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Letter From a Transitioning Reader

June 24, 2010

A couple days ago I received a note from a Natural Selection reader that I wanted to share because it brings up a lot of issues and frustrations about a tricky phase of the natural process: transitioning.  This in-between phase, where you’re neither fully natural nor fully relaxed can prove quite challenging because you’re dealing with two hair textures on one head.  Read on for the letter and my response….

“Cassadie, I am trying to go natural and having a difficult time.  I wore a relaxer for 25 years and have been wearing braids for 18 months.  I have shoulder length hair with relaxer only on the ends now.  My hair does not grow out of my head curly at all so I have been wetting it and braiding it at night, using some of the products mentioned on your site.  I feel completely defeated in less than a week’s time. When my hair is wet, it is just wet; meaning it does not curl up.  It is just large, and wet. From reading the site, it does not appear as though other women are having to braid at night, but I cannot be certain.  And I am not feeling good about all the hair products being so close to my face – I am prone to breakouts.  So, is this just a matter of being patient, and training the hair? Or am I going about this all wrong with the braiding at night?  Or is it that some of  us can’t go natural?

Worn out in SF”

First and foremost WOISF, I want to congratulate you on going natural!  After 25 years of relaxers, its a big leap to make, but I am confident that you have made the right decision.  I am a firm believer that everybody can go natural, but it is a matter of finding what works best for you and your lifestyle.

I too spent about a year in braids growing out my relaxer.  It was really a fantastic way for me to transition because I didn’t have to deal with the two textures and braids are delightfully low maintenance.

2009. One of my favorite sets of braids (complete with raffia and cowrie shell). Acquired in Bahia, Brasil.

But all good things must come to and end and braids must be taken out.  I’ll never forget taking my braids down once and washing my hair for the first time.  The resulting mess of matting and knots and shedding and breakage and tears was truly traumatic.  And if/when you get a comb through, you can’t really style it in a wash’n’ go and you probably don’t want to straighten with heat risking damaging the new growth. It’s supremely frustrating.  And it makes you feel like making a U-turn on the Natural Highway and turning back down Relaxer Road.

1/2 natural + 1/2 relaxed = 1 confused head of hair

My suggestion to you is chop those ends off.  The relaxed ends that you’re hanging on to are not doing you any favors.  They are literally dead weight and not allowing your natural growth to curl and thrive.

Not ready to lose the length?  Fair enough!  Chop your ends off gradually over time.  There’s a lot of great styles for transitioners  like  two-strand twists or bantu knots, which you can wear for a few days and then untwist for a cute wavy style.  I personally think the Bantu Knots are super fly!

2 Strand Twists
Bantu Knots

So, braids are good for transitioning, but braiding every night and unbraiding every morning might be overkill and that much manipulation might be doing more harm than good.  If I braid on the same hair over and over again, my curl pattern ends up stretching WAY too much and the resulting look is pretty dang heinous.  Again, I would try one of the aforementioned protective styles.  Make sure to get a satin sleep cap and/or scarf which will not only protect your hair, but also your skin and sheets from product.

The one thing I cannot stress enough is the importance of moisture.  Co-wash your hair with a good conditioner.  Make sure you find a good cream moisturizer or a leave in (water should be one of the first ingredients on the label!).  Remember—oils and butters are NOT moisturizers.

I do not think that it’s a matter of “training” your hair, its a matter of learning your hair and what it likes and dislikes.  And after a 25 year separation between you and your natural texture, it’s only natural that there’s a lot to learn.

In the end, I think that you were correct, WOISF, that learning to care for natural hair is a huge matter of patience.  Realistically, there will be a ton of successes and failures journey of going natural, but with each of those ups and downs you will hopefully learn something not only about your hair, but about yourself.  Once you figure it all out, I’m positive that you’ll be thrilled with your decision.  Best of luck to you!

ps.  If any one else has any words of wisdom/advice, please post em in the comments!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shan A permalink
    June 24, 2010 4:40 pm

    That was excellent advice. I cringed when I saw your “…all of us can’t go natural” question. You were created exactly as you should be, hair and all. I urge you to stop comparing your hair to the hair of others. Just as there are more shades of people than you can count, there are also just as many types of hair. You are responsible for learning how to love your hair.

    You were fortunate to have come across this blog, I’m not sure if you’re aware that there are hundreds of other blogs out there. Here are a few of my personal favorites that are updated regularly:,,,

    So to answer your ultimate question: its a matter of being patient so that you can learn how to manage your hair.

    Congrats on the transition and your hair is beautiful. But YOU have to believe it is 🙂

  2. June 25, 2010 6:26 am

    Amen to what Cassadie and Shan A. said. I would also throw this out there: everyone’s hair does something unique. The relaxed ends may weigh you natural hair down, but you may also have hair with less curl pattern than you originally assumed. Over the course of 18 months, you probably have between 7 and 9 inches of new growth by now. On a day when you’re not busy, try washing and detangling your hair, then applying some leave-in conditioner. With that much growth, you’ll probably see how much of a curl you have. If you’re hair is not very curly, well…you’re hair just isn’t very curly. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. Having hair that is loosely curled doesn’t mean you aren’t “natural”. The beauty of having “natural” hair is having healthy and beautiful hair without the chemicals. Embracing the beauty of your hair as it genetically grows is what many of us celebrate.

    Another two sites I’d mention are and

  3. Dani permalink
    June 25, 2010 8:59 pm

    Cass, I am so proud of you for your blog. You are clearly a help to others and your advice is sage. Let me again remind you that “i told you so” about going natural. You look beautiful and i love how you’ve transitioned.
    WOISF, with patience and time you will also come to truly love your hair!

  4. La Shon permalink
    June 28, 2010 10:35 pm

    Thanks to everyone! I have been wearing two strand twists and getting compliments – getting COMPLIMENTS! It does mean “doing” my hair at night before the putting the sleep cap on, and with braids I didn’t have to do a thing, but I think I can manage that for a while. And thanks Cassadie for the photos. Your hair is so beautiful now, it would be easy to think it was always that way. That photo of the transition stage is a visual motivator to move ahead. Bless….


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