Ask CurlyNikki: How to Transition Without Experiencing Breakage

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Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by emailing them to BeautyEditors@essence.com.

READER QUESTION: How can I transition and keep my processed hair from breaking off?

CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE: The act of slowly transitioning from relaxed to natural tresses, rather than Big Chopping (cutting off the relaxed ends in one fell swoop), can be frustrating at times, but highly rewarding, especially if maintaining length is a priority. Like any other challenge in life, you have to go into this process armed with knowledge and patience. Since your hair has two very different textures, breakage and shedding can become a problem. Here’s how to have a smooth, successful transition:

Avoid Heat
Excessive heat styling is dangerous because it compromises protein bonds. Using heat as a crutch while transitioning can result in an uneven curl pattern, loss of curl and breakage. Sadly, this damage is irreversible, and you'll be facing yet another transition.

Try Low Manipulation Styles
Choose styles that seamlessly blend the two textures (and don’t stress your edges!). Twist and braid-outs, pin curls, roller sets, buns and braids should be your style staples. Handle your hair gently and infrequently, and remember to moisturize.

Gently Detangle
The line of demarcation is where your natural hair meets the relaxed hair. It is a point of weakness and the source of breakage for many transitioners. For this reason, use your fingers instead of combs and brushes when detangling and styling.

Deep Condition
Your relaxed ends need protein to maintain strength and prevent breakage. I recommend monthly protein treatments and weekly moisturizing deep treatment with heat. Your hair will thank you later!

Have Patience
You’re gonna need it. The two very different textures can be overwhelming, and they are often the reason why many women chop prematurely. And a hasty Big Chop could lead to a return to the relaxer, or months of confidence issues related to your hair.

Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the forthcoming book, Better Than Good Hair.