Many of us who are natural, transitioning or thinking about going natural have heard of the big chop. Some of us fear it, some of us understand its necessity and some believe it’s not fully necessary to reach your full natural hair potential. Whatever you may feel, the big chop is a staple in the natural hair community and the benefits well surpass any physical satisfaction you may experience.
If you are wondering what the big chop can do for you, you have to assess what you WANT it to do. What brought you to the decision to go natural in the first place. Are you looking to feel more confident with your natural being? Are you simply curious to know how to identify your hair texture? Are you experimenting with different aesthetics? The answer to these questions will ultimately answer if you should go through with a big chop or not. The goal here is to give you an insight into what the big chop meant to me and what it did for my natural hair journey.
Confidence is Key
The first reflection I looked back on during my big chop days was the everflowing confidence I felt during that time. I had done a “big chop” a few years before this one but it was really just a Rihanna-like short cut. I still had a few inches of relaxed hair up top and my sides weren't completely buzzed down, just slicked down with a lot of gel. After that period of life, I went to protective styling like no other. Box braids, twists, crochet braids, you name it, I had it. Honestly this was because I had some underlying fear of not having length to mess with or something to frame my face. Unfortunately, my hair was still pretty damaged, even though it was growing. It was brittle, breaking and drying up as soon as water was introduced. So while I thought I was making progress, I was pretty much in worse shape than when I started.
The second time I decided to big chop, I still wasn’t committed to the thought of cutting ALL of my hair off. So I decided to go for the tapered cut, but cut it low enough that all of my damaged ends were snipped away. I could work with my natural roots in order to really see a change in growth; but then came a new outlook. Having completely buzzed sides literally lit a fire in my view of myself. I liked the look of seeing my scalp peek through my super short strands.
So then I met up with my barber and we went for a full buzzed cut like a melanated G.I. Jane. My mother encouraged me to do this for years but I was terrified of how I would look, thinking I would look “manly”. As soon as I took a look in the mirror, I was terrified of the woman I saw. Not because I thought she was “ugly”. I was terrified because I just did not know her. I did not know who I was without hair and through that fear came liberation. I thought to myself, ‘this is a blank canvas.’ My ideal of beauty switched from being defined by my hairstyle to being defined by the pure me in the mirror.
Starting From Scratch
Now the most obvious benefit you receive from doing a big chop is the ability to really start from the bottom. When you cut off all of your length, you are left with the newest, most fresh growth from the root. Now, just because you cut off all of your dead ends, does not mean the work is done and you will receive long, luscious tresses. I kept my hair buzzed for quite some time before I decided to try to grow it out again. When I made the decision to cut ties with my barber and begin new growth, I went on a journey to see what exactly would help foster lots of hair growth of my true hair texture. During my research, I realized that starting from the bottom really meant more than just the hair on your head. It means your old routines and regimens have to change. Your old hair products may not work for your now virgin, healthy hair. This is where the most learning had to happen. I had an entire arsenal that I basically had to toss out because it wasn’t what my new growth needed.
I will say that the big chop journey did kind of catapult me into the world of natural hair care. I was so afraid of putting anything that could be remotely harmful on this fresh virgin hair and I wanted the best that the earth could offer. Back then, I wish I had more knowledge about NaturAll because the DIY life was NOT for me, ok?! I love to cook but I was not for bringing out my blender for no hair oils and shea butter concoctions.
The number one product I would have LOVED during my big chop time would have been our Original Jamaican Black Castor Oil Growth Serum. The castor oils I was using from my local beauty supply stores were just overpowering and too thick to penetrate my hair (even when I mixed them with a carrier oil). Now this definitely may be a ‘my area’ problem but it would have been easily solved with the growth serums we have. They are easily distributed throughout the hair and with my hair so short it would have gone straight to the source, my scalp! Our lavender fragrance masks the natural smell of Jamaican castor oil very well so you can use it everyday or every other day without offending your nostrils.
Time is an Asset
You may be thinking “of course the big chop will help me save time”; you are absolutely correct. However, I really did not grasp HOW MUCH time I would be freeing up with my hair gone. Maybe you’ve been thinking about picking up a new hobby like yoga, running or bird watching. Chopping off all of your hair not only shaves off time from your morning routine but you’re also eliminating hair appointments, touch ups and trips to the hair store. Now I am not claiming my big chop didn’t take some maintenance, but that maintenance took me 10 minutes TOPS each morning. This gave me time to make some breakfast, read some motivational passages and even bang out a quick yoga flow all before work. If you are someone who enjoys a beat face, without worrying about pinning up your hair away from your face, you have all the time to contour, bake, or highlight with lots more focus. Plus, who doesn’t love a bald baddie with a beat face?!
Along with time, you are saving your coin. Now you will have to spend money on a few great products for a solid routine but the AMOUNT of products will dwindle exceptionally. When you learn what works, you will be building a foundational arsenal that will only need one MAYBE two more additions once you get some length. This will cut your time more than in half shopping at the store or online. Once again, your girl definitely would have loved NaturAll during my big chop days because I could have subscribed to my favorite products and would have eliminated any thought into my hair products. For example, I would have subscribed to our Hydrating Shampoo, the Original Jamaican Black Castor Oil Growth Serum and the Hydrating Curl Custard (for my TWA) and I would have been set! Being a part of the subscription, I would have gotten free shipping, discounted prices and I wouldn’t have skipped a beat! I say all this to say that the big chop really gives you your precious time back and you’re able to spend it on things you find more important. Not to mention, once you’re saving money on fewer products, that money can go into whatever you choose to spend your new free time on. Honestly, a win-win in my opinion.
Where Should You Start?
Now that I’ve given you the full look into what the big chop did for me on the outside and inside, you may be wondering, well where do I go from here? How in the world should I go about the big chop? Well there are plenty of renditions of a big chop but let’s go through some of the typical styles people choose.
Tapered: The tapered cut is a beautiful way to cut just exactly what you need to without sacrificing ALL of your length. Tapered cuts are typically characterized as shorter on the sides, faded in the back and longer up top. The length of all sides are usually determined by you and your barber but the ultimate goal is to cut all damaged hair and split ends. Some people don't necessarily go for the tapered cut because of the varying lengths around the head and they don’t want their hair to grow unevenly. I loved my tapered cut because it gave me this edgy RiRi look that made me step into a whole new personality.
TWA: The famous “Teeny Weeny Afro”. This cut is when you cut about 90% of your length so all you have left showing is your very new roots. This produces the cutest little curls or coils (depending on your natural texture) all over the head. This is the best option for someone who still wants a little something to style but they don’t want to be fully buzzed. The TWA is the best way to really start loving your natural texture because you are finally seeing what it looks like. Now, you must be careful because depending on the processes you have put your hair through, your roots may still be affected. If this is the case, you may not be seeing your TRUE texture just yet. You’ll be seeing a healthier version of still processed hair. However, the TWA is still a great way to get a head start on your natural hair journey.
Buzz Cut: Now this one right here? This is what I recommend to EVERYONE who is considering a big chop. Shaving your head to basically bald (maybe like a good 2-4 centimeters of length) is the sure fire way to know that you have removed all damaged and processed strands. I tried all versions of the big chop and none of them gave me the confidence I craved like my buzz cut. I was virtually naked and needed to find ways to love myself completely outside of my hair because I didn’t have any! Once your hair begins to grow in, you start to see your true hair pattern and texture and it is the most rewarding process. Then you can find products easier because you know exactly what you’re looking for.
Just Do It Already!
Listen, I know, trust me. The big chop can be intimidating, especially if you are someone like me who never in their life saw themselves with a tapered cut, let alone a fade. Once I took the leap, I could do a big chop again and again with absolutely no fear. As a wise person once said “Happiness is on the other side of fear”. The best part about hair is, for the most part, it grows back! That is the main goal for a big chop anyway. Getting rid of all that is weighing down the hair and allowing your scalp and roots to flourish like they once did before all of the perms, dyes and manipulation you put it through all these years.
Instead of thinking of all that you are “losing” think about all that you can gain. If you want, you can use your big chop as a new identity make over. Your physical being is 100% influenced by what you are telling yourself in your mind and spirit. If you can find a way to realign all three at once, a big chop is the best way to do so.