Transitioning in and of itself is a challenging journey, wrought with excitement, frustration, progress and potential. Amidst all of the advice, methods, regimens and products, sometimes the most confusing thing about the journey is knowing when to chop. There’s pressure on all side. Some fellow naturals think transitioners are dragging their feet, clinging on to their relaxed and heat damaged ends like some sort of security blanket.
Trust me, I know the feeling. I was consistently pressured via social media. People would tell me that I needed to go ahead and cut my hair. I respectfully declined each and every time, refusing to acquiesce to anyone’s wishes but my own.
For whatever reason, transitioners can decide to hold on to their ends for as long as they choose. Maybe you’re not ready for all-natural hair. Maybe you’re not ready to embrace full shrinkage and enjoy the extra length your ends provide. I transitioned for nearly 2 years (21 months to be exact) before chopping my ends in December. My goal was to transition for two full years, because I’ve only had short hair once in my life. However, my hair and patience had other plans.
One piece of advice that I often share with transitioners is to begin with the end in mind. When you set out on your journey, have a goal; whether it’s time, getting rid of old hair color, or achieving a certain amount of growth. I didn’t make it to my goal of two years, but that’s okay. Even if you don’t stick entirely to your goal, things always work better when you have something to aim for.
With that being said, when should transitioners chop? When is it time to draw the line and let the ends go? There’s no cut and dry answer, but here a few signs that will help you determine when you might be just about ready to make that move:
1. Breakage and thinning are out of control.
Along your transitioning journey, some thinning and breakage is to be expected. We know the line of demarcation between the new natural and old damaged ends can be very fragile. Continuously handling transitioning tresses while incurring minimal damage can become increasingly difficult. If you reach a point in your journey where your ends are constantly snapping off and your hair experiences severe tapering or thinning, it just might be time to cut your losses. In this extreme case, a trim is not going to solve anything. Chopping is the only way to preserve the health and integrity of the rest of your hair.
2. You’re losing patience.
If you’re at the point in your transition where you’re beginning to loathe certain parts of your regimen, you may be chop ready. If your preparation for detangling requires you to drink two Red Bulls, listen to 30 minutes of turn up music and have a pre-game huddle with your products, chopping may be in your near future. If you need to do a transitioning style like twist and curl in preparation for a night out with your girls and you choose to sit at home with Netflix instead of going out, you’re a chop candidate. These may be extreme examples, but there is something to be said for reaching the point where you absolutely have zero patience for putting up with your transitioning hair.
Around October, I really started losing patience with my hair. I had long since given up styles in favor of wash and go’s, but even those were getting on my nerves. The time it took to detangle those dreaded damaged ends was wearing on me. The fortitude to do satin strip braidouts, bantu knot outs and other styles was virtually nonexistent. Impatience for your transitioning hair opens the door for lax practices that can result in unnecessary damage to your hair.
3. You keep trimming. And trimming. And trimming.
Getting scissor happy is probably one of the clearer signs that the chop may be near. When you continually trim away at your damaged hair in such a small amount of time, you’re pretty much setting yourself up to chop soon. Nothing about trimming twice a week suggests that you’re trying to keep your transitioning hair for as long as possible. The message you’re sending to yourself is, “I’m tired of looking at this damaged hair,” and you’re already taking action. Right before it was time to chop, I found myself trimming my ends every week for a month. That was easily 2–3 inches in one month.
4. You’re no longer enjoying the journey.
The moment transitioning stops being a fun, exploratory journey where you’re learning and growing in how you manage your hair denotes the end of that phase of your natural hair journey is likely near. The transitioner journey is a unique experience full of twists and turns (literally and figuratively). There will be days where your hair amazes you and days where your hair gets on your last nerve. Although the roller coaster ride won’t last always, it should be like an exciting courtship period for you and your hair. But once it turns into that stale, dead end relationship where you’re just going through the motions, it may be time to let those ends go.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to chop when you’re ready and not a moment sooner. What were your warning signals that chop time was near?