What to Expect While Transitioning

If you are anything like I was when I began my transition in March 2010, you may not know what to expect with your natural hair transition.

It’s definitely a journey — both mentally and physically so you need to prepare yourself for the following…

1) You are dealing with two different textures, and if you want your hair to look its best, you may be limited to styles that blend your two textures effectively — especially as your transition progresses (rod sets, twists, etc.)

2) If you are eliminating direct heat (recommended) and your hair is short (no ponytails), then your styling options are limited even further

3) If you’ve never managed your natural hair before, it takes some time to find out what it likes and needs. It’s tempting to copy someone else’s routine, but I quickly learned I had to discover what my hair likes.

4) Be prepared to deal with naysayers who may not like natural hair and attempt to discourage you from this journey.  Your confidence WILL be tested, for sure.

Having said all that, it’s absolutely the most rewarding experience in the world once your transition is over and you are fully natural.

My Story

Below I will tell you what you can expect during your natural hair transition by the month. Keep in mind, a lot of this information has been influenced by MY journey and the health of my hair at the start of my transition (which was not very good.)

Also, I was texturizing prior to my transition so my hair was not completely straight, and I had some natural hair in the back because the texturizer didn’t take at all.

Just as a reminder, my last relaxer was June 2009 and my last texturizer was March 2010.  My hair was bob length when I began my transition.

So more than likely your hair is in a different condition, length, etc. than mine, so your results may be different. This is just a general guide.

Months 1-2

These are obviously the easiest months of your transition because it’s not much different than when you were relaxing. Most people wait at least 6-8 weeks between relaxers so the first two months won’t require much change to your routine.

Pin Up Do (Month 2)

Pin Up Do (Month 2)

However, I would highly recommend you start to wean yourself off direct heat — i.e. blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons. You want your natural hair to grow out healthy and retain moisture. Direct heat is not its friend.

If you are going to use heat, at least limit it to the ends of your hair (bumping/curling ends etc.)  Remember those ends will eventually be chopped off anyway.

However, if you’re going for a long-term transition, you’ll want your entire strands to remain healthy. Eliminating heat altogether is the best option for long-term transitioners.  However, if you must use it, read my guide here.

I didn’t do much different during these months in terms of styling.  I did use the flat iron to curl my bangs once, but that was the last time I ever used direct heat on my hair.

Months 3-4

This is where it started getting challenging for me. This was the longest time I had ever gone without relaxing my hair and new growth seemed to be coming out dry and brittle.

Rod Set

Rod Set (3 Months)

I had too much new growth to successfully wrap my hair, but not enough natural hair to wear natural styles. My hair was too short for a decent-looking ponytail, so I was at a loss for styling.

If your ends are still healthy and not too thin (like mine were in this video) you can try to do two strand twists or two strand twist outs, but you should put a rod on the end to help your ends look finished.

This is when I started experimenting with rod sets. My first one didn’t come out too well, but I got better with practice.

Rod sets eventually became my go-to style for months 3-8. This style blends your hair textures so well, and if you use small rods they can last a long time.

In month 4, I started deep conditioning my hair every week with Organics Olive Oil Replenisher. This was the best thing I could have ever done. My natural hair began to soften up and my hair seemed to be retaining moisture better.

You MUST deep condition your hair regularly!

Scab Hair?

Some believe that if your hair follicles become damaged during relaxing, your follicles produce “scab hair.”

This is hair that grows out with a protective coating. The coating can make your hair more brittle and dry to the touch.

Basically your hair is trying to protect itself from the chemicals. Even when you stop relaxing, your follicles may still produce scab hair for awhile.

It can take several months for your hair to grow out healthy again.

So if you notice that your new growth is hard/dry and you are not using any direct heat, it could be a result of scab hair. This may not be your true hair texture you’re seeing. I DEFINITELY noticed a huge difference in my texture as my transition progressed.

Many women stop transitioning because they assume the scab hair is their natural texture.  In some cases it may be scab hair.  There’s really no way to know unless you keep transitioning.

Some people don’t believe in scab hair, but I can tell you that the texture of my new growth is drastically different than when I first started transitioning. I honestly believe I had scab hair. Deep conditioning and patience is how to get through this period.

Months 5-6

5 Months into Transition

5 Months of New Growth

Things started getting a bit easier for me during this phase. I should also add that I trimmed my hair every single month during my transition… even if it was only an 1/8th of an inch.  Sometimes I trimmed twice.

I’m not saying you have to do this, but remember my hair was very damaged when I began, and since I was doing a long-term transition, I knew I had to trim to keep my ends as healthy as possible and maintain some length.

By this time you will probably have anywhere between 2 1/2 to 3 inches of natural hair and you can REALLY start to see your texture. I also noticed the positive impact of deep conditioning and using no sulfate shampoos.

When I finished shampooing, my hair seemed to almost glisten and I could tell it was retaining moisture better. That dry, brittle feeling was now a distant memory. :)

Also, by the time I got to this point in my transition, I began to notice the multiple textures of hair on my head.  Most people do not have just one curl pattern.

For me, the top and front/sides of my hair had almost no definite pattern at all.  Some parts were wavy, others were zig zag.  And the back of my hair had a more distinct, loose S-shape pattern.

So don’t be surprised if you notice parts of your hair behaving differently.  It’s likely due to the different textures.

Months 7-8

Rod Set With Flat Twists (8 Months)

By now, your texture should be really evident.  I’ve noticed on YouTube that a lot of women “big chop” between the 7th and 9th month.

For many women, they feel they have enough natural hair at this point to rock their fros or wear two strand twists.  For others, they just get tired of dealing with the two textures.

For me, the transition got easier as I went along — maybe because I trimmed my ends a LOT.  Also, because my hair was not completely straight when I started transitioning, I didn’t have to deal with those straight ends hanging down.

By this time all my relaxer was gone and I was only dealing with texturized/wavy hair.

Even though texturizing my hair turned out to be a nightmare, in a way, it made my transition a bit more gradual because I went from straight to semi-straight to natural hair.  That also helped blend my textures better.

Having said that, I would NOT recommend texturizing to ease yourself into the transition unless you know what you’re doing or you have a professional who can help.

During this period, I finally began to get better at flat twisting.  My edges were very thin and weak from relaxing so the flat twists really helped protect them while they grew back out.  So I started wearing a lot of different flat twist styles.

Months 9-10

Two strand twists

Two strand twists (rodded the ends)

By this time, you’ll have about 4 1/2 to 5 inches of natural hair.  That may sound like a lot if you’re just starting out, but remember natural hair shrinks.  So 5 inches of natural hair may only be a 2 inch afro if you were to big chop at this point.

When you’re transitioning, your new growth may seem as if it’s taking over your head, but you’ll be surprised how much natural hair can shrink up — especially after you trim off the relaxed ends.  Some people experience up to 80% shrinkage (especially people with more coiled hair.)

I’m not trying to discourage you from big chopping at any point.  By all means, do it if you’re ready.  Just don’t be surprised if your hair is shorter than you expected.  A lot of women are unpleasantly surprised when they big chop because they didn’t realize how much shrinkage they would have.

So if you’re tied to your length, be mindful of this when transitioning.  Relaxed ends can weigh your hair down, giving you the illusion of more length.  But when those ends are cut off, your hair may curl up and be shorter than you think.

At this stage, I was mostly natural, with maybe 2-3 inches left of texturized hair on the ends.  I started wearing two strand twists and I would put rods at the end so the remaining relaxed ends would curl (see pic on the right).  It was winter time so this was a great protective style with help from my beanie.

Months 11-12

Congrats!  You have transitioned for a full year.  Most people have between 5 1/2 and 6 inches of new growth at this stage.  If you big chop at this point, you’ll probably have a good-size afro and most likely be beyond the TWA (teeny weany afro) stage. Of course, everyone’s curl pattern and hair growth is different so results may vary.

One Year and Beyond

If you can make it past a year, you are officially a long-term transitioner (in my book anyway)!  By this time, you probably know exactly what your hair likes and you’ve gotten better at managing the two textures.

By the time I hit my one year anniversary, I was mostly natural so it didn’t really feel like I was transitioning anymore.  I continued to wear a lot of flat twist styles (to protect/nurture my edges) and I wore quite a few twists and twist outs.  Here are a few pics of some styles I’ve worn 12 months and beyond…

Hairstyles 12 Months and Beyond

Click here to view more of my hair styles during my natural hair transition.

Final Note About Hair Growth

One thing that surprised me while transitioning was how my hair grows at different rates.  For example, the back of my hair grew out really fast, while the front and crown of my hair grew the slowest.

That is why my hair is layered.  When I ended my transition, my back was much longer than the front.

So that’s just something to keep in mind.  It’s totally normal to have different growth rates so don’t be alarmed.

Meet Fellow Transitioner, Aisha

This video will inspire you, and perhaps you’ll even see some of yourself in it.  It’s by Make Me a Naturalista on YouTube (definitely make sure you subscribe).

In the first series they introduce you to Aisha, a self-proclaimed salon junkie who gets her hair done twice a week.

Yardley and Natasha have a sit-down with Aisha and discuss her challenges with finding appropriate transitioning styles for work.  Enjoy!


Don’t forget to read my long-term transitioning guide.

Have Questions?

Join the NapturallyCurly.com Transitioning and Natural Hair Forums to chat with other transitioners and get the much-needed answers to your burning questions about your hair!


  1. Hope says

    Hi, I always enjoy coming to your website.

    I was reading about your transition and I haven’t had a relaxer in about 3 years, but I would texture soften my hair and use flat irons, a lot. I finally made the decision to embrace my natural hair, no more texture softeners or heat. (My last texture softener was about a year ago) My hair is still straight on the ends and my front is very straight because I flat ironed that the most. But nothing is working. I flat twist my hair every night and the curls come out nice, but then they go right back flat/puffy straight. Any help???

    (I can”t wear a ponytail yet because of heat damage, my middle is so short, but my back and sides have length.)

  2. Phyllis says

    Hey into 5 mos trying to go natural,my hair don’t feel right , it don’t look like my hair when i was younger before i started using a perm. The growth is different will it change

  3. Jasmen says

    Hi Lisa,

    I haven’t had a relaxer since March and my hair gets dry really fast. I have extremely thick hair so i don’t wrap it i sleep on it. I’ve been using Creme of Nature leave in conditioner and all natural oils and it still seems to be super dry when i wake up. Is there anything you would recommend so that my hair stays moisturized longer?

  4. Tyesha says

    I just turned 16 2 weeks ago and I want to go natural, I haven’t had a perm in about 2 months as I recall and since I was pretty crazy with my hair (shaved, bleached, dyed, and relaxed) ,my roots are extremely noticeable. I don’t really care about anyone else’s opinion (I never really have which is why I shaved it), but since I haven’t seen my natural hair in about 7-8+ years, I don’t remember what it looked like and I know the possibility of it changing is large anyways, but I really am curious. My roots are very Afroish, poofy, dry, and unattractive,but when they are wet they get extremely wavyish. Is that my natural hair texture or will I have to fully grow it out and cut the end off to see?
    P.s. I comb it while it’s drying. I think I read that makes a difference somewhere.

    • lisa says

      Hi Tyesha

      You won’t really know until your relaxed ends are cut off. Your texture will definitely be a bit different and your curl pattern may tighten up a bit because the relaxed ends aren’t weighing it down. Just a word of caution. Be careful of associating afro with unattractive. That could be what your hair does when it dries and part of this journey is self acceptance and not trying to make your hair do something it won’t do when dry. Sorry to sound preachy but I was like you. I hated to see that my hair dried in an afro. I wanted waves. But I had to ultimately learn to love what my hair does naturally.

      I rock my afro puffs with pride. I can get curlier/wavier hair with certain gels but it only lasts for a few days. My natural hair texture is more poofy. Embrace it. :-) But again you won’t know for sure until those relaxed ends are gone. Good luck on your transition!

  5. damia law says

    Hello! You mentioned that the top and sides/edges had no curl definition unlike the rest of your hair at months 5-6. Since it has been well over two years for you, has the front and sides/edges gotten more curly? Does it match the rest of your hair pattern?

    • lisa says

      Hi Damia,

      Yes, my curl pattern is much more uniform now! The top is a little less curly but not noticeably so.

  6. Cassandra Barnes says

    Hi Lisa,
    I just wanted to leave a comment to say THANK YOU so much for having this website. This website has been my go-to source for “all things transitioning”. I’m currently 5 1/2 months post relaxer. Before I began my transition, I watched your video about your hair journey and laughed so hard because I could so relate to everything you were saying; especially pertaining to breakage. Before your video, I went back and forth about transitioning but after the video, I finally decided to begin my journey. Again, thank you!

  7. Mary Mchill says

    Hi,you really have nice hair,my 9 year daughter and i started transition (2 months) now and i feel sorry for her because she has very painful hair,please advise on what to use on her hair

  8. Tina says

    I have gained so much information from you on this site. Thanks a bunch. Currently, I am 7 months into my long term transition. I think I am experiencing scab hairs in different areas of my head. The crown is the absolute worst. The hairs here are hard, wiry, coarse, and stiff. When I try to detangle them they stick together. It is very bushy here, I can’t style this hair in any way. It barley responds to water or gel. It is very brittle and will snap off while attempting to style. The broken or shed curly part are 4a and 3c curls, but they curl onto themselves and are misshapen. The strands are highly porous. I can actually see the raised shingles! Through all of this, I can slightly feel a smoother texture underneath so I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. My sides have already started to soften up. Currently I deep condition once a week, and Co wash in between. I moisturize with water and seal with a butter mix. I haven’t had a problem adjusting probably because I have been taking excellent care of my daughter’s Virgin hair. I do need to experiment more with braiding and twisting =). Enjoying my transition.

  9. Kela says

    In the past, I was natural for about four years. My hair made the turn for the worse. Many beauticians tell me a texturizer will fix my problems after my color disaster by a professional. I have been neglecting it since the color started to grow out. I got a horrible cut and have not deep conditioned my hair in eight months. It looks like frizzy corkscrews that shrink up and is extra dry. I’m giving up cutting my hair short and getting a relaxer. I truly hate the texture and my hair. People say that it will be to expensive or laugh at it

  10. Lakesha Andrews says

    Hello, Miss Lisa! I must say your hair is beautiful girl! But my hair is a natural disaster an I don’t know what to do with my hair. I’m trying to transition from perm to natural. So, now I have two different textures. Please help me!!

  11. Kat says

    Thank you so much for the Scab Hair information! I am at that point right now and I was really on the fence if natural hair would work for me, as I thought the scab hair was my actual hair texture. I was feeling my new growth the other night thinking dang I don’t remember my hair being this dang nappy as a child???? I can see why people give up so easily because that roughness alone would make anyone say “whelp I gave this a good go” Now that I have some information about scab hair I will stick it out. Thank you so much for this site!

  12. Raqasia says

    I’m natural… Half at least, I get blowouts every 2 weeks. I’ve 3-4 blowouts so far. If I keep getting blowouts will I lose my curl pattern if I keep getting them will I lose my curl pattern?

  13. Cara says

    Hey ths was really good advice cuz I was freaking about my front hair. Can’t wait till its fully natural

  14. Kiss2000 says

    Hi, I had my last perm in April 2013 and I’m getting more and more new growth. I am new to this site and really trying to get the hang of all this transitioning stuff because its all new and totally different from just wrapping my hair at night and combing it out the next morning. I don’t wear wigs, or weave and my front edges broke off a few years ago so I’m really scared to get braids. 1. I need to know how to hold moisture in my hair and do I need to apply moisture every night or day? 2. How do I reduce breakage. 3. How do I strengthen my hair especially the front edges. And finally I need more hair styles. #HELP

  15. kara says

    Hi I have been reading and keeping up with your posts and blogs. I am currently now in the transitioning process, now I have braids in my hair and already they are growing out. I just made 8 months June 1, 2013 I am very excited about that! When I take down my braids I will be cutting the rest of my relaxed ends off since I don’t have much left. My question is what can I use for moisture?

  16. Crystal says

    Hello! I have just decided to go natural. My last relaxer was about 4 weeks ago. I haven’t had natural hair in probably 34 yrs. My concern is when months 3-4 come that’s when the new growth vs relaxed hair start giving me grief. My hair is very thick and soft and prone to tangle. I have already begun a pretty poo regimen of either a cheap conditioner (tresemme natural nuturing moisture) or coconut oil. I apply at bedtime and don the plastic cap. I can already tell a difference in how more moisturized my hair is. If I keep this up throughout my transition I think I will be better prepared for months 3-4 and beyond. Your site is so helpful. I hope to become a success story in my journey through your help. :-)

  17. Hayley Wallace says

    Hey Lisa I have basically a 3 c tight curly hair . I have trnsitioned to my natural hair after perming for over 20 years but I’ve been natural 6mths now but I don’t count the first three months because I had perm hair ends and two days ago I cut off all that permed hair. So, I consider myself to be fully natural for only three months! However , I have tried the wash n go with co -washing with carol daughters hair milk and the eco styler gel and that just left hair dry and frizzy but I turned that flop into a twist and will be pulling out it tomorrow. It looks like that will work out because I have waited 72 hours and will be pulling it out with the tui oil by Carol daughters. My question for you lisa is what are you putting in your hair to keep your hair so curly with the perm rods? I did this style and sat under the hair dryer and it didn’t work and please remember I have a TWA now! I want to put in perm rods should I wait a whole weekend for this style to work too? I am trying to style my hair and keep it in preventive styles besides the twist that will last a week as well. Your a great inspiration to transitioning women like me !

  18. J says

    Also I have seen that u mention moisturiser a lot. What moisturiser would u recommended? I know it is all about finding the right one for you but any suggestion is a start.
    In addition when u trim hair ends should this be dry or wet?? Just to make sure that I am doing it right :)

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