Transitioning Your Tresses: Expert Tips for Your Natural Journey

Expert advice from Dr. Kari Williams, natural hair expert and author of The Journey Back: How to Transition Back to Your Natural Curl.

ESSENCE.COM Dec, 13, 2012

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The transition stage is the period of either growing out or cutting off your relaxed hair. There are two primary ways to enter the transition phase, according to Dr. Kari "Your hair is trained to hang straight, and it’s going to take time to get back to your natural state," says Dr. Kari. "You have two options to successfully transition back, and both offer a variety of styling options to help you succeed. They are the 'big chop' and the 'little trim.'”

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One of the most common ways to begin your natural hair journey is by doing the big chop. "This is when you cut off all of your straightened, damaged or processed hair — the stringy parts. Depending on the length of your natural curl, this chop will leave you with significantly shorter hair," says Dr. Kari.

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While many transitioners may rely on braids with extensions while transitioning, it is important to make sure you are not doing more harm than good. "Just remember, there are good and bad braiding techniques," advises Dr. Kari.  "Bad techniques or braids pulled too tightly can cause hair loss and create scalp infections."

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Going at your newly natural journey alone can make your transition more frustrating than it should be. "Your stylist will help you develop your routines and to implement healthy protective styles. There are resources out there to help you. Use them," advises Dr. Kari.

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When it comes to going natural, every day won't be a dream come true. "There are days when you won’t like what your hair does, when you’re tempted to pick up the pressing comb and end it all," says Dr. Kari. "Have a few go-to styles on bad hair days. Invest in hats and hair wraps to keep your hair protected."

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Protective styles such as twists, braids and updos are used by transitioners to aid in length retention and low manipulation. "A protective transition style will keep your hands out of your hair and limit constant manipulation," says Dr. Kari. "This will help maintain your length as the stringy strands grow out."

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Many transitioners will notice dry hair, which is partly due to inexperience dealing with your natural texture. The good news: There are simple ways to ensure your hair is hydrated. "Use oil-based and moisture-based products to help keep your hair healthy. Deep conditioning treatments on a regular basis will be an important part of your maintenance routine while both textures are present," advises Dr. Kari.

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If you've worn your hair relaxed or pressed straight for years at a time, getting used to your natural hair texture might be a challenge. The trick, according to Dr. Kari, is developing patience with your journey and finding the regimen that works best for you. "As you find the right shampoos, conditioners and styling products — your hair will begin to adapt to life without heat and show you what it can really do."

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Dr. Kari Williams is a trichologist, natural hair stylist and owner of Mahogany Revolution Salon and Trichology Clinic in the Beverly Hills area. For more of her expert advice on transitioning, pick up her book The Journey Back: How to Transition Back to Your Natural Curl and follow her on Twitter, @DrKariWilliams.

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