Embracing your natural hair is a process. No, it’s not just about hair; it actually can be quite a complex personal journey that requires a lot of exploration and self-love. Societally imposed standards of “straight hair” being the most beautiful hairstyle made me hate my natural hair for years. I kept my roots concealed underneath long, wavy extensions because that’s what I thought was “acceptable.” Thankfully, I broke out of that limiting shell of insecurity and am learning to love my natural hair more and more.
There’s never been a better time than now to transition to natural hair. If you’re still perming or relaxing your roots (a harsh chemical treatment that processes your curls and makes them straight), I’m here to let you know you can revitalize your curls. With the right products and a lot of TLC, your curls will revert to their natural state sooner than you think. We called on the top curl connoisseurs in the industry to fill us in on their tried-and-true products for transitioning to natural hair. From leave-in treatments to nourishing shampoos, here are the best products to help you transition to natural hair.
Meet the Expert
- Diane C. Bailey, celebrity stylist and SheaMoisture beauty ambassador
- Jamyla Bennu, CEO and Brand Founder of Oyin Handmade
- Sarrona Clardy, DevaCurl hairstylist
- Mahisha Dellinger, CURLS CEO and Brand Founder
- Stephanie McLemore, Carol’s Daughter lead hairstylist
- Vernon François, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Vernon François collection
“It’s important to nourish and protect your curls,” says Bailey. “I use the SheaMoisture Jojoba Oil and Ucuuba Butter collection ($10 and up), which is designed for protective styling. SheaMoisture Jojoba Oil & Ucuuba Butter Braid-Up Conditioning Gel ($25) works beautifully for transitioning hair that’s in a protective style, as it’s light, soothing, and hydrating.” A hair gel will help moisturize hair while locking in your curl.
A good detangler will help take down protective styles with minimal breakage. This one is formulated with nourishing jojoba and carrot seed oil, as well as ucuuba butter for an ultra-moisturizing finish. “Look for products that provide nourishing herbs, oils, and butters. These will leave hair detangled and hydrated while calming the scalp,” says Bailey.
“When transitioning to your natural hair, it’s important to recognize that your new hair products should focus on managing your natural texture as well as caring for your current texture, even if it’s been chemically relaxed, blow-dried, or color-damaged,” François advises. "My shampoo is packed with nourishing plant oils, potent active ingredients, and antioxidants that support the keratin in hair to strengthen and deeply condition, leaving strands stronger, smoother, and less frizzy."
Francis says, "My conditioner is designed to be impactful for all hair textures and help manage the transition to natural hair. It contains green tea, which neutralizes oxidation reactions and prevents color damage in dyed hair. It also contains jojoba oil, which locks in moisture, deeply nourishes, and conditions. Whether you are wearing your hair wavy, straight, curly, or kinky, keeping your hair hydrated is key for transitioning.”
A good leave-in is especially important for new naturals. Bennu recommends Oyin Handmade's leave-in hair lotion, because it's "an emollient leave-in that encourages pliancy—especially important when you’re transitioning and working with two textures. You want to cushion and ease any manipulation and styling of your hair, to avoid breakage where the two textures meet."
Some natural hair care products are loaded with not-so-great-for-your-hair petroleum and other scalp clogging ingredients. The Sugars Pomade is made with all-natural ingredients that are good for your hair's health. Bennu says, "It locks in moisture while feeding hair with essential fatty acids from hempseed, castor, and broccoli seed oils."
Clardy’s also a fan of DevaCurl’s Deep Sea Repair Seaweed Strengthening Mask ($36). “The line of demarcation where the natural hair texture meets the straight hair is very fragile, often leading to excessive breakage. This is a great strengthening mask that will help combat breakage.”
Bailey uses several products regularly on her clients with transitioning hair, including SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Conditioning Cleanser ($12) that she recommends as an excellent alternative to shampoos that lather or contain sulfates. “It gently cleanses weak hair, leaving it soft and tangle-free,” Bailey notes.
Bailey also recommends the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk ($11). She says, "It works well to smooth the cuticles, hydrate, and moisturize fragile hair without weighing it down." It's formulated with hair-loving ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, neem oil and vitamin E to nourish your hair.
Bailey loves the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie ($8) "Because it can be applied as a styling cream to wet or dry hair to define curls, reduce frizz, and seal in moisture. For twist-outs and braid-outs, it defines your curls. For tight, coily hair, apply the smoothie directly to the scalp to moisturize coils at the root.”
McLemore loves the Carol’s Daughter Monoi collection. “It offers a unique blend of natural products that will help strengthen your strands,” she notes. The repairing conditioner is especially great for those transitioning as it helps both repair delicate hair from breakage while reducing shedding.
McLemore told us, “Carol’s Daughter Monoi collection has monoi oil and tiare gardenias, which help provide moisture, infuse proteins, and stop shredding. It also gives your hair a protective barrier against damage." This spray leave-in conditioner helps infuse your hair with shine, while repairing damage.
The Sacred Tiare collection from Carol's Daughter has shea butter, gardenias, and vitamins to help get rid of split ends. The sulfate-free shampoo gives you a nice, clean scalp, but is infused with Coprah coconut oil to help fight frizz.
Twists and braid-outs are two styles that new naturals should have in their repertoire. Dellinger recommends using the CURLS Blueberry Twist N Shout Cream ($15) to create shiny, defined, and super moisturized curls.
This leave-in is formulated with organic blueberry extract to prevent hair breakage and loss, moisturizing coconut oil, and grapeseed oil that helps keep hair strong and looking healthy. Dellinger says, "You can use it daily, to refresh your curls or nightly for a burst of moisture before going to bed."
Opening Image: @flammedepigalle
Khumalo NP, Stone J, Gumedze F, McGrath E, Ngwanya MR, de Berker D. 'Relaxers' damage hair: evidence from amino acid analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010;62(3):402-408. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2009.04.061