New to Transitioning? Start Here!
If you are just beginning your transition, this is the COMPLETE GUIDE you will want to read and bookmark. It will address many of the common questions and concerns you have about transitioning to natural hair.
It covers the following topics...
What Products You Need
What is a Pre-Poo?
Natural Hair Lingo
When to Big Chop
Dry, Itchy Scalp
Encouragement for Teens
Again, please bookmark this page because you will be taken to other discussions on this forum, YouTube and other sites.
"What Products Do I Need?"
It's tempting to buy a lot of products, but all you really need are...
1) a moisturizing shampoo (sulfate-free) and conditioner
2) deep conditioner
3) daily moisturizer/leave-in
4) a styler for setting the hair, etc. (this is optional because you may find that your leave-in can act as a styler too)
5) sealant to lock in moisture and to be applied after your moisturizing leave-in (natural oils like olive oil, castor, etc.)
Click to see the products I used in my 18-month transition without a big chop.
Occasionally you may want try a protein treatment to strengthen your hair. You can buy Aphogee's Protein system (Sally's Beauty Supply) or make your own at home. Here's a thread with my favorite protein treatment.
Be careful with too much protein. You probably do not need to do this treatment anymore than 6-8 weeks. Also, some products may already contain protein.
Check this thread for product suggestions from NC members.
Here's another discussion where members talk about their preferred products.
Just remember: No one can tell you the best products for YOUR hair. Experimentation is a must. Here are some brands that work well for transitioners:
1) Givovanni shampoos and conditioners (Walmart or Target)
Giovanni shampoos and conditioners are light and very moisturizing. Make sure you don't buy the ones that say "Volumizing". Look for ones that say "moisturizing."
2) Shea Moisture (Target, Walgreens and Walmart)
Shea Moisture makes shampoos and conditioners, but they are known for their moisturizing leave-ins and deep treatments
3) Curls (Target, Walgreens)
This is another great line for moisturizers and leave-ins.
4) Kinky Curly (Whole Foods, Target)
Their Come Clean shampoo is good for clarifying, meaning it rids your hair of excess product build up (something you should do regularly if you use a lot of heavy creams).
Their Knot Today leave-in/detangler is very popular among transitioners and naturals because it's lightweight, moisturizing, smells great and detangles very well.
There are many other great product lines out there. Just learn what to look for when reading labels...
1) Real moisturizing products contain mostly water.
2) Be careful with products that have ingredients that end in -cone. They can cause build up and prevent moisture absorption.
3) Mineral oil and petrolatum are fake moisturizers that may appear to moisturize your hair initially, but leave it dull and dry days later because they just sit on top of your strands and do not absorb. These ingredients are in a lot of products that claim to be "all natural."
4) While it's best to look for all natural products, you may discover that your hair does not respond negatively to all "bad" products. You have to find what works best for you. For example, I do use certain products with mineral oil but I also combine them with real moisturizers.
Save That Cash!
It's not necessary to spend large amounts of money on products. Inexpensive shampoos and conditioners like Suave Naturals, V05, etc. have really great shampoos and conditioners. You can find them at most drugstores.
Look for brands that contain natural oils, other natural ingredients like coconut, avocados, etc. and say "moisturizing."
You can also make your own moisturizing products by using products at home. Check the Recipe forum for ideas posted by the wonderful members here. You'll find Ayurvedic deep conditioning treatments, Greek yogurt deep conditioning treatments and more.
Also, don't forget to comparison shop. Check Amazon, eBay, and other eTailers to see if you can get a better deal online. Just be careful, not all online prices are the best. Always compare.
Here's another thread here with money-saving tips.
"How Often Should I Shampoo?"
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but you definitely want to keep your scalp clean. A clean scalp will promote optimal hair growth and prevent irritation (from scratching).
Most transitioners find that shampooing once a week is enough, but you'll have to discover what is best for you. Some people shampoo once a week. Others alternate between co-washing (using conditioner only) and shampooing.
If your hair is super dry, see if you can get by with shampooing once a month and co-washing the remaining weeks. Be sure to massage your scalp with the conditioner to ensure it gets clean.
"What is a Pre-Poo?"
Pre-pooing is the process of moisturizing your hair before you shampoo to prevent drying out, breakage, etc. You can pre-poo with a combination of natural oils, a cheap, rinse-out conditioner (Suave, V05, etc.).
Spritz your hair with water before applying the pre-poo to help the products absorb better. Let it sit on your hair for at least 30 minutes before shampooing. You should notice that your hair feels softer during and after the shampoo process.
"How Do I Deep Condition My Hair?"
Kinky hair loves thick, moisturizing deep conditioning treatments. For example, Shea Moisture's Deep Treatment Mask (Walgreens, Target, etc.) is a favorite among many because of its rich, moisturizing properties.
It's best to apply the DC to shampooed hair that is damp/wet.
Section your hair into at least 4 sections and liberally apply the product and be sure to coat your ends as they are the oldest part of the hair and most fragile.
Cover your hair with a plastic cap and let sit on your hair for at least 30 minutes. For extra deep conditioning sit under a hooded dryer.
If you don't have a hooded dryer you can warm a towel by dampening it and placing it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so and wrapping it around your head. Or you can wet a wash cloth/hand towel with warm water and place it inside the cap to generate heat.
Looking for a natural, homemade deep conditioner? Seneca shares one of her favorites! Be sure to scour the Recipe Room for more recipes.
Here's another discussion with some recommended deep conditioners.
"Help! My Hair is Breaking Off/Thinning Badly!"
Breakage and thinning can result from a variety of different reasons...
1) Your hair is not properly moisturized
To properly moisturize your hair, you need to be using water-based ingredients. Check the labels and make sure that your moisturizer lists water as the first or second ingredient.
After you apply a moisturizer, seal it in with a natural oil (olive, jojoba, castor, etc.).
Reapply the moisturizer/sealant as often as necessary, which will vary.
Here's an article on NapturallyCurly.com about moisturizing transitioning hair.
One of our members, Zuri, also had some great advice.
2) Transitioning hair is naturally delicate
The demarcation line where your natural and relaxed hair meet is very susceptable to breakage. The longer you transition, the more delicate this area becomes. Breakage is normal, but you can minimize it by moisturizing properly, using protein treatments and deep conditioning regularly.
3) You need a trim
Don't try to hang on to ends that are split and brittle. The damaged hair will only travel up the shaft and cause even more breakage.
Always trim your hair with hair-cutting scissors (you can get them at Walgreens) because paper-cutting scissors can cause split ends and make your problem worse.
How often you trim is up to the health of your hair. If your hair seems to be breaking/splitting, that lets you know it's time for a trim. You may be able to go months before your next trim however when transitioning, most people find that it's best to trim at least every 6-8 weeks.
4) You're using too much heat
Heat is not a transitioners friend so you should minimize it as much as possible. Try to wear more protective or no/low-heat styles like twists, twist outs, (use perm rods to curl the ends), rod sets, bantu knot outs, flat twists, extensions, etc.
Is your hairline damaged or do you have thinning? Castor oil, particularly Jamaican Black Castor Oil can be a great remedy for thinning hair. Massage some of this into your scalp nightly and sleep in a satin bonnet to preserve and protect your tresses.
If your hair is thinning from extensions, weave, etc. it's best to stop using them for awhile to give your hair a break. Too much pulling on the scalp can result in permanent damage (alopecia).
Also know the difference between shedding and breakage. Shedding is when your hair comes out from the scalp. Breakage is when your hair snaps off where the relaxer and natural hair meet. The latter is normal, but if your hair is breaking off below that point, it could be from heat damage, split ends, etc.
If your hair continues to thin and break after trying the above solutions, seek help from a licensed hairstylist. And if your hair is shedding from the roots, contact a physician to make sure there is no underlying health cause (anemia, thyroid issue, etc.)
Remember, we shed roughly 100 hairs per day, and if you are wearing styles that don't require combing, it may look as if you are shedding more than normal when you do finally comb your hair on shampoo day.
5) You need to deep condition
A deep conditioning treatment will infuse your hair with added moisture that will have lasting benefits. For kinky hair, it's best to find deep conditioners that are thick and creamy because they penetrate the strands best.
"How Do I Detangle My Hair?"
The key to keeping your hair detangled is preventing tangles in the first place.
You want to comb your hair as little as possible -- especially when you get at least 3 months into your transition. So look for styles that don't require any combing such as twist outs, rod sets, buns, etc. The only time I combed my transitioning hair was on shampoo day.
If your hair is really thick, you can put it into 4-6 sections first and shampoo each section individually.
Always use lots of conditioner after you shampoo. If you want, you can let the conditioner sit on your hair and begin to comb through your hair with a wide-tooth comb (or your fingers) while you are still shampooing.
If you would rather detangle after shampooing, apply a generous amount of conditioner on your hair and let it sit for a minute or two before you gently start to detangle with a wide-tooth comb.
Always detangle your hair while wet/damp. Start with small sections and begin to detangle with a wide-tooth comb beginning at the ends and gently work your way up to the roots.
Never, ever try to comb through your hair when it's dry (unless you are early in your transition). That's a recipe for breakage.
See this thread for other detangling tips from the NC members.
"I Need Hairstyle Ideas"
I created a page on NapturallyCurly.com with styles I wore when transitioning, so start here. There is also a thread on the forum where NC members discuss their favorite hairstyles.
Don't forget to check YouTube for inspiration as well. Do a simple search for "transitioning hairstyles" and you'll come across a ton of videos with tutorials.
Keep practicing. It may take some time to learn how to style your own hair, but many naturals started off as transitioners who never, ever did their own hair (*raises hand*) So if we can do it, so can you!
"How Do I Manage Frizz?"
Frizz is a part of natural hair. The kinkier your hair is, the more it will want to frizz. There are ways to minimize it, but if your hair is naturally kinky, just understand you cannot get rid of it completely.
Part of going natural is learning to accept what your hair does naturally.
Nevertheless there are things you can do to minimize frizz. Check out this article.
"Is it OK to Wear Extensions When Transitioning?"
Yes. Extensions are great because they can give you a break from styling your hair. Just be sure your stylist does not install them too tight because all that tension is not good for your scalp.
Try to keep your scalp clean and continue to moisturize your hair often. Spritz your hair with water and then add a daily moisturizer like Shea Moisture.
When you remove the extensions, give yourself a deep conditioning treatment as your hair may be dry and brittle.
Also give your hair a break (a few weeks) between installations.
Natural Hair Lingo
No doubt you've already discovered that going natural means you have to learn a whole new language. Fortunately one of our wonderful members, Zuri, came up with the idea of creating a glossary thread to help you learn what some of those acronyms mean.
"When Should I Big Chop?"
A "big chop" is when you trim the remaining relaxer and are left with nothing but your natural hair. This is an individual decision that only you can make.
Be careful not to make an emotional choice and do this before you're ready. It's perfectly normal to go through phases where you are frustrated and don't know what to do.
Well, you have options. First, you can come here to vent. No doubt there are others who have felt or are feeling like you. Maybe you just need some hairstyle inspiration or learn how to deal with your breakage.
Second, check YouTube for inspiration. You may be in a style slump and need some ideas on what to do with your hair.
Be sure you are ready to big chop, and remember, your hair may be a lot shorter than you realize because natural hair does shrink up. Sometimes the relaxed ends can stretch the hair and make you believe it's longer.
Nevertheless, there are advantages to chopping. You will only be dealing with one texture and many people find being completely natural is much easier than transitioning. So just remember, the frustration is only temporary.
Just make sure you are comfortable with this very individual decision. No one can really tell you when you are ready. If you need to vent, just post a new thread in the Transitioning forum. We're here for ya!
How to Deal With Working Out
Many YouTubers have created videos on style options for working out. Check out the following vids (some are for natural hair but you can still apply to transitioners because they involve twisting and pinning)...
Natural Hairstyle/Tutorial for Working Out
6 Workout Styles for Transitioners and Naturals
Cute Simple Workout Style
Workout Out With Natural Hair
"How Should I Sleep?"
You always want to protect your hair while you sleep. We toss and turn all night so rubbing your hair against a cotton pillow causes breakage and frizz. Sleeping in a satin bonnet will minimize both of these issues and may even help your styles to last longer.
If you are trying to maintain a twist out style, you may want to try the "pineapple method." This is where you gather all your hair and put it on top of your head. This will preserve your curls/definition and perhaps prevent you from re-twisting your hair (if you're wearing a twist out).
AfricanExport on YouTube has a good pineapple video.
You can also do the same with ponytails as illustrated in another video by Jenell of KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.
"I Have Dry, Itchy Scalp"
The NC members have posted many solutions to itchy scalp. This thread has a variety of solutions.
There's also an article here.
Encouragement for Teens
If you are a teen and are having trouble with styling and/or support from loved ones, check this article.
Great Books for Transitioners and Naturals
Thank God I'm Natural
The Science of Black Hair
Hair Care Rehab - The Ultimate Hair Repair and Reconditioning Manual
Hair Rules - The Ultimate Hair Care Guide for Women With Kinky, Curly or Wavy Hair
The Natural Hair Handbook
Grow it Long
Please follow these suggestions at your own risk and understand that everyone's hair may respond to products and routines differently.
These suggestions are from my own personal experience as well as other member's here. No regimen is guaranteed to work best for everyone. Trial and error along with experimentation is a big part of the journey.
I agree with Grace -- awesome compilation of links and material, Lisa!
This is so great! I agree, it's going to be a great help to all of the new transitioners.. Thank you for putting it in one place where we can easily refer everyone!
Thanks Lisa for this because even though I've been transitioning for 18 months I didn't know half of this..so I'm going to follow all these steps an hope to succeed
You will succeed sata1117.
Thank you. Now everyone...we need a
I had a relaxer a little over a month and I want to go natural again. I have about an inch or new growth. Is it too early for me to build a transitioning routine?