Before starting your natural hair journey, I've got some tips you should know about what to expect when going natural.
What does it mean to go natural? Going natural or returning to natural simply means you do not have any chemical in your hair that can alter your curl pattern. A relaxer is a chemical that straightens hair. A perm is a chemical that curls hair. Although, sometimes they are used interchangeably in black culture, the end results of each are very different from each other.
FUN FACT! Hair dye is also a chemical used to color natural hair. However, hair dye doesn't necessarily affect the curl pattern of hair. Therefore, you can still be natural with color dyed hair.
What must you do in order to be natural if you are starting out with relaxed or permed hair? In order to be natural, you must stop chemically processing your hair. Stop all use of relaxers and perms. Once you stop using chemicals, your hair strands will grow from the scalp in its natural unprocessed state.
What does it mean to transition to natural versus big chop? A transition to natural hair means that you have decided to go natural and stop using chemical processes on your hair without chopping your chemically processed ends off first. They decide to let the natural unprocessed hair grow from the roots while continuing to maintain the processed hair ends.
Transitioning to natural does not mean that all of your hair will convert to natural hair. At some point, the relaxed/perm hair ends must be cut from the unprocessed hair in order to be considered natural. You can transition for weeks, months even years it is completely up to you. People that transition to natural will start to experience a drastic difference in texture between their natural and unprocessed hair strands at time progresses. You may notice that the relaxed/permed ends are very brittle and thin compared to the unprocessed natural hair that grows in weeks and months into their hair transition.
The big chop is when you cut all your relaxed/perm hair ends off before you decide to grow out your unprocessed hair.
What are some of the expectations of having natural hair? It is important to understand that hair grows on average only 6 inches every year. When growing out natural hair whether it is through transitioning or the big chop know that shrinkage can affect the length appearance of hair. Hair shrinkage is based on your hair's elasticity. The more elasticity your hair has the more shrinkage will be present. Hair shrinkage is a good thing because it is directly related to the health and molecular structure of your hair. Another expectation is to wait until you are fully natural to determine your hair texture or type. Relaxed ends don't defy gravity and they actually add weight to unprocessed hair ends which makes it hard to determine hair texture and type while transitioning to natural hair. The first few inches of new hair growth may have been exposed to residuals of chemical processing; that can affect the look of your curl pattern. Give your hair at least 4-8 inches of new growth before determining what your hair texture or type is.