide to believe everything you hear or see.
My favourite vloggers who I came to like because they seem to have done their home work are Neffy frofro a.k.a Fusion of Cultures and Green beauty channel. Their channels have a lot of good information going from relaxed to natural hair.
Did you admire or were you inspired by another naturalista? Please share a photo of your next hair goal.
Whilst on my journey, I followed Leila of neffyfrofro and she has been quite an inspiration. She has gorgeous hair!
Any other gems up your sleeve?
Making a herbal oil infusion for my hot oil treatment makes a whole lot difference. I now keep my oil mixed with dry herbs such as rosemary, chamomile flowers and this has left the oil rich. It gives back a share amount of nutrition to the hair and prevents dryness!
Lastly, I like to add potent oil like tea tree and aloe Vera juice to my shampoo – the tea tree oil stimulates blood circulation on the scalp and promotes hair growth!
Thanks Judy, you’re a champ for sharing your story! For the rest of us, there’s a free download of the best transitioning tips you’ll ever come across. Just click the image below… You.Are.Welcome!