Let me start of by saying that I love when people ask me questions! I respond the quickest via Instagram, followed by Facebook, followed by email, but I definitely make it a point to try to respond to each and every single question I receive, even if all I’ve got to say is I don’t know. Today’s question came from a fellow Nigerian who was thinking about going natural, but was unsure where to start. I realize that people are at different stages of their hair journey, so I’m going to show the newbies or those still in the pondering stage some love because I sometimes forget about ya’ll!
Should I big chop or should I transition?
I did not originally intend to go natural. I had a college roommate who could do hair, and offered to give me kinky twists for free one summer. I ended up wearing those the whole summer, and during that time I noticed that Essence Magazine (I’m a loyal subscriber lol) started coming out with articles about being natural. I ended up spending hours reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, and became curious to see my natural hair texture (my mom relaxed my hair when I was toddler). I don’t remember exactly how long after my last relaxer and those initial kinky twists that I decided to actually “go natural”, but at some point during my sophomore year of college, my protective styling became more about transitioning and less about not having to do my hair while studying. I ended up transitioning for 11 months, wearing kinky twists during the fall semester and a wet and wavy weave during the spring semester. In between hairstyles, my stylist at the time would cut off a little bit of hair. When the school year ended, I made an appointment at a natural hair salon for the final chop, a rod set and some color. Over $200 later (this is an entirely different story that I should tell sometime), I was fully natural!
Transition or Big Chop Quiz
1. How much do you like doing your hair yourself?
A. I love it! I try out new styles all the time.
B. Myself? What’s the point of a hair stylist?
C. I don’t hate it, I do it once a week and then it’s bunned the rest of the time.
2. How much time do you devote to your hair each week?
A. I do my hair more than twice a week.
B. I have a standing salon appointment every other Friday.
C. I do it once a week or biweekly, and then it’s bunned the rest of the time.
3. How much natural hair lingo do you know?
A. SLS is bad for your hair, LOC is a moisturizing technique, and coconut oil doesn’t do the same thing as tea tree oil.
B. I think a pre-poo is when you do something to your hair before washing it.
C. TWA means twisted with affection right?
4. What’s going on in your life?
A. I’m starting something new and I’m ready for a change (moved to a new place, new job, new relationship, etc)
B. I can’t drastically change my hairdo because of work.
C. I’m a student or I exercise frequently.
5. What’s your natural hair goal?
A. I want hair like Tracee Ellis Ross or Ijeoma.
B. My hair is pretty damaged, so I would like it to be healthy again.
C. I just want to try something different.
6. How much money are you willing to spend on your hair?
A. I’m fabulously frugal, and would rather spend money on other things.
B. I’m rolling in the deep, and would spend however much money my hair needed.
C. Braids and weaves are pricy, but I’d rather spend money on them once every couple months.
Mostly A’s: You are the best candidate for a big chop. You’re prepared to do your hair on your own most of the time, and you’re armed with a good amount of natural hair knowledge. The sooner you cut your hair, the more fun you can be having with your curls, coils, and kinks! The longer you wait, the longer you might dream about whose hair yours will look like, and the more disappointed you’ll be once you see your own hair textures. Try not to get caught up in product junkeeism if you can’t afford it. Try to get product samples from natural hair events, and if something doesn’t work for your hair, see if you can use it in a different way (ie. adding oils to a conditioner) or swap with a friend. What are you waiting for?!
Mostly B’s: You are the best candidate for a short transition (a few months). Make sure your stylist is willing to help guide you along the way, or use the time to find a knowledgeable hair stylist that specializes in natural hair. Salons will charge upwards of $65 for such hairstyles, so if you’re not accustomed to paying that much for your hair already, get more comfortable doing your hair yourself. You can begin trying out a few curly hairstyles like roller sets and bantu knots at home, and then maybe go to the salon for blowouts and trims as you normally would. Also, do some research on the basics of natural hair, such as which products do what, how to moisturize, and what a twist out is.
Mostly C’s: You could probably do a lengthy transition (a year or more). Whether you’re a Yaki Queen or Solange’s jumbo braid twin, you can use protective styles to transition for a long period of time. While your hair is protected, read up on as much information on healthy natural hair care, because you will get disillusioned by natural hair if you’re not treating your hair properly. Between each style, let your hair be free for a few days, and try to slowly incorporate healthy hair practices, such as deep conditioning, wide-toothed comb detangling, and using oils to seal in moisture. Detangle with extreme care!
The Final Word
While this quiz isn’t perfect, the decision to transition or to big chop boils down to how invested you want to be in your hair, how patient you are, and how much time and money you have on your hands. Ultimately though, I wish I had just big chopped instead of wasting time transitioning. You will retain more length the sooner you get rid of relaxed ends, as the combination of relaxed hair and natural hair leads to a lot of breakage. If you’re worried about not looking good with a low haircut, you can transition for 6-8 months before cutting it off, but again, chances are you’ll end up with the same amount of hair as if you’d just cut it off! Either way, make sure you start to research proper techniques for natural hair care to maximize your hair’s health!