The Big Chop or Transitioning?
When contemplating going natural it is good to take advice from those who have already taken that step. You can learn from their experiences and the mistakes they made. Ultimately, it is up to you to take that information and decide what is best for you. You can either decide to do the big chop, which simply means to cut all your relaxed/permed hair off, down to your new growth. Or you can transition. This means to grow out your new growth to the point where you are comfortable with its length, before cutting your relaxed ends off completely. Transitioning involves managing two different hair textures for months and even years. Before I went natural I only knew one friend who was natural. She transitioned for over a year and gradually cut her relaxed hair off. She wore braids and weaves constantly so I didn’t even know she had gone natural until she told me. For her, it was not a big declaration to go natural, she simply was tired of the negative impact relaxers were having on her hair and knew it was in her best interest to avoid them.
So when I was considering going natural I did some research on the internet and realized that I would have to learn to manage my hair in a completely different way and I had to avoid products that exposed my hair to harmful ingredients and chemicals. I also came across a few ‘natural hair journey’ videos, showing women cutting their hair, down to their new growth. This had never occurred to me before and I never believed short hair suited my round face shape. So I thought transitioning would be best for me. To be honest, this did not last long. I didn’t have the time and money to be constantly putting my hair in braids or weaves and quite frankly I was unable to manage the two hair textures. Even with very little new growth, my relaxed hair would began to shed like crazy and it would feel dry. I became more and more interested in the big chop after a very short period of time. I enjoyed doing my braid outs because that gave my hair volume and blended in the two textures well. However, even with that style I still hated having different textures. Also, I was simply eager to be natural. I was so over my damaged, relaxed hair.
I decided to cut my straight hair off and once I made up my mind, that was it. I found that the short style suited me and it was so convenient. I literally could wash and go. I would spray my hair with water and glycerin and my curls popped! I was definitely experiencing the honeymoon stage of my natural hair journey. It was great seeing my natural curl pattern and I received many compliments. Of course I would get a few comments along the lines of ‘what happened’? Some people couldn’t understand why I would deliberately cut my hair. I also did braids once, just to feel some length again but I was surprised at how versatile my hair was despite it being so short. It also seemed to grow back quickly. I think learning how to care for my hair properly and avoiding products with harmful ingredients helped to maintain my hair and I saw more length retention.
What to consider before deciding to transition or big chop
1. Are you someone who has to relax/perm their hair six to eight weeks on the dot without fail, or are you able to go a while without retouching. If you do not relax your hair as frequently as others you already have some experience at blending the two textures.
2. How would you feel about having very short hair? Do you care what other people think? You don’t exactly have to shave your head bald! You can wait until you have a good amount of new growth, so that you at least have a TWA (teeny-weeny afro) before doing the big chop.
3. Have you researched both options? There is a lot of information on the internet now, in the form of blogs, YouTube videos and even books on the subject.
4. Do you know friends or family members who have big chopped or transitioned? How can you learn from their experience?
5. Would you wear weaves and wigs while transitioning? Is this financially feasible?
6. Do you know some good hairstyles for transitioning (e.g. braid outs or roller sets)? Have you researched how to do these?
7. If considering the big chop, who would cut your hair? Or would you prefer to cut it yourself?
Nothing is full proof, if you don’t like transitioning you can cut your hair or trim more regularly to go natural sooner. If you big chop and you hate having short hair, you could simply put your hair in braids. Pick and drop is a great style for people with short hair because you can’t do it once you have medium to long afro-textured hair (as it will not blend). You could also experiment with wigs and weaves. However, it is important to remember the reasons you want to go natural. One of the reasons may be to learn how to manage your hair in its natural texture. Weaves and braids do not allow you to learn this whereas having your hair out forces you to learn, and gives you valuable experience.
I personally found it quite liberating to have my TWA, it proved to me that I was not defined by the length of my hair. It was also super convenient. However, it is not for everyone and that’s alright. Read about my decision to go natural in the post: Why did I decide to chop my hair off?
A hairstyle for transitioners.
A big chop inspiration.
What did you do? The big chop or transition? How did you find the experience? Share your thoughts below.