If you grew up in the twentieth century or even during the aughts, you probably had your curls relaxed into oblivion. So you’re probably a bit hesitant to transition from relaxed to natural hair. How would you style it, what products would you use? Do you have to chop it all off and begin again?
You’ll find the answers to all these questions and more below. But first, let’s talk about why relaxers have played such a prominent role in your life.
Why Is Relaxer So Difficult to Let Go?
Naturally curly hair is glamorous, vivacious, and versatile — in a word, it’s magnificent. However, everything that makes it so incredible is also the reason behind its fickle, unpredictable, and inconsistent nature. So can you blame your mom for dragging you to the salon at 13 to get your first relaxer? She probably didn’t know what to do with your hair any more than she understood her own.
Aside from the perceived challenges of maintaining a curly do, there are also cultural consequences to wearing your natural texture. They used to be much harsher, but even today, natural and protective styles are considered less professional than softer textures. But if you’re planning on transitioning to natural hair, you’re well on your way to changing that perception.
Still, it doesn’t help that getting your hair relaxed is so addictive. Obviously, nobody likes sitting in the salon with all those chemicals on their hair. However, once you start relaxing your hair, it’s pretty difficult to stop. You’ll find yourself going back in every two or three months just to keep your new growth stick-straight too!
How Long Will It Take for Your Curls to Grow In?
Since it takes about two or three months to notice those curly roots come back in, how long will it take to complete your transition from relaxed to natural hair?
Frankly, that depends on how long you want your new growth to be before you cut it all off. Many have gotten around the awkward growth stage by simply going for the big chop. But if drastic decisions scare you, you can just wait for your curls to grow out and trim out the relaxed hair in tiny increments.
So how long until you have the curly mane of your dreams? Well, that depends on how long you want your hair to be. Generally, hair grows at a rate of about a quarter to half an inch per month. However, if you wanted to have shoulder-length hair, you would have to wait much longer than a year and a half.
At this point, you’ve probably spent years without sparing a thought to one very real aspect of the curly experience — shrinkage. Depending on your natural curl pattern, it might take years to get to that shoulder length. If you have 2c waves or 3a loose ringlets, you’ll get there much faster than someone with a kinky coily texture.
Either way, don’t expect to notice any changes for the first few months of your journey. After that period, though, the following guide will become a particularly helpful resource!
How to Transition from Relaxed to Natural Hair
#1. Figure Out What You Want to Do With Your Ends
After you decide to transition from relaxed to natural hair, your hair may look a bit bizarre as your curls come in. But whatever you do, you must resist the urge to go back to relaxing your roots! Instead, consider your other options — and keep in mind, the big chop isn’t the only one you have.
You could always let your hair grow in naturally, limp ends and all. There are plenty of ways to disguise the inconsistency in the textures with various accessories and protective styles.
And if you ever feel weird about your relaxed ends, remember why you’re transitioning. Looking at inspirational photos on Instagram and Pinterest might help. Just imagine what your glorious mass of curls will look like when it grows in!
#2. But You Do Have to Trim Regularly
Even if you decide not to chop off the damaged ends of your hair, you’ll still have to trim them regularly. Over time, that should decrease the amount of straight hair you have and replace it with your natural curls without being too much of a shock to see.
Moreover, regular trims will prevent any split ends from blossoming up the hair shaft and damaging the new growth. However, if you’re going to trim your own hair, make sure you’re working in tiny sections and using proper haircutting scissors — not kitchen shears!
#3. Don’t Use Heat Styling
If you decide to opt out of the big chop, you’ll have to deal with your limp ends in one way or another. However, you should try not to use heat styling on any part of your hair. Now that you’re growing your natural curls out, you probably want to see them completely healthy. Using hot styling tools is not the way to do that!
Of course, depending on your hair porosity, you might still have to use heat during your hair care routine. But that isn’t the same thing as putting burning metal on your hair. During your wash day, you might just use hot water to open up your hair’s cuticle layer and make it more receptive to nutrients.
#4. Avoid Chemical Treatments
If you’re trying to transition from relaxed to natural hair, you should avoid all sorts of chemical treatments — not just relaxers. That means steering clear of hair dyes and bleach at least until your natural hair grows in.
After all, these chemicals can break down the protein bonds that make up your hair. But you’re probably all too familiar with chemical damage and all the breakage that comes with it. If you want to experiment with color during this time, look for natural alternatives or, if you must, go to a professional colorist. They’ll be able to get you the results you want in a safe way.
#5. In the Meantime — Use Curlers
When your curly hair starts showing, you could match your ends to your natural curl pattern to conceal texture inconsistencies. But instead of hot tools, you should use wet sets — curling methods that don’t require heat. You just need to get a curling set of your choice and a spray bottle full of water (and maybe some leave-in conditioner).
A traditional wet set requires cylindrical hair rollers, but those aren’t the only tools you have at your disposal. Flexi-rods and Curlformers are probably the most popular heatless curling tools right now. However, even rollers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including Velcro, mesh, snap-on, and magnetic rollers.
If you want to leave your roots untouched, you could even just curl the relaxed parts of your hair. However, curling all the way to the root will ensure a more even texture.
#6. Experiment with Different Protective Styles
Whether you decide to curl your ends or not, there are plenty of hairstyles that could conceal texture discrepancies during your transition from relaxed to natural hair. If you don’t want to go all out, you could just wear your hair in buns or chignons.
On the other hand, if you feel like braiding it up, flat twists are pretty easy to achieve. Alternatively, if you want to go all out, you could do box braids, Senegalese twists, or any number of braid extension styles. Of course, even while your hair is in a protective style, you’d have to maintain its health by putting oil on your scalp and over the braids as well.
Whether you’re braiding your hair yourself or having someone else do it, try not to put too much pressure on your roots, particularly around your face and on the nape of your neck. No one has time to deal with tension balding when their hair is recovering from chemical damage.
Lastly, if you want to have more access to your hair, you could wear wigs. That would still allow you to get to know your hair as it grows while still having a presentable appearance.
#7. Up Your Accessories Game With Head Scarves
If you decide to keep your hair out, hair scarves will cover your curly roots and let you enjoy that relaxer a bit longer. Moreover, like some of the protective styles, covering your whole head with a hair scarf will prevent you from touching and potentially damaging your hair. Now, all you need to do is get some cute scarves and find a wrap style that suits you!
#8. Discover Your Hair’s Needs As You Go
Now that you know how to style your transitioning hair, let’s talk about hair care. As your curly hair grows in, you may notice that it responds to products differently than your relaxed hair. That’s because your new growth will likely have a completely different set of needs.
It could be less dry than your relaxed hair or less in need of protein. Your curls will almost certainly have a different porosity than your damaged hair. But you won’t know any of that for sure until you have enough new hair to test the theory. In the meantime, keep track of the way your roots react to the products you’re using.
#9. Keep Your Hair Hydrated
Moisturizing your hair is the single most important thing you can do during your transition from relaxed to natural hair. Since curly hair tends to fall on the dry end of the spectrum, you’ll have to offset that.
First and foremost, you’ll want to avoid overly stripping shampoos with harsh sulfates. Opt for cleansing conditioners instead! And when you feel like you need more moisture, use deep conditioners and hair butters.
#10. Get Some Proteins In the Mix
Human hair is made of a durable protein called keratin. However, relaxers and other similar chemical processes tend to break that protein down. That causes the hair to become frizzy and prone to breakage. So during your transition period, you’ll want to maintain the amount of protein you have in your hair.
Fortunately, doing so is pretty easy. You just have to find a protein treatment you like and apply it every month or so — or whenever your curls look like they need a little pick-me-up. If you have low porosity hair, look for products with hydrolyzed proteins. After you put the treatment on, use a shower cap to seal it in and a thermal cap to open your cuticle layer.
#11. Prevent Breakage by Detangling Properly
When your curls start coming in, you may notice some knots forming in your hair. That’s about when you’ll need to start detangling in the shower. Remember, your hair will need to be soaking wet and loaded with conditioner before you even think of running your fingers through it.
Alternatively, if you want to get the business over with more quickly, you can use wet detangling brushes. Working in sections from the bottom layer of the hair up, always brush out your ends first and work your way up toward the roots.
#12. Try Hair Supplements
During your transition from relaxed to natural hair, you’ll want to make sure your body has everything it needs to produce the gorgeous curls you remember. Taking vitamins for your hair isn’t only supposed to make it grow faster — although that is a common side effect. Instead, vitamins should ensure your hair’s health.
With that in mind, you don’t need to stick to any particular brand of vitamins. However, you should make sure you’re getting your daily dose of biotin, as well as vitamins D and A.
#13. Take Good Care of Your Scalp
If you’re trying to make your hair grow faster, you should maintain your scalp health. Most people do that by pre-pooing with hot coconut or olive oil treatments.
Half an hour before you wash your hair, warm your favorite oil and massage it into your scalp. Use the pads of your fingertips rather than your nails — you don’t want to scratch yourself.
The stimulation will bring blood to your scalp carrying all the nutrients you took in during the day, making your hair grow faster. Moreover, these massages will also exfoliate your scalp, freeing up any clogged pores.
Most Importantly: Consult Your Stylist
Hopefully, these tips have told you everything you need to know about styling and caring for your curls during the transition from relaxed to natural hair. However, if you still have questions about the process, you should make an appointment with your stylist. They’ll be able to tell you more tips that pertain to your hair type and recommend products that will suit your new texture.