The 10 Step Natural Hair Long-Term Transitioning Guide

How to Transition to Natural Hair - Free Guide Since I was able to successfully complete my long-term (18-month) transition without doing a big chop, I thought I’d create a page with some tips for those who aspire to do the same…

1. Start With a Good Trim

This means you need to get rid of all those dead, thin and split ends.  The longer you transition, the more brittle they will become so you might as well let them go now because they will break anyway.

I got rid of a good 3-4 inches when I began my transition because my hair was very damaged when I started.

2. Give Up All Direct Heat (Flat Irons, Blow Dryers, etc.)

I know this is hard for a lot of you to read, but I think having a “no heat policy” was the reason my hair stayed so healthy throughout my 18-month transition.

Of course I had some breakage — that is to be expected, but flat ironing and blow drying would have made the problem worse.

The only heat I used was indirect heat from the hooded dryer and that was only for 20 minutes.  Most of the time I let my hair air dry.

Almost all relaxed hair has some degree of heat damage, even if it’s subtle.  So why continue to damage your ends if you know that you are going to keep them for as long as possible while you transition?

Not to mention, you run the risk of damaging your natural hair, and this is the hair you plan to keep.  You certainly don’t want to fry it.

Wear your hair in rod sets, twists, buns, extensions, bantu knots and other styles that don’t require heat.

Now, the occasional exposure to heat is not going to do much damage if you take care of your hair during the process.  Read this article on straightening natural or transitioning hair.

3. Trim Your Hair Regularly

I trimmed my hair at least once a month, sometimes twice.  My ends kept splitting because my hair was really fried and brittle from relaxers and flat irons.

Sometimes I would just dust my ends — which means you take off less than a quarter of an inch.  The healthier your ends are, the easier it will be to complete your long-term transition.

Remember, you’re going to have some breakage — it’s inevitable.  But trimming keeps it from getting out of control.

Tip:  Always use hair-cutting scissors.  Paper-cutting or dull scissors can cause split ends.

4. Pre Poo Before Shampooing

As you get further into the transition, your ends will get weaker.  You’ll probably notice more and more breakage when you shampoo your hair.

Remember, the demarcation line (where your natural and relaxed hair meet) is extremely fragile so you want to always strengthen your hair as much as possible.

Pre-pooing is the process of moisturizing your hair before you shampoo.  This strengthens your hair and helps prevent breakage.

I usually pre-poo with a cheap rinse-out conditioner and olive oil.  The conditioner not only helps strengthen your hair, but it works through any tangles before you shampoo.

I shampoo my hair in sections so I apply the pre-poo to each section and let it sit for at least an hour.  Before I get in the shower, I gently detangle each section with my fingers and remove any shed hairs.

5. Shampoo in Sections

This process is more time consuming but it saved me a lot of breakage.  As you get into your 3rd or 4th month of the transition, your new growth will begin to make detangling more difficult.

Keeping your hair in sections as you pre-poo, shampoo and condition will save you a lot of breakage and shedding.

Note: Always use NO SULFATE shampoos so your hair won’t dry out.  Giovanni products and Kinky Curly’s Come Clean (buy at Whole Foods or Amazon) were my faves.

Watch my video that shows how I shampoo my transitioning hair.

6. Deep Condition Every Single Week!

Deep conditioning is what keeps your relaxed hair and new growth healthy as you transition.  It also helps you retain moisture (especially during those winter months).

Be sure to distribute the product from root to end.  Sometimes we neglect our ends when applying product to our hair, but this is a critical step for long-term transitioners.

I use Organics Olive Oil Replenisher.  I put a generous amount on after shampooing then placed a plastic cap on with a very warm wash cloth underneath.

I prefer to do this instead of sitting under the dryer.  The warm cloth provides the heat to deep condition your hair.

7. Detangle With Lots of Conditioner

Some people prefer to detangle in the shower with a rinse out conditioner. It’s up to you.  During and after my transition, I detangle after showering while my hair is soaking wet.

I apply a very generous amount of conditioner to each section and let it sit for a few minutes before gently working my wide-tooth comb through my hair.  (Oyin Handmade’s Honey Hemp is one of my favorite detanglers and leave-in conditioners.)

As your hair gets longer, you may want to divide your hair into more, smaller sections when you detangle.  I started with four, but use six now.

Read more detangling tips here.

8. Learn to Flat Twist!!

Flat Twists I realize not everyone likes flat twists.  Some people think they look too juvenile or not appropriate for the workplace.

Being self-employed definitely had its advantages while transitioning!

Well, if you like them and feel you can get away with wearing them, I would highly recommend learning how to flat twist or have someone do them for you.

The reason I liked flat twists while transitioning is they are loose enough so they don’t put any strain on your hair like extensions, and they are much easier to do than corn rows.

When I got to my 10th month, I had so much new growth so flat twist styles really helped me blend my textures.  I wore many different styles in the 2nd half of my transition for this very reason.

I learned how to flat twist by watching YouTube videos.  It takes time to perfect it, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

You also have to discover the best finger/hand position for you.  There are many different ways of twisting and not everyone can do them the same way.

See some of my flat twist styles that I wore while transitioning.

9. Buy Lots of Headbands headband

Headbands are great because they cover a multitude of sins… especially the large ones. :)  If your rod set or twists get old, you can jazz up your hair with a colorful headband.  I have a drawer full of them!

You can buy them almost anywhere these days… Walgreens, Target, CVS, the beauty supply store, etc.

They are also good for making puffs.  Puffs are a great style for old hairstyles that need new life.  See my first transitioning puff.

10. Moisturize, Moisturize!

Keeping your hair moisturized is key because dry hair will certainly lead to breakage and tempt you to end your transition.

I kept it simple when it came to moisturizing my hair.  In the beginning I bought all kinds of products, but I found that moisturizers like Shea Moisture work just fine.  If your hair is thick, try to find products with a thick, creamy consistency and make sure one of the first ingredients is water.  Remember water = moisture.

Then seal in the moisture with a natural oil.  I use castor oil and it’s pretty thick so no need to use it everyday.   I usually use it every 2 or 3 days and that kept my hair pretty moisturized.

Another way to combat extreme dryness is before bed, take a spray bottle with water and mist a small amount into the air over your head.

Don’t soak your hair, just lightly mist it as if you’ve been out in the humidity.  Your hair should feel slightly damp.

Now put on a plastic cap before going to bed.  In the morning, your hair will feel very moisturized.

Does this cause frizziness?  It may, depending on how you’re wearing your hair.  But if you’re wearing twists or have your hair in an up do or puff, this is a wonderful way to re-moisturize your hair.

Read more tips on moisturizing your transitioning hair.

Check Out My Transitioning Shopping Guide

Not sure what hair products and tools you need? Here is a list of products you may want to consider buying as you transition.

Thinking of Doing The Big Chop?

If you are considering chopping the rest of your relaxer off instead of transitioning all the way, I wrote an article so you will know what to expect. My hope is that it will ease any fears you have and answer common questions.

I’ll give you suggestions for products, trimming, breakage, moisturizing and more.  See After The Big Chop — Now What?

Consider a Transitioning Kit

Several companies have transitioning kits.  You may want to give them a try if you’re having trouble with manageability, breakage, dryness, etc.  I never used one because they weren’t out when I transitioned, but I sure wish they had been.

Read more about the products I used while transitioning.

Also see the hairstyles I wore during my transition.

Check out answers to common questions people ask me about transitioning.



  1. Mir says

    I’m in my first month of transitioning and I am very discouraged I got to wash my hair today for the first time without protective styles and it was lacking protein and moisture and I felt like crying seeing my hair fall apart… I will keep transitioning and I know in the end it’ll be worth it but can anyone please give me any words to motivate me please… Really need it.. Has anyone else had the same case as me?

  2. Kia says

    I’m excited about doing the transition, but my hair is nappy nappy nappy. Unlike my daughter who has a beautiful natural curly texture, my hair is 1 step away from brillo. Can I still make this work with your tips above. or do I need to use different products. loved your site and thank you.

  3. Dahlia says

    lol at the no heat policy. I’ve been transitioning for about three months now and it has been hard for me to put that flat iron down, until it blew up on me a few days ago. I guess that’s a sign, haha! No more heat for me!

  4. Bryana says

    Hey Lisa,
    I’m thinking about going natural in college at the end of this year but my hair is suuuper damaged. Ever since I was 2, my mother has used relaxers and extensions on me all my life so that is all I’ve known until now. I obviously practically do not have any hair but I am very determined to grow it but I have counterproductive things so I don’t want to do a big chop.

    Could you please help me out? I don’t know where to start or what to do.

  5. Amy Lynn says



  6. kendra says

    Hey I’m,, trying to transition. I had to do the big cut because my hair had broke off really bad. I haven’t had a perm in about 3months but just started this process about two weeks ago. My hair is really short with a few straight ends. I’m getting a sew-in to help my hair get a little lenght before I start wear my natrual hair out….,,but I need help on what I should do because right now I just have a little fro. If anyone can help feel free to comment

  7. Shonetrece says

    Just decided to transition this past weekend and I have no idea where to start. I haven’t had a relaxer/touch up since August 21, 2014. My hair is fairly short I had the sides and back shaved but not bald just shaved and now its about 1 or 2 inches long and the top of my hair is about 3 or 4 inches long I have so many questions of what to do and I need a very, very inexpensive technique. I want to try the straw set but I am not sure if my hair is long enough I have been you tubing and I can’t seem to find any videos that even resembles my length. Does amybody have any suggestions. Please help me out asap I really want to be natural but I feel like I am going to get frustrated really quick. HELP!!!!!!

  8. Marissa says

    Hi, Ms.Lisa
    I have been transitioning since April and its very hard for me because my hair is so”poofy”. I don’t want to keep getting blowouts to make my hair straight, and when i flat iron it at home it doesn’t look right. Do you have any suggestion on how to maintain the “poofiness” or that just comes along with the transitioning process???

  9. Courtney says

    I’m starting my transition – 3 months into the change. I work out daily and vigorously. What hairstyles can I do that will stay while working out?

    • lisa says

      Styles that have a tight hold like a rod or straw set are good. Have plenty of large headbands on hand because you can really revive a style with a nice headband.

  10. Mrs.Brazil says

    Hi this post is gonna help me a lot! I decided to go natural and long-term transition four months ago and although I’ve found styles that work for my hair texture(I thought this was gonna be my biggest problem)detangling my hair after washing it is a struggle and has caused breakage because its so tangled. I will be trying the honey and olive oil method… Great post.

  11. Christine says

    I was wondering if you may have some advice how certain product that can help make thin hair thick. I have been transitioning for at least 4 years and my hair can’t seem to grow thick at all. I’m not sure if it’s cause I barely trim my hair or anything else. Please help!!

  12. Jelecia says

    Hi.i have not yet started my transition so i .am a bit nervous. Im wondering if i could still wear weaves. I hate the look of my real hair simply because its short and my mom has been giving me perms since i was young.. wi wearing weave damage my hair more?

  13. nikki says

    My daughter is in transitioning from relaxed to natural hadn’t had a relaxer Or any kind of chemical in her hair for at least 9/10 months…this has been extremely hard as her natural hair has recently developed a balding spot in back of her head, her hair had already been breaking and short…it’s coarse and won’t hold an moisture….after a bad relaxer 2 years ago she thought it best to Stop the chemicals and go natural but she’s not havin much success…any advice would be Greatly appreciated!

  14. Hey says

    I need help with my transitioning hair soo bad. I can see my new growth and all, like they are healthy but I can’t leave my natural hair out because my hair just seems soo nappy and unkept. Like my new growth are all puffy and curly but my relax ends are a pain in the ass. I don’t know whether or not to just completely cut all my relax ends off. I feel like my hair will look worse than it is. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!

  15. olivia says

    Hi Lisa I’m from the Caribbean of an island Barbados, and girl you have help me in such a big way. I just have to say thank you. I’m have been transitioning for three months now and I’m very excited. Keep up the good work I can tell this blog is helping alot of women and young girls

  16. Sumbo says

    Thanks so much for your advice. Am in 2nd month of transition. I was getting so confused with the other websites I hv been reading. Yours has definintely given me better insight on how to go on.

  17. says

    Im transitioning to natural as well an would like some tips on what products are best for both textures an your wash regimen. What to use to moisturizer how often do I need to wash my hair? An what are some good protective styles that will last an how would I maintain it an keep it hydrated. I want to start by cutting about two inches off an going from there. Should I cut then deep condition or other way around first? It’s bin so long since I got a hair cut, I really need it.please help.

    • Michell says

      I have the same questions-I just found this website because I just went natural 11/14 I have chopped off a lot but still have some perm left but I am struggling with my hair being dry and how to keep it moisturized. I didn’t see a response could you post some information on the results if you have gotten some. Need help as well


  18. Nora says

    I am in the process of considering going natural and I saw a comment on here about texturizing. What is that and how does it help if I’ve been relaxing my hair for 15 years?

    Thank you.

    • lisa says

      That’s when you slightly loosen your curl pattern instead of straightening it completely. Wouldn’t recommend it. I did it and it was a hot mess. Glad to be natural. :)

  19. Camila says

    I think a great treatment to use while doing this process is the pro naturals hair repair system… check it out online

  20. Gold says

    Hey Liz,

    Great job! Thanks.

    I’m trying to transition too and this is month 4 without a perm. I have very little new growth and lots of permed hair (damaged permed hair). I want to get a coily look as an alternative to my occasional kinky braids (with extensions) and I’m wondering if curling products like SheaMoisture will work on my hair type.

  21. Lisa says

    So I’ve just started to transition, and since I’m at school I don’t really have much time to do different braided hairstyles. I was therefore asking if you could suggest any non-braiding hairstyles for me that could go along with my post-relaxed (almost four months now!) hair. I also wanted to ask if I could do corkscrew curls and twist outs with post relaxed hair as well.

  22. rosa m says

    hello. im a little confused right now i have not relaxed my hair in almost three years. and i want to again but not sure how to go about it. if i just relax my roots or all my hair. i have cut it but it all grew back quickly and it gets thicker too

  23. Dannie M. says

    Hi. I have just started transitioning. I am only 5 weeks out from my last relaxer. I have a question about moisturizing and using a sealant. Should I moisturize everyday and use the sealant every 2 or 3 days? Or do I moisturize AND use the sealant every 2 or 3 days? I wasn’t clear on this. Please help!

  24. Tanshe says

    I haven’t had a perm since july 18, 2013 and I have been wearing braids for that long. I won’t to go natural but I had my braids done again oct 22, 2013, and we permed the edges a little bit so that the style I was getting didn’t look so bad around the edges, but my stylist ask me if I was going natural because my hair is so coarse. thick and wirey, that she was like you might to stick with a perm what should I do?

  25. Carlisa P. says

    Hi, My hair is really damage and I have been getting perms my entire life simply because it is very hard to mamnage. I am a sophomre in college and I really want to go natural but my mother doesn’t think it’s a good idea. I haven’t gotten a perm since May 2012 so it’s been about 5months for me. My hair is very dry, hard to comb, and I’m seeing alot of breakage. Should I quit and start back perming or keep trasitioning? HELP me please!!!

    • lisa says

      HI Carlisa

      Don’t quit. Come join us in the forums and chat with us. You probably just need a deep conditioning treatment and start wearing more low manipulation styles like rod sets. Deep conditioning will soften your hair tremendously. Also you probably have scab hair after relaxing. Your real texture is probably not going to be that hard. Your hair is still recovering.

  26. Bonnie Price says

    Hi, my name is Bonnie. I’ve been perming my hair since I was 12. The last time I went natural was when I lost my hair to cancer, for about a year I was natural and I did love it. I permed my hair again in 2005 because I moved to TX and wasn’t sure if my natural hair would be welcomed there. Well, I’m 42 and I decided to go natural for two reasons. I said I would do it when I turned 40 but life happened I got married and got pregnant in less than 6 months after getting married. I’ve been a stay at home mom for two years and I’m returning to the work force. My stylist moved back to Dallas and she is the only person I trusted with my hair. Now that she’s gone, I don’t have an excuse. My husband (who is white) supports me and I’m ready. Can you please add me to your email list and walk me through this journey. By the way, this is the only site I found that isn’t bombarded with ads, so thank you for that. P.S. I got my last perm 3 weeks, the new growth is starting (my hair always grew fast) and I’m ready to go!

  27. says

    I can see that you basically stole the content and format from my site, added your own little twist and ran with it. Nice job stealing my ranking… Seeing that you are professional blogger and you have a guide on creating niche sites, I’d think you’d be able to find your own stuff. You have a ton of sites, yet you need to take someone else’s niche. There is such a thing as honor and integrity.. and yes, I’m calling yours into question. Doing your own is one thing, but basically stealing my whole format is quite another.

    • lisa says

      Hi MollyB

      For the record, I checked your domain registration date on GoDaddy, and we registered our domains 2 weeks apart (May, 2010 — please feel free to verify this). So unless you were getting rankings in Google within 2 weeks there’s no way I would have seen your site before I launched.

      I chose this niche because I’m always teaching to create topics on things you have personal experience with. Transitioning to natural hair was that topic for me when I started this site in 2010. If I had “taken” anything from your site I would have definitely emailed you first for permission and then happily provided a link back to your page.

      It’s a shame we had to “meet” this way because I would have been happy to work with you. You have a lot of content that I don’t cover and I would have loved to have you do a guest post. Be careful of accusing people of things. I could have done the same thing to you with your Grow Long book review post (My book review was posted last year) but I know better than that. There’s going to be crossover topics in a niche like this.

      Bottom line. I chose this niche because I transitioned without a big chop. I bought the domain in May 2010 and started my YouTube channel the same month. Feel free to verify this too.

      Girl, there is enough room for all of us to succeed out here. I hate that you feel this way. I wish you the best.

    • Raqasia says

      My hair is breaking and shedding really bad what should I do I want to transition, last perm May 31 2013, but I’ve noticed my hair hasn’t grown. Will you tell about how to take care of shedding and breaking transitioning hair PLEASSEEE ! I’m in need of your help :) thank you . Love your website !

  28. MICHELLE says

    my hair has been getting relaxed forever I had a baby permed my hair a lot off it came right out so what was left I cut off I just cut the rest the perm off so its very short I really went in naturally curly how long does it take to get curly or should is just get a texturizer

  29. Paris H says

    Hello Ladies,

    I will be reaching my mark of 1 year of transitioning on July 30, 2013. Wooohooo!!! I’m so excited because i see my natural curls and my natural texture. What discourages me is, I STILL HAVE ABOUT 4 1/2 INCHES OF PERMED HAIR :( I was told it’s not good to cut it all off because the hair may not grow back correctly or at its normal growth rate. So, I think I’m just going to cut an inch off every other month and watch and see what happens. My question is, cutting an inch off each month will that effect my hair growth?

    • Theodora says

      I’ve just completed 1 year of transitioning as of July 30, 2013. I too have about 4 inches of permed hair. But holding out until January 2013…looking forward to see what the end will be!

  30. zephania says

    well i have been transiting for 6 months now and i have no support at all. its getting hard for me to comb my hair and put it in a ponytail, plus its really dry, when i got my hair braided it got matted. do you have any tips?

  31. mara says

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been on a healthy hair journey for 4 years now and decided 11 months ago to transition to natural. I recently started experiencing dry hair, even though I was doing everything I should have to keep it moisturized. I completely forgot how much my hair loves castor oil, thanks for reminding me to use it. My hair feels soft and moisturized again!

    • bluelove says

      Hi i am going to try this it seems good but if you don’t want to use thoses products what should I use and if I wanted to go nature shright what should I use

  32. Ada says

    I started transitioning in dec 2012, I have about 2inches if natural hair now but my hair is still coarse and strong. Please when will my hair be curly cause I want it to be curly by the end of my transition. Also what methods or products can I use to achieve his aim?

    • Nikki says

      Think of your natural hair like a curled ribbon with a light rock tied to the end of it. Your relaxed hair is that light rock. The rock’s weight is going to stretch out the ribbon, but once you cut the rock off, the ribbon will coil back up into it’s original shape. It’s the same with your hair. You’re not going to be able to see your curl pattern until you cut off the relaxed ends of your hair.

  33. Niecey says

    Hi Lisa,
    I am thinking about transitioning but I would like to get a texturizer and a color once I’m done with the transition if I do not decide to go with the BIG CHOP first. My hair is very manageable. I am tired of the straight relaxed hair look. I want something versatile, where I could go curly or straight within a day if I wanted to, this is why I wanted to try a texturizer. What is your advice?

  34. Latoya K. says

    Hi Lisa, I am trying to transition. I use to get perms (just for me) every 6 months. I do not want to do the big chop. My hair is manageable, because I condition it every week, and get routine trims every 4-6 weeks, and there is no breakage. I wanted to know will I have to cut/chop once I meet a certain point. My last perm was 11/12. Please help…

    • lisa says

      Not necessarily. I pretty much transitioned all the way to the end. I had only an inch or so left. You don’t have to chop but just make sure you keep your ends trimmed and neat. That will help.

  35. gege says

    Hi, i have been tryin to transition since i have been a freshman in high school but i didnt have good influence or motivation to do it…my mom n sis is mow natural and i would love to go natural . I havent perm my hair since feb 2. I have been weaving. Is there any tips u can give me.i have an ideal look of what i want when im all natural but i dont know if natural hair will look good hwith my heart shape face

    • Laide Alabi says

      I just started transitioning and most of the product you mentioned in your article are not easy to come by in Nigeria and I also desire to get a book on how to grow natural hair, how can you help!

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