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Transition Timeline - What to Expect as You Transition to Natural Hair

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Once you decide you want to stop chemically straightening your hair, you may wonder what the process will be like. You may have heard stories, some of which may have you feeling anxious. If you don't want to do the "big chop" and get rid of your processed hair in one fell swoop, here's a transition timeline outlining what you can expect, and what you can do to make the process easier, month to month.

1. Think About a Time Frame

Woman pulling her hair
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Once you make the decision to transition, think about how long you want your process to last. Whatever you decide at this point doesn't have to be a firm commitment. You may think you want to transition for a year, and after three months, get tired of dealing with two different textures, and simply cut all your relaxed hair off. It happens.

It's good to have a tentative plan in place if you can, especially if you're the type of person who likes to have goals and milestones to work toward. Do you want to transition for half a year or one year? Or would you rather transition until you have three to four inches of new growth? It's up to you.

2. Months One and Two

These may be easy months if you stuck to the general relaxer guideline of touch-ups every eight weeks. It's not too early to start thinking of good transition styles for the months ahead. Women who aren't particularly confident in their hairstyling abilities should take this time to practice various styles and see if there's one or two that you can master and become your fallback 'dos on days when you need to style your hair in a hurry.

3. Months Three and Four

This is where transitions can get more challenging, as you'll need to be very diligent taking care of your hair at the line of demarcation, or where your relaxed hair meets the new growth. This is an extremely fragile area and where you'll experience the most breakage.

If you haven't already, begin using protein treatments once or twice a month. Alternate these with moisturizing deep conditioner treatments. It's important to keep the balance of protein and moisture in your hair at optimal levels to minimize breakage. Trim one to two inches of your hair.

4. Months Five and Six

By now, you may have between two and three inches of new growth. Your relaxed hair will look markedly different from your curls and coils (if you had a texturizer instead of a relaxer, you probably won't notice as much of a difference). Daily styling may be a challenge, which is why you should try styles that make the most of your curls, not fight to straighten this new growth.

Trim one to two inches of hair and continue with protein and deep conditioning treatments. Consider extensions as a way to get through the next few months. Many women obsess over how little it seems their hair is growing; wearing braid extensions is a good way to get your mind off of growth and to reduce daily styling.

5. Six Months+

You'll probably have about three inches of new growth, with the ends of your hair seeming to hang on for dear life. The sooner you get rid of your relaxed ends, the sooner you can begin to understand your hair's unique texture and work with it. If your relaxed hair is shorter in length than your new growth, consider cutting the processed ends away. This can be tough for women who like to wear their hair long, but straggly ends do nothing for your look.

Beyond six months, your relaxed hair is on its last legs. You'll be more familiar (and maybe more comfortable) with your natural texture. When you cut off the rest of your relaxed hair, you'll see how your hair is unique to you. Enjoy the possibilities that natural hair brings you!

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