Transitioning 101 – A Complete Guide To Switching From Relaxer To Natural Hair Part 1

Transitioning 101 part 1 - Black woman holding card

Transitioning from relaxed to natural is not as hard as some would assume. Most claiming how hard it is are individuals who haven’t tried it or did not have the right resources to make it a successful transition.

Either way, if this is a path you choose to take then have no fear. Aunty BHI is here to shed some light on the process, the terms, and the highs and lows.

Now that we have that out of the way…congratulations on deciding to go natural! It is a big step but a positive one and as I have shared in previous posts like 6 Tips For Older Women Considering Going Natural. The key is knowing this is what you really want to do and seeing it as a positive step in your life.

Chances are if you are not sure and you approach it with a pessimistic attitude, all you will be able to see is negatives which will most likely cause you to backpedal and totally fall off the wagon.

Going natural is much more than just growing your relaxed hair out. This is changing a major part of your life. No, I am not trying to scare you, I am just getting you prepared for a journey that is so worth the effort and time you will need to put into it.

Step one – Choosing which path to take for your transition from relaxed to natural.

Going natural is a personal choice especially since you will be the one working with your hair. The first step is deciding which route you will take in this journey. There are two ways to go about going natural and they are very different.

Big Chop (BC) – Cutting off all relaxed hair immediately and starting fresh with only natural hair.  This method allows you to use products for one type of hair (natural) and most women start with the TWA or Teeny Weeny Afro.

Understandably, this may be a daunting prospect if you have never worn your hair cropped before but many ladies have described the experience as freeing so if you are brave and impulsive, this is the path for you.

Long Term Transitioning – Allowing the relaxed hair to grow out for a while before cutting the relaxed ends off. Here, you will be left with two textures to work with (relaxed and natural) for the duration of the transition.

You have the option of putting your hair away while you allow it to grow with wigs, weaves and braids. These are viable options but remember that going natural means learning your natural texture so it actually helps to eliminate the wigs, weaves and braids to learn more about your hair texture and what it responds to.

You will find that the best styles to use for this transition will be curly styles that blend both your natural and your relaxed texture. Go with styles like using flexi rod sets, rollers sets, braid outs or twist outs.

Side note:  I am not trying to discourage anyone from wearing wigs, weaves or braids but many women who do wear them when they first go natural find themselves stuck and dependent on them as they have not familiarized themselves with their own hair. I would suggest learning your hair by working with it on a day-to-day basis whether you BC or transition. Once you know what your hair’s needs and how to work with it then go ahead and wear wigs, weaves and braids as a style option.

About Sabrina Perkins

Hello all, I'm Sabrina. I'm a freelance writer and a full-time blogger at my site, where the focus is on Natural hair, beauty and style. I became natural 8 years ago at the tender age of 35 and love sharing my ups and downs as I master this thing called natural hair. Married, with two kids (one being a natural herself) gives me a different perspective on our hair and why I love being natural. I want healthy hair, long hair and sexy hair! I'm an older natural---that's right---I'm grown and sexy, and I have much to share. I love fashion too and recently opened a clothing shop for beautiful black women at


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  • Natural is healthy

  • If that what it look like then I dont want to go its cute when you do Bantu knots

  • Wrong pic for the theme. It screams relaxed/ kinky. Some of these pages posting pressed/ texturized hair screaming natural. We need to go back to the drawing board to redefine this outlook on what natural is

    • She looks relaxed with kinky roots so I figured that was perfect for a ‘transitioning’ post. I didnt think that a fully natural pic would have made sense 😉

    • What is truly considered natural? Does pressing take you out the natural category?

      • It depends on who you ask but many see pressed hair or flat-ironed hair as still natural.

    • My opinion it should. Pressing/flat iron changes the “natural” state of your hair!

    • Is this relaxed kinky look a new transitioning look. I thought cutting the relaxer out down to the natural was transititioning.

    • No Chantal McDonald, transitioning can refer to a big chop so that you can start off with a teeny weeny afro or transition over months or years until you reach a length comfortable enough to cut your hair off. Personally, I transitioned for 18 months before chopping the relaxer off.

    • Is it true mayonaise and vinegar can strip your hair of all chemicals?

    • Chantal McDonald transitioning means different things to different women. It depends on what their starting point is and where they want to go. Just think of “transitioning from this to that.” I am a hairstylist and when I do a consultation on someone and I ask them are they transitioning, I mean are you trying not to alter your natural curl pattern chemically anymore. Meaning they are transitioning their hair from where it is to some place else they want to achieve. And no, it is not true that mayonnaise and vinegar can strip your hair of all chemicals. Chemical processes performed on your hair change the bonds and molecular structure of your hair and once the bonds are broken, they cannot come back together.

    • i have been transitioning for five to six months and this is how my hair looks when it air drys even after a deep condition. thick pretty roots straw like ends.

  • Lol

  • Very informative…transitioning since 6/2013. My hair is almost to my bra strap so twa is a bit scary for me

    • Good for you! Keep it up and don’t get scared. You are doing it!

  • mimi jackson

    Which is better a texturizer or trying to grow my natural without using a relaxer and avoid breakage.

    • Texturizer is a relaxer. Same thing just not keeping the chemicals in as long as you would for a relaxer.

  • Lmao at that pic…

  • I remember those days. I couldn’t handle those two textures. Bc’d after 4 months

    • I”m with you. More power to the women who can transition.

  • Chezella Hankins

    I have relaxed hair I think its been six months since I had a realaxer I been doing protective styling such as weaves and box braids. I only wear my hair out when I was my quick weave out and right before I put in my box braids. When you have a good quality of hair and you only relax once twice a year if that where do I fall in the process of transitioning to natural w2ithout a perm my hair dose not form a afro at all.

    • Natural hair is just that….natural. It does not have to form an afro or be a certain texture. You just need to work with what you have and use the right products. Just stop relaxing and you can either cut off all the relaxed hair or slowly transition. All hair is good hair and loving it is crucial for success!

      • Chezella Hankins

        how do tell the difference between relaxed end and natural hair on my hair that falls between a 1 and a 2A

        • That may be hard to do since it seems you may not have much curl with your natural hair. What type of perm or relaxer were you using and were you trying to make your hair straighter?

          • chezella Hankins

            I was using African best I want it lay straight

  • 2 weeks in with transitioning and I use rods for curling my chemically treated hair after twisting it.

    • Great. You have found something that works and good for you!

  • I have nt relaxed for 3 years now. I braided my hear for the last year. How much hair is normal to loose after I take of my braids after 3 weeks?

    • Well, we shed about 100 hairs a day so you will be shedding A LOT once you take the braids out. Be careful when you take them out and realize you should see a lot. Make sure to do a deep conditioning and check your edges to make sure they are not thinning from the braids. Good luck.

    • It’s hard to say, it depends on what’s normal shedding for you. But I would expect a lot for 3 weeks going by the average 50 or so hairs per day rule.

  • That’s me Taura

  • Ive ben ransitioning 4 2mths now& can ne 1 plz tell me how i can keep my hair moist & soft bcuz after i cowash its so dry even wen i twist its just DRY plz help

    • So you are having a problem with keeping your hair moisturized? Water is the best moisturizer but are you sealing your hair with an oil to keep the moisture from the water in? Some use Coconut oil, olive oil, etc. You may need a hot oil treatment or a deep conditiong weekly. Make sure at night you sleep with a satin bonnet or a satin pillowcase and NEVER dry your hair with a regular towel. Get a micofiber towel or an old t-shirt.

  • It looks dry like the lady n the pic

    • I would suggest a deep conditioning every week after washing and what products are you currently using for cleansing and conditioning? You may need to keep a little leave-in conditioner in too to help.

  • Looks nice but i think it won’t look good on me my hair is to short.

    • You do not have to cut your relaxed hair if you do not want to. You can transition.

  • Charese

    I have a question. I have a 6 year old daughter whose hair was very good but poofy on the ends, well she went away to her dads and his wife put a texturizer in her hair about two years ago. I was angry about the situation but I continued to use them in fear of her hair breaking off, now I want to stop using them(texturizers) her hair around the nape area is severely breaking off. I keep her ends trimmed and hair greased , my question is how do I transition her hair with out doing the big chop?

    • First off…wow. Not sure how I would handle that but I’m sure her father asked his wife to do it. Now, talk to them and let them know you are letting her hair grow out and be natural. They need to be on board or all that work will be for nothing. Try curlier styles with rollers or flexi rods while you keep the chemicals away which will help with the nape breaking off. Not too tight though. I wouldn’t suggest braids if her hair is already breaking off so nothing that is going to pull the hair or be too tight. I would leave the grease alone and try oils and read the label of your products but Shea Moisture has a kiddie line that may be good to try for her hair products.

  • Gabby

    I have a question. I just started transition on 10/13. I’m doing protective styling(weaves, braiding) but I want to know what is the best products to wash, co-wash, deep treat, and what’s the best oil to use too? Plz help :)

    • Congrats on transitioning. I do suggest limiting those weaves and braids so you can know how to work with you hair but if you choose to use them make sure to give your hair a break in-between wearing them so not adding to much tension on your hair. Everyone has their favorite product line so you will have to choose one that you like. I think Shea Moisture, Curls, Aubrey organics, Carol’s Daughter are just a FEW of great lines worth giving a try. I would invest in a great deep conditioning weekly and allow your hair to get some air from under the weave.

      • Gabby

        Ok will do! Thanks a bunch:)

      • Gabby

        Is oraganix really good too?

        • I haven’t tried that line so I cannot say but I have often wondered about them. I am not going to lie. I love the way their bottles look but have never looked on the back to see what they are about.

  • kianna

    Hi my hair is just like the girl in the picture and I will admi. It drives me nuts but I am learning about my hair. I have 4c hair and u have been transitioning for 6 months now. It does have its pro’s and it’s con’s but I am learning alot about my hair. I have tried flex rods and twist but my curl pattern is so different from my relaxed hair that it comes out crazy. What do you suggest in my situation? Big chop? Help!

    • A big chop would allow you to work with just one texture if you have tried flex rods and twists and do not have the desired results you are looking for. You may need to try different products with the flex rods or twists or even try roller sets.

  • Paris

    So I have a question….ive been debating going natural for at least the past year. I successfully stretched my relaxer for 7 months (yay me!!), mostly using Senegalese twists and flat ironing my hair sometimes. Would this be ok for doing a full transition to natural hair? Plus, being a college student still living with her “clean & pressed” parents, i’ll sometimes get the wtf look if my hair isn’t to their liking (confidence killer!), I was wondering if flat ironing my hair would be a better alternative than getting a relaxer. BTW, loved this article and this site! Thanks!

  • Helen

    I began transitioning since the beginning of last year, I’ve been wearing my hair in braids until recently, when I figured I should get to know my natural hair. My biggest problem is I love styling my hair & I use a lot of heat Im not a hairstylist so I dont know how to do many hairstyles considering my edges are thin and one side is just growing back, so my regimine that I jusr started was using silk elements, first I use start by using a clarifying conditioner then I washed it using the silk elements oh my it felt so good then I condition with the conditioner for about 30 min using some olive oil mixed w/conditioner, then I rinse and do a hot oil treatment for another 25- 30 min. Rinsed it out and I could see the difference in my hair immediatley it was softer and more manageable. (no shedding yaaayy) then after that I part my hair and use a lil cantu leave n conditioner, then I moisturize using an a growth moisturize lotion then I seal with olive oil, or tea tree oil, as well as a heat protector my hair looked so healthy, shiny. I did not do the big chop, I cut off little by little

  • Helen

    Each week I use a different type of conditioning treatment. This is to find out which product is best so far silk elements workes very well but different products offers your hair something different. These products can be expensive so when I first went natural I would make my own homeade conditioner using honey, avacado, lemon, egg, mayo. This works wonderful as well my hair was manageable but now I have added silk elements to that regimine. I also use jamaican black castor oil, works wonderful for thinning edges, coconut oil, tea tree oil, as well as olive oil. My hair no longer feels brittle, lil to no shedding. Well im off to practice some bantu knots.

  • Helen

    Also black jamaican castor oil, tea tree oil, & cocunut oil are now essential to my regimine as well. I found that using essential oils are excellent because their healing agents to damaged foliciles, skin, cuticles, and they healing agents, I do not know my hair type so I just say nappy and loving it. Its nice that my hair is staying on my head and not in my comb. Im gonna practice my bantu knot now. until next time.

  • Great info

  • Great article! All women with relaxed hair should read up!!#teamnaturalhair

  • my transitioning guide was cutting that issh off!

  • Cool ! so much :)