Ask CurlyNikki: Can I Go Natural Without Cutting My Hair?

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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:I have long hair and have relaxed my hair for over 30 years. I want to go natural but I don't want to cut my hair. Can you offer any suggestions?

CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: The process of going natural is highly personal and there is no right or wrong way to do it. While many opt to big chop, or to chop off all of their chemically treated hair at once, others, like yourself, choose to slowly grow out the relaxer, or “transition.” The benefit of transitioning is that you get to keep your length while your natural hair grows in. Since your hair has two very different textures, breakage, shedding and styling can become a problem. Here’s how to have a smooth, successful transition:

Avoid Heat

Excessive heat styling is dangerous as 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, 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.

Ladies, what did I miss! Share your transitioning tips below!

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 bookBetter Than Good Hair.