Starting your natural hair journey is a colossal undertaking with the potential to be overwhelming (especially if this is your first time). There’s the question of whether to transition or big chop, deciding what products and tools you need, and much more. Well, you don’t have to worry about figuring this out on your own, because I’ve put together the following guide to teach you how to go natural with purpose and without stress.
Lets get started!
Big Chop or Transition: Your Choice
The biggest decision that you will make when going natural is whether you will big chop or transition over time. There are pros and cons to both methods.
About the Big Chop
What is the Big Chop?
When you cut off all of your relaxed (or otherwise chemically altered) hair at once, you are doing what is called a big chop.
Here’s a selfie I took shortly after my first big chop.
My Big Chop Experience and Some Important Points
I prefer big chops over transitioning for many reasons- the most important being the lifted feeling that I get when I finally get rid of all of the relaxed or processed hair. But what lots of people won’t tell you about the big chop is that while it is liberating, it can take a lot of time and self-reflection to get used to a drastically new look (and outward identity).
I am not trying to dissuade you from getting a big chop, but I’d like to prepare you for what you could experience after a big chop.
Big Chop Pros:
- You are able to get rid of all processed, relaxed, or damaged hair at once.
- You only have to tend to your natural hair, whereas with transitioning, you have to learn both your relaxed hair and your new natural hair.
- You get a fresh start and the opportunity to learn your natural hair from the ground up.
- Short hair is often easier to maintain than long hair.
- Save on hair products.
Big Chop Cons:
- Short hair is looked at as unattractive to some people, and they might share their thoughts with you.
- Getting used to a shorter look can be a challenge.
- Waving goodbye to your hair can feel like the loss of a good friend.
Is The Big Chop Right For You?
If you don’t care so much about losing hair length and you’re looking for a fresh start, the big chop might be the best choice for you! Take as much time as you need to decide whether the big chop is what you want. Look at the pros and cons and be honest with yourself. It’s your choice!
What is Transitioning?
Transitioning is different from a big chop in that you do not cut off all of the relaxed/texturized/permed/damaged hair at once. Instead, you trim a little bit at a time while your natural hair grows in. Usually, within a year or so, there won’t be any more unwanted hair and you’ll be left with healthy natural hair.
My Experience with Transitioning and Some Important Points
I tried to transition at the start of my natural hair journey. Here’s a picture of how my hair looked.
I didn’t transition for long because I found it difficult to deal with the stringy relaxed hairs while trying to tend to my natural new growth. On top of that, my hair was breaking off, so instead of trying to salvage straggly strands, I big chopped.
However, for some, transitioning will be the answer because of the appeal of being able to hold onto length while allowing the natural hair to make its appearance.
Pros to Transitioning
- You don’t have to deal with a dramatic cut since you trim your hair at your own pace.
Cons to Transitioning
- You’ll have to deal with two textures with different needs.
- In addition, your hair will likely require an extraordinary amount of time and patience to try to blend your natural hair texture with your relaxed hair.
- There is a weak point on each strand (where your relaxed hair begins and your new natural hair growth ends) that is particularly prone to damage and breakage. Protecting these weak points can be difficult.
Is Transitioning Right For You?
Transitioning is for you if you have relatively healthy relaxed hair, keeping your length is important to you, and you are up for the challenge of dealing with two distinctly different textures.
Note: Severely damaged hair will make the transitioning process problematic, even to the point where you could potentially deal with damage to your new natural hair as it grows out. A big chop would be the better choice in this instance.
Get Stocked Up On Some Basic Natural Hair Staples
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There are some natural hair staples that you’ll need when starting your natural hair journey. I recommend this bundle of Shea Moisture products to cover all of the basic bases for natural hair care.
Included in the bundle are the following 4 products. I have used all of these products over the past few years and they are some of the best low-cost natural hair products for new naturals.
- Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO) Shampoo– You’ll need a shampoo that will cleanse your natural hair without leaving it desert dry. This shampoo does the trick. You can read my in-depth review of the JBCO Shampoo here.
- Shea Moisture JBCO Conditioner- Your conditioner should be formulated to impart moisture and strength to your hair. The JBCO conditioner that you get in the bundle is moisturizing and has good slip (making detangling your hair easier).
- Shea Moisture JBCO Treatment Masque– This is one of my favorite deep conditioners for natural hair. It’s good for getting an extra dose of moisture and nourishment. Within 5-10 minutes, it leaves my hair looking moisturized and feeling soft.
- Shea Moisture JBCO Leave-In Conditioner– This quality leave-in conditioner will give your hair the protection and moisture that it needs.
Note: You would also benefit from picking up a gel or styler for any styles that you plan to do, and a satin bonnet or satin pillowcase to protect your hair at night.
*Keep in mind, these are only the basic things that you will need as a new natural.
There are several other items that you’ll need depending on your hair chemistry, hair goals, styling desires, and more.
Craft A Start-Up Regimen
Getting a regimen in place is paramount for new naturals.
A basic start-up regimen consists of regular shampooing, conditioning, deep conditioning, trimming, and styling. Some extra tasks that you might end up adding to your natural regimen include protein treatments and pre-poo treatments.
Before you begin to get overwhelmed, remember that each of these tasks will be done at different frequencies (once a month, once a week, etc.).
Find out how to create a no-stress regimen here.
The reason why a regimen should be created, vs. copied, is that everyone’s hair is different and your regimen should be tailored to your unique hair.
Become a Natural Hair Scientist: Experiment!
Experimentation is a huge part of going natural.
There are few techniques, products, and tips that work for every single person with natural hair. So, have some fun and try different product combinations and techniques to discover which ones help you achieve the best results.
Moisture is the name of the game – so, making it a priority to determine which products work best to keep your hair moisturized would put you on the right path.
You’ll likely come back to the experimentation phase repeatedly as you progress throughout your natural hair journey.
Style With Mindfulness
My recommendation when it comes to styling your natural hair is “less is more”.
When you are first starting out, it would be helpful to keep the following things in mind:
- If your hair is always in a long-wear protective style, it is near impossible to figure out what your hair likes and dislikes.
- Certain styles require lots of hair manipulation, which can cause breakage along the hair shaft and hair loss from the hair follicle.
- Be selective when deciding which styles you want to do. Wash and gos are much gentler on the hair than micro braids or sew ins in most cases.
- Taking breaks in between elaborate hairstyles like box braids or sew-ins is a great idea. Your hair and scalp could use a break every now and again.
Some gentle, low-manipulation styles that you can try at the start of your hair journey include:
- Space Buns
- Halo Braid
- Braid Out
- Twist Out
- Low Bun
- High Bun
- High Puff
- Low Puff
- Wash and Go
and the list goes on and on!
Remember to be Patient
Whether you choose to big chop or transition, you will need to have LOTS of patience. After you big chop, your hair will take time to grow out. If you choose to transition, it will take time to learn how to deal with two textures simultaneously. No matter whether you big chop or transition, it will take time to figure out exactly what works for your hair.
Learning is part of every successful natural hair journey.
Expose yourself to the natural hair community. Link up with other naturals. You can learn from people’s successes and failures, gather new ideas, and enjoy support from people who are on their own natural hair journeys.
- Read natural hair articles (both print and online)
- Read books on natural hair care.
- Watch videos (YouTube.com is a good place to watch demonstrations and commentary on naturals’ experiences with their hair).
- Take mental notes on your own experiences and learn from them.
Good Luck Going Natural!
I know that this is a lot to take in at once, but I promise that going natural is not too much to handle. After all, going natural is just going back to the hair that you were born with.
While there is a learning curve to natural hair care, you will eventually come to a point where you know your hair like the back of your hand.
I hope that this guide was helpful to you in some way and I wish you the best with your new hair journey!
I am only a comment away. You can comment below or use the “Contact Us” page if you have any questions or concerns. I respond within 24 hours!
Thanks for reading.
Happy Journey 😊