Transitioning from chemically straightened to natural hair is a process. If you don't want to do the big chop and get rid of your processed hair in one fell swoop, you have to live with two different textures of hair as it grows out. Before we talk about what to expect when growing your hair out, Creme of Nature hairstylist and natural hair educator Pat Grant Williams wants us to understand the three phases of hair growth. "At any given time, some of your is hair is growing, resting and shedding," Williams explains.
"There are three phases of hair growth: anagen- growth phase, catagen-transition phase, and telogen-resting phase. At any given time, 70 to 90% of the hair is in the Anagen-growth phase. This phase can last seven to ten years. During the Catagen phase, only one to two percent of the hair is transitioning, lasting about two weeks. During the Telogen stage resting phase, which lasts for approximately four months, new cells create a new shaft. Hair strands have different phases that are repeated during one's life if the follicle remains healthy."
Now that we've gotten through the science, here's what to expect and what you can do to make the process easier month to month.
Meet the Expert
- Pat Grant Williams is a natural hair educator and Creme of Nature hairstylist.
Early Transitioning: 1-3 months
Your hair will grow between a half to one inch in the first two months. This might be an easy time if you stuck to the general relaxer guideline of touch-ups every eight weeks. It's not too early to start thinking about good transition styles for the months ahead. If you aren't particularly confident in your styling abilities, take this time to practice and see if there are any styles that you can master for days when you need a quick and easy fallback hairdo.
Celebrity stylist Pat Grant Williams also says that this is the time for patience. "The most difficult part of transitioning from chemically relaxed hair to natural hair is keeping the hair healthy when there are two textures of hair on one strand," says Williams. "The new growth grows out and is usually healthier than the relaxed hair. At this line of demarcation, where new natural hair meets relaxed hair is where hair is usually the weakest."
For this reason, she says tender, love, and care is required to keep the hair looking and feeling its best. Deep conditioning is a start since natural hair tends to be dry. The sooner you start increasing moisture, the healthier your tresses will be overall.
If the scalp is clean, the hair follicle is able to generate new hair. If the scalp is coated with buildup, the follicle may not be able to do its job.
Mid Transitioning: 3-6 Months
Around the third month, you should have between one and two inches of new growth. This is when the transition can get more challenging, as you need to be very diligent in taking care of your tresses where your relaxed hair meets the new growth. If you haven't already begin using protein treatments about once a month. Alternate these with deep conditioners, which you should apply at least twice a month. It's important to keep the balance of protein and moisture in your hair at optimal levels to try to minimize breakage.
The average hair growth is 1/2 inch per month or 6 inches per year.
Long-Term: 6 Months and Beyond
By now, you may have between two and three inches of new growth. Your relaxed hair will look markedly different from your curls and coils. (If you had a texturizer instead of a relaxer, the difference probably won't be as noticeable.) Daily styling may be a challenge; the best thing to do would be to try styles that make the most of your curls, rather than fighting to straighten this new growth.
You might want to trim one to two inches of hair. Or, consider braid extensions as a way to get through the next few months. Some people obsess over how little it seems their hair is growing; wearing extensions is a good way to get your mind off of growth and to reduce daily styling.
At six months, you'll probably have about three inches of new growth, with the ends of your hair seeming to hang on for dear life. The sooner you get rid of your relaxed ends, the sooner you can begin to understand your hair's unique texture and learn how to work with it. If your relaxed hair is shorter than your new growth, consider cutting the processed ends away. This can be tough for those who like to wear their hair long. But let's be real: straggly ends do nothing for your look.
"A 'healthy trim' removes less than what grows," explains Williams. "In one year, you could grow six inches and with proper care and trims be able to keep five inches. This is a realistic goal when the hair and scalp are healthy."
Your Long-Term Vision for Your Hair
Beyond six months, your relaxed hair is on its last legs. Some people have the patience and fortitude to transition very long term. If you just can't bear to have shorter hair than you're used to, be committed to truly pampering your hair so that you don't suffer excess breakage.
However, at this point, you should be more familiar (and maybe more comfortable) with your natural texture. When you cut off the rest of your relaxed tresses, you'll see how unique your hair is to you. Enjoy the possibilities that natural hair brings.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. What kids should know about how hair grows.