Best Transitioning Hairstyles for Black Hair

Girl with natural hair

João Ritter / Unsplash

If you're thinking of leaving relaxers behind and you don't want to cut all of your processed hair off, you'll need some transition styles that will take you from straight hair to your natural texture. While most of these styles are protective, you can still wear your hair out on occasion. Try these hairstyles to get you through the sometimes awkward stages of transitioning, and you'll feel confident that your hair looks good every day. Ahead, check out some of the best hairstyles to try while transitioning to natural hair.

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Flexi-Rod Sets

Blend those curly roots with your relaxed tresses with wet sets. You can set your hair on magnetic rollers, flexi-rods, perm rods or Curlformers. You have a good degree of controlling how curly you want your finished style to be as setting tools come in an array of sizes. Because wet sets don't rely on direct heat, they're a gentle way of styling your hair. Plus, you're getting the hang of making your straightened hair match your textured new growth, which is a healthy way of transitioning.

"The less tension, the better is my rule of thumb when styling hair that is transitioning from relaxed to natural," says Leigh Hardges, hairstylist at Chicago-based, Maxine Salon. "Twist outs are optimal for this type of careful styling. The hair does not need to be held taut for a twist set, and working in sections makes it less likely to tangle."

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Bantu Knots

Unlike two-strand twists, which require curly ends that can hold themselves together, flat twists work well on hair that's not completely natural. Similar to cornrows, you use two strands of hair instead of three when fashioning these twists, which lie on the head. You'll still need to secure the ends. If your hair is past your shoulders, you can gather the ends into a ponytail or bun, while shorter hair can simply be pinned into place.

"Bantu knots are my favorite for transitioning clients to maintain their salon style at home. The roots stay smooth and straight while sleeping or working out, and the ends keep a nice curl without applying more heat," says  Hardges.

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Knotless Braids

You may want to get some hair additions if you choose this style, but they're not a requirement. If braids or cornrows are a go-to style for you, they're perfect for dealing with different textures; they also work with varying lengths of hair, with and without extension additions.

If you like rocking wigs and weaves to get through a hair transition, you can create cornrows as your base style before slipping on a wig or attaching a weave.

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Buns/Chignons

Buns, topknots, and chignons are all easy and elegant ways to style transitioning hair. This is definitely one of the easiest styles to create, but be careful not to get lazy about it: give your hairline a rest from this sleek 'do at least a couple of times per week. This cuts down on the risk of thinning hair around your edges. Speaking of edges, there are plenty of edge control products out there to keep that hairline laid, so try one of the healthier options, such as Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Edge Treatment ($9) or Creme of Nature Argan Oil Perfect Edges ($5), instead of an alcohol-laden gel that will dry out your mane.

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Sew-Ins

black woman with wavy hair

 Tim Roberts / Getty Images

For some women, weaving their hair away during transitioning is much easier. You can even choose extensions that mimic natural hair so that you can get an idea of what your new texture will look like on you. Twist and braid extensions are easy enough to get from a professional who's qualified in this area. When worn correctly, weaves cut back on the frustration of dealing with different textures during your grow-out phase.

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Roller Sets

Stretching the roots without excessive heat is essential to maintaining hair health while transitioning from a relaxer to natural hair. After washing, section the hair and apply a flexible mousse with a soft hold.

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Wigs

Emmy Award-winning celebrity hairstylist, Kiyah Wright, encourages trying wigs. “Braiding hair under the wig helps keep the heat off the hair, but you have to be sure to put a wig cap on to avoid any friction," she says.

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Box Braids

“[Braided extensions] are great for those that live an active lifestyle as a trip to the gym will not ruin the style,” says Niani B, a natural hairstylist at Naturalicious Salon. “It is especially important when wearing any type of protective style to keep the scalp clean and continue nourishing your hair with a moisturizer and oil.”

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Cornrows

Cornrows are one of the simplest transition styles to try, especially if you know how to braid. With any braided style, be mindful of how much tension you're applying to your scalp.

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Faux Locs

Faux locs are another transition style that offers up versatility and minimal manipulation. When cleansing your locs, wrap them in a microfiber towel for up to 20 minutes to soak up excess water.

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Two-Strand Twists

“Two Strand Twist are a very popular style in the natural hair community,” says Niani B. “Most new naturals tend to think this style is unachievable with straight hair. However, it can be achieved by simply adding a small rod to the end of each twist to create the illusion of naturally curly hair.”

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Head Wraps

Head wraps are both stylish and protective. However, you'll want to invest in one with a silk or satin lining to prevent your coils from drying out or snapping due to friction.

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The Silk Press

“For hair transitioning from a relaxer, it’s important to have the texture of the hair be consistent,” says Michelle O’Connor, Artistic Director at MATRIX. For this reason, she recommends the silk press. This style is perfect for naturals who won’t rock their natural texture often but will still want to say goodbye to the chemicals. “[The silk press] can be worn for up to two weeks with a nightly technique of wrapping the hair around the head and tying a silk scarf over it.” Just be sure to protect your hair with a good leave-in and heat protectant like Design Essentials Natural Agave & Lavender Weightless Thermal Protectant Serum ($10).

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Marley Twists

We know twisted styles come highly recommended as a protective style. Adding extensions to your twists can help your style last longer.

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Flexi-Rod Puff

We love a style that adds a spin on a classic. Here we see how a flexi-rod set can be stretched into a braided fringe puff so that you never get bored.

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Short Faux Locs

Faux locs don't have to be long. A short bob makes for a chic, low maintenance style you can wear for up to six weeks.

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Jumbo Braids

Jumbo braids are the perfect box braid style for those who want to spend little time in their braider's chair. To prevent the style from feeling too heavy, try the knotless braiding technique.

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Mini Twists

Mini twists can be time-consuming. However, they can last up to six weeks. You can wash, condition, and trim them. If your ends are still straight, add a few rollers to the ends.

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Braided Updo

Braided updo's keep the hair off the face and your transitioning hair protected. Just be sure to care for your edges while you're rocking this style.

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Twisted Updo

Two-strand twists can make an ideal foundation for an updo. For a different look, untwist the front of your twists to embrace the twist-like curls.

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