We love natural hair and every unique hair type, curl pattern, and style! Because natural and the natural hair journey is so personal, it often feels like a huge step and lifestyle change. Although going from chemically treated to natural requires you to learn more about your hair and how to care for it, we strive to make it as easy and simple as possible! With the right products and techniques, transitioning can be a breeze!
For some people, going natural can be an incredible form of self-love and self-expression depending on the reason you decided to perm or relax your hair. Western beauty standards have taught us that straighter hair is better or more beautiful. Embracing our natural hair with all its curls, kinks, and coils, is an empowering rejection of those beauty standards, and a way of reclaiming our natural beauty.
The most important step in going natural is to promise that you’ll accept your hair and find beauty in it, no matter what. Rather than beginning to fantasize about how your hair “should” look when the transition is complete or after a certain number of years, commit to loving your hair in each and every stage. This can take a lot of stress out of the situation by allowing yourself to learn through love, rather than seeing your hair as a problem that needs to be fixed.
*Note: this post is written specifically for people transitioning from chemically-relaxed hair, but it is still relevant to people transitioning away from heat or color treatments as well
What Does “Going Natural” Mean?
The term “natural hair” in this context, refers to your hair’s original texture. Perms and relaxers, or chemical texture softeners, are used by many different types of people and across all hair types throughout the world. For the sake of this blog, we’re speaking specifically about the process that many ethnically Black, and those of African descent and ancestry, use to soften or straighten their hair using chemicals. However, many Black people also use heat to straighten their hair, which can also cause a lot of damage.
These chemical products have been offered for decades, and for many they offer an easy way to achieve the styles they like and the look they prefer permanently. Because perms are a chemical process, new growing hair at the roots must also be processed for a seamless look. Over time, this causes permanent damage to the hair follicles.
When going natural, you cease to process your new growing hair which results in their original or “natural” hair at the root and the chemically processed hair continuing down on the same hair strand. While you won't be able to revert your relaxed hair to its curly state, over time your new growth will define your curl pattern and you can cut off the damaged hair.
The Line Of Demarcation
The point at which new curly hair growth meets the previously processed hair is called the “line of demarcation”. Simply put, this is the boundary between your original texture and the processed version. It sounds simple in theory- grow out your natural hair and then cut off the old processed hair- but unfortunately it just isn’t that simple.
The line of demarcation is the weakest point of your transitioning hair. This is because the chemicals that were used to straighten your hair actually weaken it. The chemicals in relaxers break down certain aspects of the hair in order to make the hair lay flatter or straighter. In your natural hair however, these characteristics are still present making that hair stronger than the hair further down the hair strand. This causes great tension at the line of demarcation, with the two textures both requiring different products, techniques, and styling tools on the same head.
This line of demarcation can create such an intense hair care situation that some avoid it altogether by shaving their permed off, rather than battling between the two textures. This is a drastic change that many, understandably, may not want to attempt. In the natural hair care community, we call this the “big chop”.
The Process of “Going Natural”
A big chop can be accomplished at any point in the natural hair journey, and it doesn’t have to be a huge or big portion of hair being lopped off. Rocking a shaved head can be fierce, fun, and freeing, but it isn’t for everyone and we get that! You can transition your hair over any period of time, slowly growing out your natural hair while keeping your chemically processed hair intact.
Transitioning is a different route to natural hair that involves cutting chemicals, relaxers, and heat out of your hair regimen. While your permed hair will never return to its natural state, you can retain length as you transition to natural hair by slowly trimming off the damaged ends until your hair is fully natural and at a length you’re comfortable with.
What to Expect During Your Natural Hair Transition
The method you use to become a Naturalista is all up to you! Here are a few things to note when beginning your natural hair journey, and for those who want to transition over a longer period of time with both textures remaining intact. Always try to manage your expectations, and don’t feel down if your journey isn’t matching up with the experiences of others. We are all different, hair and hair journeys included!
- Transitioning means no chemicals, no relaxers, no heat. There is no middle ground here, and you can’t get “occasional” touch-ups or treatments while on this journey. You will need to make a significant change to pretty much every aspect of your haircare routine, products, and tools!
- Feeling tempted to treat your hair again or go back to the perm? That's normal! If you've used relaxers for a while, all your go-to hairstyles involve straight hair, so on those days when you just don't have much energy, it can be so frustrating to have curly roots. Transitioning takes a while, so we recommend that you decide now how long you want to transition for. Having a goal can motivate you to keep going when those straighteners or relaxers look really tempting. And once you get to your goal- let's say it's 3 months- you can recalibrate and decide whether to continue.
- Research and read up on natural hair. The process to find new styles that work for your new texture can be difficult if you aren’t particularly creative. Watching tutorials, reading articles, and testing out new products is always great to encourage exploration into getting to know your “new” hair. The NaturAll blog is a great place to start!
- Don’t forget that the line of demarcation is the weakest point of each of your hair strands, and vulnerable to breakage. As you care for and style your hair, make sure above all to be extremely gentle with your hair at that point. Avoid over-manipulation and take care to keep your hair highly moisturized.
- No matter how careful you are, you should expect to see some breakage. Your hair has been permanently damaged by chemicals, and you simply can’t expect it to be as strong now as it will be eventually when it is fully natural. You’re not necessarily doing something wrong if you notice some breakage or hair loss- don’t get discouraged, and continue to treat your hair with care!
- Avoid products with toxic or drying ingredients, which will increase breakage and frizz. Here are some ingredients to avoid in hair products. Your hair needs its natural oils now more than ever, and sulfates will strip those away, leaving your hair dry and brittle.
- Cleanse your hair. If you don’t regularly cleanse and clarify your hair, you’ll end up with a lot of product buildup. You can use a sulfate-free shampoo like NaturAll Club's all natural Avocado Kiwi Shampoo, whether it’s once a week or every two weeks- just don’t cut it out completely.
- Keep your hair moisturized. Dryness will cause breakage along that line of demarcation we mentioned, and in this vulnerable stage, your hair needs all the moisture it can get. If you missed them, here are our tips for keeping natural hair moisturized. And if those tips aren't working, here are some advanced steps you can take to prevent dry hair.
- Find a go-to style that you can master and feel confident in. We recommend trying twist-outs, braid-outs, or perm rods to help you blend the two textures of your hair until you’re done transitioning.
- Don’t shy away from protective styles. You shouldn’t leave them in for months, but a protective style for a couple weeks can give you a needed rest from hair maintenance.
- Deep conditioning is important for everyone, no matter the state or texture of their hair- but it is absolutely non-negotiable if you are transitioning. Just like we mentioned earlier, your hair is in a weak, fragile state while you’re transitioning, and it needs all the nutrients and moisture it can get. Make deep conditioning part of your hair care regimen, doing treatments every two weeks or as often as every week. Try NaturAll's Fresh Frozé Treatment Deep Conditioners, which will get the job done better than anything else.
- Our final tip is the most important- love your hair and yourself! Enjoy the journey! You get to discover your natural hair slowly, and it’s one of the most exciting things you can do for yourself.
Beginning your natural hair journey is an amazing first step into a new world of discovery, acceptance, and fabulousness! It may seem hard at first, but we genuinely believe that the work you put into “going natural” is all so very worth it.
Although sometimes frustrating, there is so much joy in the process of learning to accept and love your hair’s natural texture. Within this journey, it's important to avoid comparing yourself and your journey to those of other people. We encourage you to get excited about discovering more and more about your “new” hair along with styles, products, and techniques that may make it easier to manage and maneuver with. This spirit of exploration will come in handy when the journey gets hard.
Want to keep learning about transitioning to natural hair? Read our other guide with more information on transitioning hair. Do you have any tips or recommendations for others that may be transitioning? Feel free to leave a comment below!