15 Tips for Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair

For most of us, it’s a huge deal transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.

Though I chose the big chop option before fully going natural, I have transitioned successfully from relaxed hair in the past.

Therefore, I know firsthand what to expect and how to ensure this experience is a pleasant one.

Below are fifteen tips that’ll help guide you along this new, exciting journey.

What is Natural Hair?

There’s some confusion over what is considered natural hair.

The most basic definition of the term is short and sweet.

Natural hair is simply hair that maintains a curl pattern that has not been altered in any way by texturizers, relaxers, and/or other chemical straighteners.

The texture and porosity of our hair tend to change with age and/or by alterations we ourselves make.

Sometimes after a period of change (whether chemically or by heat), we’ll desire to wear our hair in its natural state.

There are virtually two methods to accomplish this. You can do a big chop which involves cutting off all of the hair and starting from scratch.

Or, you can also try transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.

What Does Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair Mean?

So, what does transitioning from relaxed to natural hair mean?

If you decide to go natural but do not wish to cut all the hair off, you want to transition.

A method of growing out your natural (chemically untouched) curls or coils to the desired length before cutting away at the older, straighter ends. Usually, in a gradual manner.

The area along your hair that marks the separation point between the straight strands and your curls is called the “line of demarcation”.

When you’re ready to rock your curls this is where you’ll make the final cut to fully transition.

15 Tips for Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair

This option is preferred for those who don’t want to sacrifice length. So, if this is the route you want to go, you’re in luck! Here are fifteen tips to help you do just that!

Tip# 1: Research Your New Hair Texture!

The first thing you should do is research your new hair texture.

Taking care of your curls or coils will be vastly different than maintaining the relaxed strands you are used to.

One reason is, that curlier hair is often drier and requires more moisture than its straighter counterpart.

Also, hair that has been straightened is higher in porosity than natural hair growing from the root.

Then there’s your hair type which has its own rule of thumbs for care.

Additionally, you’ll have to consider your hair’s density, texture, and length as well since they’ll all influence everything about your regimen.

From the type of products you use, hair tools, hairstyles, and even daily routines.

Having a good idea of this before going natural will make the transition into natural hair much smoother.

I have a guide that walks you through building your own hair regimen here.

Tip# 2: Care for Your Scalp

You may think you take pretty good care of your scalp already by shampooing regularly and this may be true.

However, natural hair tends to eat up a lot of products that can sit on your scalp for days, weeks, or even longer!

Shampoo alone may not be enough to get rid of the buildup. Build-up can clog the pores along your scalp making growth and thus length retention difficult.

Lastly, every scalp has a skin (or scalp) type that has a different level of care.

This may sound like a lot, but you can combine your scalp and hair care during your wash-day routine.

This is because when you shampoo the focus is on the scalp. I have a whole post on scalp care right here.

I also have one that goes in-depth on scalp scrubs and goes hand in hand with the suggested post above. (In case you’re interested.) Okay, moving on, moving on!

Tip# 3: Provide Adequate Moisture

I mentioned this earlier but I think it bears repeating. Natural hair is often drier than straight hair. In fact, it is a prime reason curlies experience growth stunts and structural damage.

Therefore, regardless of hair type, your regimen will consist primarily of moisture. Although the closer you get to type four, the more moisture the strands will require.

You may find that you’ll have to add sufficient moisture to your daily, nightly, and wash-day regimens. Your hair porosity will greatly affect this as well.

Tip# 4: Provide Adequate Protein

Infusing your stands with enough protein is just as important as supplying them with moisture. Our hair is made up of protein which is largely responsible for its strength.

Without protein, the hair becomes weak and brittle eventually breaking off.

Simply applying a regular protein treatment every six to eight weeks can greatly assist in alleviating this issue.

Also, alternating between moisturizing and protein-based products will go a long way to helping you maintain the perfect moisture-protein balance.

For more information on this topic click here.

Tip# 5: Handle with Care

It probably goes without saying that you want to be kind to your hair but for too many of us “rough handlers”, it’s easier said than done.

Nevertheless, when you begin the transition process, your natural hair will need to be handled with care because it is much more fragile than it was in its relaxed state.

This is due to the many kinks and curls of your new texture. So, it’s not advised to pull or tug on the strands.

Tip# 6: Protect Your Edges

Just like you should be careful when handling your strands, it is imperative to be very gentle when tending to your edges.

Of course, this implies watching how you bush or comb your hair and how hard the instrument itself is on your head.

Furthermore, be wary of different hairstyles that impose stress or strain upon your age.

Some curlies can deal with the stress but others can’t so be mindful of that.

The point of transitioning is starting out fresh and healthy, hair loss will certainly put a damper on that.

Tip# 7: Detangle Before & After Shampooing

For curlies, it is super important to detangle the hair before shampooing. Why?

Because the last thing you want to deal with is a mass of wet tangles.

Plus it’s easier and faster to shampoo when it is thoroughly detangled. As for detangling after shampooing, this is just a given.

When you apply conditioner you should detangle the hair, this will not only make the styling process smoother but it will allow the product to take to the hair better.

Moreover, it’s better to detangle the hair while wet and with oiled fingers if the hair is dry.

Tip# 8: Always Deep Condition

In any regimen, I make certain to stress the importance of deep conditioning.

Conditioning by itself is a personal preference, if you feel your hair needs more moisture or protein (if protein-based) then you’ll likely want to continue with this step but usually, it is not necessary.

What is necessary, and I would argue absolutely essential, is utilizing a deep conditioner.

Deep conditioners infuse the hair with much need hydration which helps keep your strands elastic and healthy.

Tip# 9: Alternate Between Air-drying & Blow-drying

Okay, so you may have many curlies tell you to air-dry as much as possible, and to be honest there are many benefits to that.

However, it’s also believed that air-drying too often may actually cause irrevocable damage to the structure of your hair fiber which can lead to a heightened porosity and eventually damage/breakage.

There is a method you’ll want to use when drying your hair that you can read all about here, but for the most part, alternating between air and blow-drying is your best bet.

Tip# 10: Don’t Forget the Protective Hairstyle

Protective hairstyles are one of the most fundamental things you can do to maintain your natural curls, particularly in the transitional stage.

Not only will they do as the name suggests in protecting your hair from harm but they will allow the curls to grow uninhibited.

This is actually how you transition properly.

Wear a protective hairstyle for a time, wash your hair, and then restyle to do it all over again.

Remember to choose a style that won’t be counterproductive to your new growth.

Tip# 11: Develop a Night Care Routine

How you end the day is just as vital as how you start it in hair care.

There is no point in protecting your hair and keeping it well moisturized during the day if you’re not going to continue the process at night.

Your nightly care routine will be specific to you but generally, you want to maintain the moisture and safeguard the hair for bed.

Thus, you may do a LOC/LCO method before retiring and follow it up with a silk/satin headwrap or scarf for instance.

It’s your choice but you should get into the habit of caring for your natural hair.

Since you’re transitioning from relaxed, I’m sure you already have a night routine but just know that it may look somewhat different now with natural roots.

Tip# 12: Watch Out for Hair Dyes

I remember the first few months after I went natural and I thought it would be so cute to dye my hair a beautiful blue-black color.

It was in many ways gorgeous but considering I didn’t really have a solid regimen yet it was also one of the worst decisions I could have made.

I raised my porosity and caused myself a couple of years of endless tangles and split ends.

I have 4C hair so essentially what I did was expose my already dry hair to even dryer conditions.

Since I didn’t understand the importance of a moisture regimen, my hair suffered.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t color your hair or do other fun stuff, however, just be aware of the risk you’re taking and have a plan to counteract any consequences.

In the case of hair dyes, be prepared to raise your hair porosity and elevate your moisture game as a result.

Tip# 13: Limit Exposure to Heat

Heat can actually be extremely beneficial especially to people with type four hair since it straightens out our curl pattern making it easier to style.

If you’re going to use heat do so sporadically, with thermal protectants, and use low heat. As useful as heat can be, it is also potentially very damaging to the fiber’s interior.

Tip# 14: Don’t Forget to Trim

When transitioning to natural hair it is essential that you keep up your trimming schedule.

Gradually trimming your hair as it grows allows for a seamless transition into natural hair. It is also best for those who don’t want to lose too much length too fast.

The good thing about transitioning is that you don’t have to trim a lot off, you can go at your own pace.

When you’re ready be sure to cut with sharp shears along the demarcation line. Never cut the hair wet. It will blunt your ends leading to unintentional damage.

Trimming additionally will be important after your transition as well because you’ll want to retain that new hair growth.

It may not seem like much but skipping your trims will cause split ends. This kind of damage thins your stands to the point of breakage.

Tip# 15: Don’t Give Up

For my final tip, I just want to say that transitioning and going natural, for that matter, is not for the faint of heart.

No one hair type is exactly the same, which means there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. You’ll need to be consistent in your maintenance and patience.

Even still, there are times when you are going to get frustrated from the lack of growth or the appearance of your curls.

Annoyed with your hairstyle options, the price of or scarcity of hair products in your neighborhood. This is an inevitability but stick with it.

You will not be disappointed when you’re finally able to rock your curls in public confidently.

Bonus Tip for Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair

Bonus Tip: Learn to Do Your Own Hair

This is in my top five most essential tips when transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. Get into the habit of doing your own hair.

You don’t have to be an expert but you should be able to do some things like a Bantu knot or a twist/braid-out.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One, natural hair products can get expensive.

Our hair tends to use a lot of products, so we have to buy them on a continuous basis. Sometimes in bulk.

For instance, five bottles or containers of product anywhere from nine to fifteen or even twenty dollars each can eat at your budget.

That on top of paying someone to do your hair which can definitely be pricey has the potential to break your wallet.

Then there’s the chance that someone considers your hair “difficult” to do and hikes the price.

Also, no one is going to be more gentle or take more care of your hair than you. This is because you’ll feel any pain inflicted and thus adjust your handling.

You can’t expect that kind of treatment from everyone. The last, but certainly not least, reason to style your own hair is that you may run into a situation where you can’t find someone to do your hair.

Such as what took place during the early stages of the pandemic.

It’s beneficial if you have some idea of how to wash your own hair, style, and even trim it.

Natural hair is easier to trim than straight hair because you don’t have to worry so much about whether it’s done in a straight line.

After all, you’re not likely to notice as much. That said, you do want to try and cut as even as you can and only cut anywhere from 1/8 to 1inch of hair.

I have a super simple guide for trimming your natural hair here.

Q & A for Transitioning From Relaxed to Natural Hair

So, that was the post for transitioning from relaxed to natural hair and honestly it’s been a long time coming.

However, even though the post is over, I know you have some last-minute questions that you’d like answered so here it is:

Should I transition to natural hair?

This is a personal choice that should be considered very carefully.

When I went natural it was because I had a bad reaction to a relaxer and never wanted another one. Others just feel the need to go natural.

Whatever the reason, make sure you have all the facts before making this choice.

Try to get a feel for what you can expect and determine if you can handle this new lifestyle.

Going natural can be a lot of work, but it is also extremely rewarding. I certainly have never looked back.

If you are uncertain or would like to remain relaxed for now then check out this product to maintain your straight tresses.

How long does it take to transition to natural hair?

This is another one of those answers where you hold all the power. Transitioning from relaxed to natural hair will take however long you want.

There is no set time. Literally, just decide on the length of hair you’d like to grow before fully transitioning and wait it out.

Typically, many curlies wait four to six months before the final cut.

How can I transition from relaxed to natural without cutting it?

There is no way I can think of going from relaxed to natural hair without cutting it.

Your best bet is to grow out the length you desire and trim periodically. This way you’re not really sacrificing length.

What is the best product for transitioning from relaxed to natural hair?

I have tried a lot of products since going natural and I suggest Shea Moisture’s Manuka Honey & Yogurt collection.

Shea Moisture is one of the cleanest haircare brands on the market and their manuka honey and yogurt collection is very moisturizing.

Which is a godsend for drier hair types. I would also make certain to purchase some of their protein-based products as well.

Is coconut oil good for transitioning?

Coconut oil is a good sealant however, it’s also a heavier oil that can block moisture from entering your strands.

Additionally, this oil is harder to clean from the strand without a stronger shampoo which can be drying.

I would suggest using a lighter oil such as argan or sweet almond.

Not only will it provide an excellent seal for your moisture but it’s easier to wash from the strands.

Should I cowash my hair when transitioning from relaxed to natural hair?

Please don’t get mad at me for saying this but, it’s up to you.

Everyone’s hair reacts differently, though many curlies have low porosity hair which usually does not respond well to co-washing.

This is because low porosity is prone to build-up and dryness. Co-washing tends to be best suited for high porosity hair.

It is better if you wash the hair with a good clarifying (sulfate-free) shampoo and follow with a hydrating deep conditioner.

Final Thoughts

Thank you so much for reading this post on transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.

I know it was a lot of information, but if you want to dig deeper into any of the topics discussed, please check out some of my other articles.

If you think of a topic that you’d like me to explore or just have a hair question, just leave it in the dropbox below or you may message me directly on my contact page and I’ll get back to you.

Until next time!


Ngugi, Evelyn. “10 Tips for Transitioning to Natural Hair.”

Sandeen, Del. “What is Natural Hair? A Definition and In-Depth Look.” 22/04/19.

Special Thanks

Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

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