Should You Big Chop or Transition?

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?

My Story

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.

The Verdict

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!

Did you big chop or transition? What factors went into your decision?

If you’d like to see advice specific to big chopping or transitioning, let me know in the comments and I’ll write a follow-up article!

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  1. Hey Mrs. Kassy Kinks, My last perk was in 7th grade in 2013 school year. I cut off all the perm ends in 2016 after my freshmen year. After that I would do twist out, braid outs & oil my scalp & I feel like it hasn’t been growing since.. any tips?

    1. Haha I’m trying to put klassy kinks behind me! And have you stretched your hair? It could be that its growing but shrinkage is telling you otherwise. Have you been trimming regularly? It could be growing but breaking because of untrimmed ends. So many possible reasons – best option is to go to a stylist for a few months and see if that helps!

  2. Hi Klassy Kinks,

    I just graduated college in May so to celebrate my transition into adulthood I relaxed my hair and got pixie cute. Like the one Megan Good had? Anyway now I want to go natural. I am almost 3 months post relaxer but I’m stuck between transitioning a few more months or just doing the big chop. I have crochet braids right now but I’m super ready to see my texture. But I don’t know how my loved ones will react to me having super short hair. Did you experience the same dilemma?

    1. Hi love! Congrats on graduating! Who cares how they’ll react girl, it’s your hair and you are GROWN. Like you have a degree grown. Do what you want to do!

  3. Hi!
    I want to transition from heat damaged hair to full natural. I’m having a tough time deciding between the big chop & transitioning. I’ve shoulder length hair that I usually just keep in a sew in. But this fall I’ll be attending college in Indiana & there will be no one to do my sew ins. This is the main cause of my anxiety as I’ve never really rocked short hair & a TWA seems drastic imo. Especially so because I have a big head/big forehead. I just want to focus on my studies instead of my hair. But I also want results. I want thick hair that grows at a healthy rate. I have two questions I’m hoping you can answer. Does heat damaged hair grow slower? & What do you think is the best course of action for me: BC or Transition?

    Thank you!

    1. First off yay for starting school! I think it’s a perfect time for you to big chop because no one will no you anyway and you can start afresh! As for the heat damaged growth rate, it doesn’t grow slower but it is more likely to break, so you might not see as much length retention. I think you’ll have an easier time caring for a TWA than het damaged hair. I’m sure your “big head” is just fine girl!

  4. I have never had a relaxer ever I’ve only had a press almost all my life and now I’m going into 9th grade and I want to go natural and I’m not sure if I’m ready to do the big chop. Ive been told my hair is like 3 different textures now and I’ve decided to stop using heat on my hair. which would be best for my situation the big chop or transitioning ? Which one should I pick?

    1. Hi Semira! I think it boils down to how much time and effort you have to put into your hair. If you like playing with your hair, then maybe you can transition with rod set and braided styles to start getting a sense of what your hair might look like curly. But if you’re not great with doing your own hair, then I think it’s best to just cut it and start learning immediately! Either way you’re on your way to healthier hair!

  5. Hi there! I have been trying to go natural for some years now but people have been discouraging lilike, ” No it’s hard work, u will miss carry different types of hair due nd looks” bla bla bla… Well I have finally resolved to go natural nd get rid of chemicals, relaxers, hot dryers, and leying lol .. It’s time to embrace my natural so I want to go with big chop.. Thanks for ur advice it’s really helpful

    1. Good for you!! All those people don’t know what they’re saying, I’ve been natural for almost 6 years now and I can’t imagine ever wearing my hair permed again!

  6. Hi klassy kinks, I’ve been transitioning since May.. But I’ve not done anything else apart from not relaxing. I don’t wanna do a big chop because I horrible with low cut hair( I tried low cut hair in high school), pls what should I do next? My hair is already very full. And I can’t seem to get it to come down at all

    1. There are many styles you can start trying to do with transitioning hair – roller sets, bantu knots, buns, etc, that will help blend your new growth and your permed hair. Also, don’t give up on the thought of a low cut, it is very chic nowadays. If all else fails, putting your hair away in a protective style is your best bet.

  7. I big chop today…too mch chemical damage and I wanted healthy hair frm scratch,av always had amzing length so it’s gona tk sumtym to gt used to dis look…suggestions,contributions wuld G̶̲̥̅̊☹ a long way cuz am new to ds whole tn

    1. Congratulations dear! It’s better to let go of the length and start your healthy hair journey 🙂 When I first cut my hair I used a lot of headbands, flowers, and other hair accessories to feel better about it, so you can try that route to spruce it up. I have YouTube videos of short/post big chop hairstyles (though I transitioned for longer than you), so feel free to check them o for some inspiration!

  8. I transitioned for a couple of months but then big chopped right after my wedding!! I loved my short curls and sometimes miss it 🙂 I love the quiz you’ve put up though, it may help others 🙂 very nice.
    Mo ~

  9. I transitioned by accident. I’d gone without a perm for a long time and when I finally saw it was time for a touchup, I realized I liked the new growth…and that was that.

    I transitioned for over a year, at first straightening everything (this was in 2004 when no one was really talking about natural hair at all! lol!), then doing two strand twists until I chopped the permed ends off.

    I know a big chop would have been too much for me, being a sophomore in high school, self-conscious, lost, busy, and broke haha. Looking back, I wish I’d invested in twists or braids instead of constantly straightening, because that definitely took a toll on my hair.

    Funny how a few years can change the perceptions of natural hair; I’m all for it!

    1. You were one brave high schooler! And excessive straightening as a means to transition is something I forgot to bring up in this post, but it’s important for people to be aware of. Thanks for sharing Dominique!