By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
Going from relaxed to natural can be an exciting, liberating, and well– challenging experience. While BC’ing, or big chopping, is one way to quickly transition to natural- it’s not for everyone and it comes with its own set of challenges. Deciding to keep the hair through a long term transition without the big chop is a whole other ball game. If you are one who plans to make a long term transition back to natural hair without a big chop, you’ll need a lot of patience and support to get you through. If you are not planning to transition, but simply want some good long term relaxer stretch tips this article will be of use to you on your journey as well!
Why Transition Without the Big Chop?
The reasons for choosing to long term transition without big chopping right away can be many and varied. For me, long term transitioning was the obvious option for a few reasons: 1.) I would have great difficulty parting with my hair in one big event, 2.) My mind needs to be on board … totally, and 3) I just don’t like surprises! And yes, these hair journeys can be quite personal, and even emotional for some. BC’ing can be a shock for those who are used to seeing their faces framed with hair. Honestly, just going from mid-back length to Halle Berry short regardless of texture would be a shock for many. For me, it’s about simple exploration. I’ve had great success growing out relaxed hair, but I’m interested to see if its easier to grow out my natural hair in comparison. Long term transitioning works best for me, simply because I prefer to work with lengthier hair from the outset.
1. Get motivated, and set your long term transitioning goal.
It’s important to remind yourself about why you’re making a long term transition or deciding to hold off on that relaxer. Once you are ready transition, set a concrete goal and start working toward it! When times get rough, take yourself back to your original motivation(s) and try to visualize yourself at your end goal. Take it one day at a time. Some days will be easier than others, and there might be times when you feel unattractive, unmotivated, discouraged, upset, frustrated– you name it. We all have our reasons for long term transitioning, whatever they may be. Ask yourself — Why am I doing this? How is this improving my hair? Or me as a person? Then ask- What’s the end goal here? Typically, your motivation for stretching or transitioning will be for hair/personal health reasons. Your end goal might be to hit a specific week post relaxer, achieve thicker, vibrant hair, remain chemical free, or to rock a full natural head of hair. Keep your goal in mind and press toward it! When you reach your goal, treat yourself to something nice. You’ve earned it!
2. Deep condition transitioning hair on a regular basis.
Keep your moisture and protein needs in check to avoid breakage. Step up your deep conditioning efforts as you head further and further post relaxer. Be sure to make the most of your deep conditioning by adding heat to the mix for at least 10 minutes every week. For basic washes or co washes, you’ll find that hair on a transition or stretch tends to soak up conditioner product. If you’re going through conditioners like nobody’s business, you may want to consider investing in some cheapies for day to day washing and co-washing and saving those high-priced, salon deep conditioning products for your serious deep conditioning days. During conditioning, and any other styling really– pay special attention to the line of demarcation. (Demarcation= the point on the hair shaft where new growth meets relaxed hair) This is where a majority of breakage will come from.
3. Customize your hair care to each hair texture
As you get deeper into your stretch or long term transition, you may find that you need to customize your products to each hair type on your head. The two hair types were never really intended to be maintained on your head at the same time, so special care will need to be given to your hybridized hair! Understand that your relaxed hair may not be able to accept frequent washing despite how your new growth seems to enjoy it. Similarly, the protein treatments that you used regularly when your hair was completely relaxed may not be suitable for your incoming new growth. You’ll need to follow the cues that each hair type is giving you. The needs can be quite different and it is up to you to notice changes in your hair’s needs.
I’ve found that, after washing, my relaxed hair tends to dry up feeling hard or crispy while my new growth feels soft and supple. A quick fix for this is a cheapie conditioner near the new growth and roots, and protein (Joico conditioner) to the relaxed ends. Then, rinse the protein treatment and apply a moisturizing deep conditioner to the length and ends of hair. The protein corrects uneven porosity and establishes a fortified shaft structure that allows the follow up moisturizing treatment to really get in there and work.
4. Arrange and style the hair while it is wet
Though hair tends to be weakest when wet, wet combing is preferable for transitioners and those working with multiple textures of hair. Transitioning hair is simply easiest to style while it is damp and moist. This greater ease of styling translates to less breakage for textured wet hair compared to the same hair dried. For transitioning hair especially, wet styling greatly reduces the breakage factor. Because transitioning hair responds best to wet styling, efforts should be made to keep overall manipulation down as much as possible when the hair is styled. It is always prudent to handle the hair very gently when wet.
5. Wear your hair curly more often than not.
Curly styles mask awkward or drastic texture changes while you are plugging through your long term transition. These styles also get you in the mind frame to enjoy hair that tightly hugs your face and pushes off the shoulders. Finally, curly hair gives you a much needed styling break. The deeper you head into your transition, the greater the chances for breakage from handling and styling manipulation. Rocking curly sets reduces the amount of hair that is lost to breakage from day to day handling. Most curly styles last for days and only need to be fluffed and oiled from day to day to preserve their freshness.
6. Visit sites like Youtube, Fotki and bglh-marketplace.com to follow others who are transitioning with you.
The ability to connect with and build a support community online has made relaxer stretching and transitioning without a big chop not seem like such lonely undertakings! Being able to discuss products and watch tutorials of techniques definitely sets this generation of stretchers and transitioners apart from the rest. But do view these resources with caution. Try not to overwhelm yourself! There is so much information out there that too much can end up working against you. Pick out a few folks you admire and try to find people who are similar to you in hair type and goals.
Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).