If you are considering transitioning from relaxed to natural, you will soon find that your relaxed-hair product line-up and tools are not going to give you what you need to maintain your new, natural hair. If you are in process of transitioning, you may feel like you are struggling to piece together a hair care regimen. There are some basic things you will need to transition, and others you can add along the way as you learn more about your hair type.
Here are some basic product categories you’ll need to build your transition kit, plus some product suggestions:*
1. Hydrating, Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Until recently, sulfates were considered a normal ingredient in shampoo that no one really paid much attention. It’s the chemical that creates thick, rich lather when massaged into hair with water. It was found to cause frizz in curly hair and be harmful to color-treated hair, so many brands have begun to make “sulfate-free” shampoos (and using other less harmful agents for lather) that are healthier, especially for natural hair.
The other characteristic you need in shampoo is moisture. These will have essential oils and moisturizing ingredients that improve hydration and gently cleanse the hair.
Suggestions: Eden BodyWorks JojOba Monoi Moisturizing Shampoo, Giovanni Ultra-Moist Shampoo, Kinky-Curly Come Clean, Scruples White Tea Restorative Shampoo, Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla, Mixed Chicks Sulfate Free Shampoo
2. Deep Conditioning Treatment
Your hair’s porosity determines how quickly moisture is absorbed and how much it holds. Deep conditioning treatments are essential for all naturals as curly textures require more moisture to keep strands elastic to prevent breakage. These are often labeled with terms such as “hydrating mask’” or “deep conditioning treatment.” Conditioners designed to be “deep” will have lots of ingredients known to moisturize hair and humectants to attract moisture.
You will need to deep condition your hair regularly. You can alternate treatments/masks with your shampoo’s mate or use your treatment every wash day. This is done by applying the conditioner after shampooing, allowing it to set in a plastic cap and rinsing with cool water. How long you deep condition will vary based on what you use and how you process. If you sit under a hooded dryer or use a steamer, you can cut the time in half.
3. Elasticity Treatment
As your hair grows out, you may find you have lots of shedding when combing your hair. The point where your new, natural hair and relaxed hair meet is called the “line of demarcation” (adopted into the hair world). This is where you will experience the most breakage, as it is the weakest point along the strand. While you will be cutting the relaxed ends over time, you can try to save as much hair as possible to maintain fullness by using treatments that improve elasticity.
You can view a full explanation and demonstration on elasticity here.
Suggestions: Ouidad Curl Recovery Extreme Repair Melt-Down Mask, Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, ApHogee Curlific Texture Treatment, Aveda Invati Thickening Conditioner, Matrix Biolage Advanced Fiberstrong Bamboo Conditioner, Paul Mitchell Super-Charged Moisturizer, It’s a Ten Miracle Mask
4. Leave-In Conditioner
After you’ve deep conditioned, you will want to add a leave-in conditioner to your tresses to help protect your hair in the coming days after styling. Leave-ins coat the hair and provide added moisture, help with style-setting, and some act as heat protectants, curl definers, and give the hair added body, shine and manageability. You will quickly find that leave-in conditioners are a staple to every natural. Until you know your curl pattern and how your hair “acts” during styling, it may be difficult to figure out which will be your go-to. In this phase, your greatest concerns are detangling, moisture and protection (especially if you straighten often).
5. Heat Protectant
If you plan to straighten your hair, either by blow-out, roller set or air-drying into flat ironing, you will need to invest in a quality heat protectant. “Heat damage” refers to loss of curl pattern, mainly by too much exposure to tool heat without proper protection. You apply heat protectants to wet hair with whatever setting lotion/foam you choose before drying.
Suggestions: Agadir Hair Shield, Aveda Smooth Infusion Style Prep, Ion Heat Protection Spray, Dr. Miracle’s Blow Out Foam, Carol’s Daughter Macadamia Heat Setting Foam, Kiehl’s Heat-Protective Silk-Straightening Cream, Crème of Nature Perfect 7
6. Daily Moisturizer
If you haven’t figured it out by now, moisture is of the utmost importance! In my opinion, the best way to have lasting moisture is to install it when your hair is wet through conditioning and by drinking lots of water daily. However, sometimes, you just need more; especially if it is really hot or really cold outside. If you find your hair feels dry (paying special attention to your new growth), you can add some daily moisture with formulated products or raw, 100% oils.
Suggestions: 100% Pure Jojoba Oil, Oyin Hair Dew, Karen’s Body Beautiful Butter Love, Elasta QP Olive Oil & Mango Butter Moisturizer, PhytoSpecific Moisturizing Styling Cream, Mizani Rose H20 Hairdress
7. Combs and Brushes
Using tools that are made for detangling curly hair will prove to be essential to your wash-day not turning into a horrific experience. You’ve probably heard lots of naturals talk about “detangling” like an Olympic sport that takes lots of determination, tenacity and upper-body strength (lol). Every natural’s experience with detangling is different, and you can definitely give yourself some relief with use of proper combs and brushes.
Shower combs: These combs help detangle gently and are plastic coated, smooth and have large, wide-spaced teeth. Many find it helpful to detangle while conditioner is setting into the hair because it will be soft and have “slip.”
Denman brushes: There are lots of “detangling” brushes out there, but the Denman brushes seem to be the favorite amongst curly girls. I have two and use them often. The classic styling brushes glide through hair easily without pulling out lots of strands, and the grooming brushes are great for smoothing hair into ponytails and other up-do styles. They are also easy to clean.
8. Satin and Silk Accessories
The word “protection” is going to be thrown around a lot. You have to protect your hair with products, wash and style methods, and even when you sleep! If you haven’t had the best habits of wrapping or covering your hair at night, you will need to start now. Grab yourself a few silk scarves, a satin bonnet, and if you have trouble keeping those on, a satin pillowcase (I wrap up and sleep on a satin pillowcase to keep my pineapple from rubbing).
As a new natural, you are going to experience some good days, and some…not so good days. You will also find it frustrating when products that others claim to be amazing are not so amazing for you. The key is to keep track of what you are using, how you are using it, and make adjustments as you go.
I’ve compiled some tips for transitioners in a previous post that will hopefully help you through your journey! Stick with it; you’re going to love what’s on the other side.
*Product and tool suggestions are to help you understand each category. Read reviews and check ingredients to help you make an informed purchase that’s best for you.