If you recently started your transition to natural hair I want to congratulate you and say Wohooo! Welcome, I’m so glad you made it. I’m glad you’re ready to embrace your natural hair texture and be naturally you without any constraints of how or what you should look like. No more bone, straight hair all the time. Boy, I really hope you’re ready to embrace your hair’s versatility because it’s about to hit you like a truck with the gazillion hairstyle choices you’re about to have (it’s not really a gazillion per se, but you get what I’m saying, don’t you?).
However, although I’d like to tell you that this journey will continue on a note of happy discoveries some will be less welcomed and others will come as a full surprise. And, no I’m not trying to discourage you when I say this, in case you’re wondering. I’m just giving you a fair warning that not all is gonna be “pretty in pink”. I just don’t want you to have wrong expectations.
These can slowly, but surely, make you lose your enthusiasm and patience, and ultimately make you dislike your hair and go back to the relaxer. So let’s try to avoid all of that, I don’t want you to go down that road and end up in the same place you came from. No, no, no that’s not what we want here. I want you to get to know your hair and love it! So I’m gonna let you in on the loop on what not to expect when transitioning to natural hair.
What You See Is What You Get
For better or for worse, the curl pattern you see growing out of your pretty little head is most definitely not going to be the one you’ll greet when you big chop. Oh yeah, sorry if I’m bursting your bubble, but this is the truth. This happens because the weight of your relaxed hair stretches the shape of your natural hair and makes it look different.
Is this bad? No, not at all. It actually gives you a chance to get familiar with your new curls and see how they change as your hair grows out and you trim the relaxed hair. See it as courting relationship where your hair is trying to win you over. No, I’m not mad, I meant what I said.
The thing is, you’ve probably never met your hair before, therefore, this will be your chance to get to know it and fall in love with it. Don’t you see it? This is why transitioning is a good option for those not ready to plunge fearlessly and enthusiastically into the unknown (meaning big chop). The lesson here is to enjoy the ride without expectations.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
If you’re expecting things to be as they were before you embarked on this journey then you’re in for a surprise. Everything will change now, your washing experience, detangling, styling your hair, protecting it, you name it! It will feel like being sucked into a new reality, and that’s exactly what will happen. Things won’t be as easy, as quick and as emotionally unattached as before. Why? well, read the next false pretence.
Being natural involves getting an education, it’s almost like going to college because of the amount of information we hastily try to take in as we transition. And this is awesome because this time around you’re invested in doing things right. You want to use the right hair cleanser, you want to deep condition regularly, you want to use your satin bonnet, you pre-poo your hair and so on… you get the point.
However, it’s this same education that will render you a guilty conscious whenever you skip a conditioning treatment, sleep without your satin bonnet-slash-pillowcase or don’t protect your hair properly. It’s like a defence mechanism for your hair. Sure it’s not always an effective one, but you won’t be totally immune to its effects. Long are the days of ignorant bliss….(but this is actually a good thing!).
Moisturising Is A One Time Event
Yes, my dear, if moisturising your hair was a one-time event every two weeks on washing day, well then… know that things have changed. Hair starts to lose moisture 4 to 10 days after it is first moisturised. However, this can change according to the quality of the products you’re using, your hair texture and health and even the climate where you live.
If you need to moisturise your hair every day, you are not moisturising your hair properly. You see, you may need to increase the times you need to wash your hair as proper moisture starts at proper hair cleaning. Plus, you are taking care of hair with two different textures and porosities. The thing is, your hair will have to be a constant thought in your mind. It’s almost like caring for a baby, you have to anticipate and meet all its needs.
If you’re expecting to be the exception to the rule and not get any breakage on your transition, then you need to wake up from your dream and tackle your problem before it all goes down badly. Due to regular use of the relaxer your hair’s cysteine bonds, the thing within your hair that sustains its curl pattern, are damaged and have less elasticity which means it easily snaps.
Breakage, to a certain extent, is a normal thing in natural hair as it’s naturally dry and prone to damage. However, your relaxed hair is much weaker then your new growing hair and breakage will be higher while transitioning than the normally accepted value. Imagine your hair is a rope in a tug of war game, where would you guess the rope would break more easily if pulled? Exactly! That’s why you need to trim regularly and keep your hair well moisturised at all times to avoid a high level of breakage.
Applause Or Support
Are you waiting to receive people’s support, applause or understanding? Don’t be, don’t wait for people to cheer your efforts or accomplishments. Often times people may look to you as if you’ve gone nuts or you’re just trying to be exotic. If you’re the only one in your circle of family and friends that is going natural support can be even rarer. Don’t expect people to understand your reasons for going natural, they may even criticise for it. Or, they may genuinely not like natural hair.
Eiter way, going natural shouldn’t be something you “enlist” yourself to do with the assumption you’re doing something the world should admire you for. Becoming natural is something you do for yourself. Besides, once you’ve finished your transition people will wish it was them rocking those curls. Focus on yourself and your own journey.
Have The Same Curls As…
Don’t wait for your curls to be the same as your hair idol, your mum or even your sister just because you have the same skin tone or are blood-related. Each curl is different and behaves differently and you have to love yours and not somebody else’s’ hair. Comparisons are prejudicial to you, they undermine your enthusiasm and confidence and get you closer to the creamy crack relapse.
This was my greatest struggle in the beginning stages of my transition. I naturally have a lot a hair (according to my mum) but once I entered my fifth month of transition detangling was a battle I came out of constantly wounded. I mean my new hair was denser, stronger and totally uncooperative (so I thought). I left each detangling session with aching arms and with bruised confidence in my abilities.
Don’t expect your detangling sessions to be as they were before, your curls get twisted, tangled and knots that will make the task something to be dreaded. However, fear not my friend learn from me that a conditioner with good slip, working your hair in sections and using a wide tooth comb or your fingers will be your best friends. Oh, and let’s not forget patience because you’ll definitely need that, you don’t want to rush through and create more breakage.
Use The Same Products As Before
You are now basically walking around with hair that has split personality, what one wants the other one doesn’t. Trying to please both will be a hard thing to accomplish, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will be hard. Your natural hair has different needs than those of your relaxed hair so the products that worked perfectly well for the latter won’t necessarily work for the former.
Yes, this will be another adjustment you’ll have to make. This will be a process of trial upon error until you find the hair products that work for both hairs textures, and please notice that these products may change as your hair grows.
Look As Good As Before
What exactly do I mean by this? Exactly what it says, you won’t look as good as before without some effort simply because you have two different hair textures on your head. One will be curly, wavy or kinky with lots of volume and the other will be stringy, limp and lifeless. Imagine that just for a second…. got that picture in your mind now? Yeah, not the look of the year. To go around this, you will need to blend both textures to have a uniform look.
Phew, this was my list of things not to be expected while transitioning. Although they may sound discouraging at first, that is not their purpose at all. My purpose here is for you to have a clear understanding of what is involved in your transition, what challenges you’ll face. My purpose is for you to reaffirm your intentions and goals, to face the challenges head-on with determination, intention and focus despite the obstacles.
Not quite sure how you feel about all this, or about this trip that you’re in or are about get into? Is it a feeling you can’t quite explain if it’s good or bad? Well, then my only hope is that that feeling makes you feel curious, eager to know more, excited and hopeful rather than anxious, tense or nervous.
If you’re on the first group it means you’re equipped to face this bumpy road, if not you just need a little bit more encouragement (maybe join a natural hair group on a social platform or subscribe a hair vlogger on YouTube for inspiration and support). In any case, I truly hope you don’t give up.
What were your expectations when transitioning? Were any of them present on this list? How did you overcome them?