Ahhhhhhh, love. Fresh off of Valentine’s Day (or Single’s Awareness Day), remnants of love are everywhere: in the form of slowly withering flowers, teddy bears, half-eaten candy, and cancelled dinner plans. Valentine’s Day, although a commercial holiday with (what some believe to be) the sole aim of making money, is still a great time to learn about love. Not just relationship love, friendship love, or family love, but self-love. And what better place to start with love than our hair?
I’ve said it several times before, the transitioner’s journey is a special one. As comforting as it can be to retain or maintain length while the natural hair comes in, it can be a frustrating process that leaves you staring at your scissors, flat-iron, or perm kit more often than not. I’m here to encourage you to hang in there! Here are five challenges transitioners often face, and how to overcome them (and love your hair even more):
Challenge #1 Balancing Multiple Textures
Of all the challenges, this is the most difficult that transitioners face on a regular basis. When it comes to detangling and cleansing, it seems as though naturalistas with more uniformed textures have an easier time — especially with tools like Denman brushes, Tangle Tamers, and more. Even finger detangling can be a challenge for transitioning tresses. Rather than lament on how so-and-so on YouTube makes their detangling process look like a breeze, take stock of your own situation. First of all, get excited about the progress you’ve made. Even if you’ve only been transitioning for two weeks, you can still see a noticeable change at the roots of your hair. If you’re farther along, check out the cute natural pattern you have coming in. Instead of engaging in deficit thinking (i.e. what you don’t have), get excited about what’s there. So what if you can’t rock a wash n’ go yet? There are plenty of 100% naturalistas that can’t. Instead of obsessing about half curly/half straight hair, find styles and techniques that allow you to take advantage of your transitioning tresses. In fact, when I rock a satin strip braidout or straw set, no one can even tell that I’m transitioning — and that makes me feel good at times when I’m frustrated with the multiple texture thing. Find your stride, and keep it moving.
Challenge #2 If Only My Curls Looked Like.…
Stop. Right now. We transitioners loooooooove to spend our time scrutinizing our half-curly/half-straight tresses, while simultaneously oogling the bountifully thick coifs of our favorite bloggers and vloggers. Yes, their manes are gorgeous. Their tresses are fierce. Their color, coils, and kinks are to die for. I understand, believe me, I do. However, worshiping another woman’s hair while looking at yours in disgust is a recipe for transition failure. See, we transitioners are in prime position to learn a great lesson about hair. Because transitioning is such a long and drawn out process, we have no choice but to accept our hair as-is. And while we’re tolerating it, we might as well learn to love it…right? As transitioners, we have a wonderful opportunity to embrace our hair — on good days, and bad. The texture you have is the texture you’re stuck with… you may as well go ahead and love it. Like the old song says: If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.
Challenge #3 Dealing with Damage
As transitioners, we should understand from the outset that a certain amount of our hair is damaged, and predisposed to more damage despite how much we scale back heat use, and how much we protectively style. Transitioning hair is more sensitive. It is more prone to split ends, dryness, and that line of demarcation between new growth and damaged hair is a beast. Transitioner hair tends to be trimmed more frequently. Due to all these factors and more, transitioners shouldn’t expect to retain absurd amounts of length. Once you have accepted this, you can move on to loving your transitioning tresses. Instead of lamenting over how fragile your hair is, discover a sense of accomplishment and excitement in finding the best detangling and styling techniques and products that help you minimize hair loss. My post-detangling hairballs are my personal bench mark — I am obsessed with making the amount of hair in my hands smaller and smaller. Also, rather than get discouraged every time you do a trim, think of it as making room for newer, healthier hair.
Challenge #4: Backsliding
Over the past year or so, I have noticed a pattern with my hair. It starts trippinnnnnnnn OUT at about the midway point between flat-ironing sessions (usually 1.5–2 months). No style seems right, hair products and tools won’t cooperate like they normally do, and detangling seems to be a nightmare. At these particular times in our journey, we transitioners are especially vulnerable. Rather than hunker down and see it through, that flat iron starts to look more appealing. The creamy crack itch begs to be scratched. During these times, it is especially important to remind yourself of why you began to transition in the first place. Maybe it was for a personal challenge. Or perhaps you damaged your hair to the point of no return. Whatever the case may be, continuously reiterate to yourself why you chose to embark on this natural hair journey. I am a visual and tactile/kinesthetic learner, meaning I process information best by seeing, touching/feeling, and doing. So for me, whenever I start feeling frustrated and tempted to prematurely straighten, I go in the annals of my phone and pull up a picture of my hair from January 2012. It was thin, damaged, breaking, and super unhealthy. Then, I touch or play with some of the curls/coils that have grown in this year’s time. Usually, that is enough to satiate my desire to straighten, and get me excited about what the future holds for my hair.
Challenge #5 Just Cut it Already!
Pressure. So much pressure. On so many of the blogs and on Instagram, I see Natural Hair Deputies prodding and pressuring (some, quite nastily) transitioners to cut their hair. I understand, everybody just wants everyone to embrace their God-given texture and rock it boldly. Trust me, I do too…eventually. Somewhere between the urging of others and our own frustrations, reaching for the scissors can be all too tempting. But what we all must keep in mind that the natural hair journey is a marathon for some, and a sprint for others. Everyone must go at a pace that is comfortable for their own progress and success. So don’t you pick up those scissors unless you’re at a length you’re comfortable with, and you’re ready to make the chop. Otherwise, you are walking someone else’s journey and not your own. Stay true to you.
What other transitioner challenges have you learned to love your hair through?