The Transitioning Stage

I have a backlog of “Movember” posts I need to finish up! So here goes: First off, my fun fact for Movember, taken from Medscape:

Men should receive information on screening starting at the following ages:

  • Age 50 for those at average risk of developing prostate cancer
  • Age 45 for those at high risk, including those of African descent and men with a first-degree relative (father, brother, son) diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.
  • Age 40 for those at higher risk (more than one first-degree relative diagnosed
    with prostate cancer at an early age).

Now, on to transitioning:

The best way to describe transitioning is when you stop relaxing your hair and let your natural hair grow. After some time, depending on the length you’re comfortable with, you cut off the relaxed ends. It’s a great way to learn how to manage your natural hair with the advantage of length.

I’ve realised that people get confused about what is their natural hair when they are thinking of going natural from being relaxed, because they think that they can switch instantly from relaxed to natural. I’d advise you to read this post  first to clear up any confusion. Now let’s go into detail:

Screenshot (2)
Source: Green Beauty Channel

So, as the picture shows, when you stop relaxing your hair and let it grow, that “growth” that was the enemy of our silky strands, is the natural hair. The relaxed hair is the straight one (see how much washing changes nothing?). The place along the strand that changes from natural to relaxed is called the “line of separation” or the “line of demarcation.” This is a weak point, and hair is likely to break at that point.

Armed with that information, what do you need to know if you want to transition?

Transitioning is not for the fainthearted!
I’m speaking from experience. I thought I was clever and started transitioning to natural. The fact that I was not taking good care of my hair, and did not have the information to change my regimen to suit my decision made it harder than what it probably could’ve been. I big chopped after 5 months, cause I was already done.

If you want to transition, know that it takes commitment and discipline to prevent dryness, to manage both textures and keep it moisturised. I know that now… hindsight is indeed 20/20.

Protective styles are your friend.
You’re dealing with two textures when transitioning, and the line of demarcation is a site of potential breakage. If you want to retain length for a significant amount of time, the relaxed ends and the line of demarcation must be protected. The best way to do it is to do hairstyles that do not cause much strain, and don’t let your strands brush against your clothes. Here are a few examples:

Twisted updo. Source: A.A.H.V.
Two strand twist and a headscarf! Source: CurlyNikki

Trimming the relaxed ends is up to you
There is no perfect time to cut off the relaxed ends. The time has to be perfect for you. Some do it for 5 months (*sheepish look*), some two years, others even longer. The journey is your own, and you can choose when you are ready to go fully natural.

I personally do not recommend waiting for the relaxed ends to break off on their own, because it leaves weak spots for split ends to develop faster.

Use products that your natural hair likes.
Some people are lucky, their natural hair loves the products they used when they were relaxed. Some are not. When you find products that work well for your natural growth, stick to them, because one day you will let go of the relaxed ends.

Shrinkage is real, but do not let it upset you.
When you wash your hair when transitioning, your relaxed ends absorb a lot of water, more water than what they need. This is because the cuticles are damaged, and cannot regulate the amount of water that’s absorbed by the strands. As a result, the relaxed ends become a bit heavier, and stretch your natural hair just that bit.

Perfect example. Source Natural Hair Uganda

When you finally big chop, the shrinkage that you experience is way more than when you were transitioning because of that little change: no more relaxed ends to stretch your hair. It is normal, and you’ll need to use other methods to keep your hair stretched now: Twists, clips, braids.

Find others who are on the same journey.
Interacting with and following fellow transitioners helps make the journey easier. It helps you realise that your struggles and triumphs are not yours alone. You can have your questions answered. Here are a few blogs of people who are transitioning or have transitioned and have documented their journeys:

Carol Nyazika speaks on her 16-month transitioning journey and shows us the result of her big chop.

Lienne Shonhiwa gives a few tips on wash day while transitioning.

Journey to Waist Length is a great resource for those who want to transition for a long time. She details her transitioning journey, and even shows how she cut off the relaxed ends.

Green Beauty Channel has a video that gives tips on transitioning as well. She lays it out in such a simple way, I almost ran to relax my hair just so I could transition again under her guidance. Don’t worry, I didn’t do it!!

*Shameless advert* I’m part of a great Facebook community, Zimbabwean Naturals (Hair Maintenance) group. We’re a large community of naturals, transitioners, and a few people who are still considering whether to go natural, while learning about natural hair maintenance. Come join us, ask all your questions, we’re always there to help!

Has anyone else transitioned to natural? How did it go? Any advice for someone wanting to transition? Let’s hear in the comments below!

Until next time… your Quarter wife.

7 thoughts on “The Transitioning Stage

  1. I started to transition in 2009. I never did the big chop but for the first few years I always wore my hair straight which caused me to have serious damage. It probably wasnt until about 2014 when I started using less and less heat. Fast forward to today, my hair is FINALLY healthy and is retaining length. I now only straighten my hair once a year.


  2. When people tell me their transitioning stories I cringe, I couldn’t go through all that I just went straight for the big chop, my heart is not yet steady for that pain lol 😁😅


  3. I’ve never heard of this. My daughter had naturally curly hair. She was the only one. Her hair fell into natural ringlets. She HATED it. Then, it became stylish when women were having “perms.” She would get asked over and over “what size tube she used.”
    Alas, she started blowing it dry and now it has lost much of its natural curl.
    I think natural hair (in whatever state) is beautiful. I think you’re beautiful. 🙂


    1. So true! I had a cousin who does the same. Her hair is curly, the pattern is much looser than mine, but she always wears it straight. Flat irons it everyday, and it has lost its natural curl as well.


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