13 Styles You Need To Learn If You're Transitioning To Natural Hair

When I decided to transition my hair from relaxed to natural over the course of a year or so, I naively thought I could continue my usual lazy-girl routine — which basically consisted of going to the hairdresser and having someone else deal with the mess on my head. But, as more and more new growth began to replace my straighter strands, I became concerned about not only the heat damage that might occur in the long run, but the fact that I was relying on somebody else to do all the work. So, I took on the task of doing my own hair.

I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. Turns out, reading countless natural hair blogs and watching many hours of YouTube tutorials does not make one an expert. My first twist-out was such a fail, I ended up covering my hack job with a hat. Don’t even get me started on my botched bantu knots. Lawd.

Anyone who’s gone natural, or is in the transitioning process, knows the pain I’m preaching. Trying to blend two vastly different textures — while coming up with hairstyles that are presentable enough to go out in public with — is hard work. That’s why I enlisted Vida Latimer, senior stylist at Devachan Salon, to help transitioning ladies get through the awkward stages and see the light at the end of the natural hair tunnel.

Click through for some new looks to try out, broken down by your stage in the transitioning process.


Bantu Knots

Transitioning phase: start to one year in

Bantu knots are a great way to mask your two different textures from the beginning until the end of your journey. Plus, they will give you much-needed practice for mastering the notoriously frustrating style.

Photo: Via @neonatural.


Braid-Out

Transitioning phase: start to one year in

With braid-outs, you can go the cornrow route, as seen here, or do free-form box braids. Leave them in overnight (on damp or dry hair) for the best results. When you take them out the next morning, you’ll have big, beautiful hair, reminiscent of the ’90s crimp look. To keep strands from frizzing, Latimer recommends protecting your braids at night by wearing a silk scarf.

Photo: Via @xolovemariexo.


To keep strands from frizzing, Latimer recommends protecting your braids at night by wearing a silk scarf.

Photo: Via @Nikishabrunson.


Spiral Braid

Transitioning phase: six months in or longer

This is definitely for the transitioner who has a couple months of styling experience. It’s a great protective — and put-together — style for the winter months, when you want to keep your ends tucked in. It’s also super-versatile. “You might be able to get another style out of this by just undoing the braid and wearing it out,” Latimer says.

Photo: Via @ty_me_she_her.


Ultimate Curls

Transitioning phase: three to six months in

At this stage, your hair is still mostly straight, but your natural texture starts to emerge. Latimer says this style helps future natural-haired women get ready to start embracing their god-given curl patterns. She adds that the key to keeping your curls softer is to make sure to deep-condition before styling. Moisture is key. If you’re interested in recreating this look on your own, head over to Janae Mason’s YouTube channel for a step-by-step.

Photo: Via @nae2curly.


Top Bun

Transitioning phase: one year in

The one-year mark is when the struggle starts to get real. Finding a cute, chic way to tame your new texture is not easy, and this is an inconspicuous way to keep it under wraps. If you have longer hair, this is a great go-to style for when you want to wear it away from your face (or are just having one of those lazy days). “The wide band keeps roots smooth,” says Latimer.

Photo: Via @mz_tammy.


Marley Twists

Transitioning phase: start to one year in

This option is great if you want to give yourself a break from DIY styling, says Latimer. But, she adds, if you get protective styles like Marley twists or box braids, there are a couple of things to keep in mind…

Photo: Via @devrivelazquez.


Box Braids

Transitioning phase: start to one year in

“Make sure you use good human hair and that the braids or twists are not too tight,” she says. “Otherwise, [your new hair coming in] won’t be able to get enough conditioning for optimal growth.”

Photo: Via @hair.goes.taylor.


Braided Updo

Transitioning phase: start to one year in

Another protective style to consider when transitioning to natural hair is this braided updo. Similar to box braids and Marley twists, it will keep your ends tucked in and shielded from the environmental stresses — AND it means your hair is already styled for you.

Photo: Via @ibeezdabraider.


Twisted Updo

Transitioning phase: three to six months

Remember that ultimate-curls look? This is a great follow-up, for once you grow tired of wearing your hair out. Just pin your hair toward the front of your head and flat-twist it in three sections up the back portion. When styling, Latimer recommends skipping the gel and opting for a cream instead, which will offer control along with moisture. Finish with a moisturizing shine serum (like this one from SheaMoisture).

Photo: Via @nae2curly.


Cinnamon-Roll Updo

Transitioning phase: one year in or more

“This is a cool style that’s a great alternative to braids, twists, or coils,” Latimer says. Don’t let the intricacy intimidate you: This mod-inspired ‘do is super-easy to create yourself. Head over to CocoaFab to get the how-to.

Photo: Via CocoaFab.


Goddess Braid

Transitioning phase: nine months to one year in

Some women worry that natural hair is “not work-appropriate.” We think that’s a load of BS, but if your coworkers aren’t as enlightened as you, this wraparound braid is an elegant and finished ‘do that will work in any office environment. “After this style, you can do a rod set or twist-out, to start to wear it curly,” Latimer says. For similar tutorials, check out Black Girl with Long Hair.

Photo: Via @curlygirlmomo.


Curly Fauxhawk

Transitioning phase: any

This isn’t for the faint of heart, as it takes some skill. But, if you can master cornrows and spiral curls, it’s an edgy look that’s sure to turn heads. Latimer says the braids shouldn’t be too tight — and don’t forget to hydrate.

Photo: Via @styleseatatl.


Faux Undercut

Transitioning phase: any

If you don’t want to go full fauxhawk, just braid one side and leave your hair loose on the other, as seen in our latest editorial. Jeanie Syfu, hairstylist and Tresemmé spokesperson, suggests weaving three cornrows “in an undercut style to enhance the texture of the rest of [the] hair.”

Photographed by Amber Mahoney.


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