You’ve made the decision: you’re going natural. You’ve prepared yourself mentally, detoxed yourself of European beauty standards, and told your grandma/mother/friend/significant other that you don’t care about their doom-laden predictions. YOU. ARE. READY.
Sooooo… Now what?
Well, you don’t have to do much to have natural hair. It grows out of your head just right. The real challenge is how to get rid of all the UNnatural hair that’s on your head right now—the damaged hair, the relaxed hair, the limp, wavy strands or lank, brittle ends that are the barrier between you and your fro. There are two options available to you at this point: you can big chop, or you can transition.
Now let’s get one thing clear: you cannot ‘fix’ your damaged hair, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something. Once your curl pattern is altered, that’s it: that hair is trashed, and the only way to get rid of it is to cut it off.
But how should you go about that? You may have heard terms floating around online, but you probably have a few questions. What are your options? What IS a big chop? And what’s transitioning? Which is best for your hair, and which is best for you?
All perfectly valid questions, my friends. Luckily for you, I made a big-ass list of info, pros and cons. Honestly. I spoil you guys.
Option One: The Big Chop
What is it?
‘Big Chop’ sounds kind of…serious. Final. Intimidating. But don’t worry: all it involves is hacking or shaving off 90-100% of your hair and starting over fresh!
…okay, yeah, that does sound pretty wild. But if you’ve decided to go natural now now NOW then the big chop (or BC) is perfect for you: you’ll be free of your damaged hair immediately, and ready to move forward into the era of natural afrofabulousness. It’s a fun era, I promise.
Some people skip the relaxer for a few months and then BC to reveal a cute lil fro. Others go all out and get a number one. Some naturals might have an inch or two of healthy regrowth at any one time, and so will be instantly ready to rock a TWA (teeny weeny Afro). This method is pretty brutal: anything limp, dry or straight gets cut.
How is it Done?
If you’re going to big chop, getting your cut should be fairly simple—in fact, you can actually do it yourself. If you’re going to go the whole hog and shave your head, well, all you need are some scissors, a razor, and maybe a friend. If you just want to cut, then take a water bottle and work section by section—with hairdressing scissors! Any other kind will encourage split ends.
Spritz your hair until it is as close to its natural state as it can get. The part that curls, coils or kinks is natural. Bear in mind that some areas of your hair might naturally be looser than others—for example, I have 3c and 4a hair, with a random 3b section in the back that I thought was damaged for ages. Turns out it just grows like that!
So it’s best to look down the hair shafts in each section and figure out what the curl pattern seems to be at the very roots.Where that pattern ends or abruptly loosens is the part that we want to get rid of. So snip away! Be careful, be patient, and be brave.
What’s the Upside?
One benefit of this method is that, despite being a BIG chop, it ensures your natural hair journey starts small: you only have a little hair to care for, and your knowledge of what your fro does and doesn’t like will grow in time with your hair.
Another positive is the fact that cutting off all your hair makes you look hella cool. Check out tapered cuts on natural hair—SERIOUS heart eyes. Big chopping gives you the opportunity to experiment with style and colour like you never have before, and it can really build your self-confidence.
Finally, for the impatient among us—it is immediate! If you’re well and truly fed up with your damaged hair, the BC is for you.
…and the Downside?
One problem many prospective naturals face is that, despite how awesome TWAs look on other people, we can be a little insecure about how they look on ourselves. I know I was terrified about exposing my moon face and shiny forehead to the world! But that’s okay; your face is beautiful, and also… Contouring exists 😉
On top of that, while a bonus of shrinkage is that we have amazing, textured hair, the negative side is how much shorter it makes our hair seem—which in turn creates the illusion of growth taking FOREVER.
These downsides can be worked around, though. There are tons of cool companies that provide clip-in hair extensions to match your natural texture. On top of that, protective styles like braids, twists, wigs, or weaves are great for your hair AND provide length!
Maybe the BC really isn’t for you, though. Well in that case, stay tuned for the other option:
Option Two: Transitioning
If the word ‘cut’ fills you with terror/disgust/memories of a shorter style you tried before that made you look like an ugly egg, don’t panic! Instead of BC-ing, you can transition.
What is it?
Transitioning to natural hair means growing out and caring for your new, natural growth while keeping hold of your damaged ends. Instead of a drastic hair cut, transitioning naturals have regular trims to gradually remove their damaged hair as healthy, natural hair grows to take its place.
While transitioning, your damaged ends will need to be cared for with products and methods for relaxed afro hair, or for looser natural textures if your damaged hair is wavy/curly. Meanwhile, your natural hair will need to be looked after too with whatever products and techniques it prefers (which depends on your hair type).
What’s the Upside?
The benefit of this process is that you retain your current length and don’t have to go through the potential trauma of a dramatic cut. Then, by the time you’re fully natural, your hair is just as long (or longer!) as it was when you started.
Keeping your hair long can make life as a natural much easier: on days when you really can’t do your hair, it’ll be long enough to throw up into a bun! Such convenience makes it easier to stay dedicated to going natural.
…And the Downside?
Unfortunately, having damaged AND natural hair on your head is gonna look kind of wild. Thankfully, there’s ways around this: there are many styles you can wear that will create the illusion of a uniform hair texture, such as twist outs and flat twist outs, braid outs, Bantu knot outs, rod sets, and more. Protective styles like bunning, twists, braids and wigs are another way to look cute while transitioning, and are also great for your hair!
While styling your hair, you may encounter some difficulties dealing with the two textures, since they’ll have different needs. Also, your hair will become especially fragile at the line of demarcation—that is, where your natural hair meets your damaged hair—so you really need to pamper your locks and treat them right.
And there we have it!
Another step in your natural hair journey complete!
Lots of luck,