Reader Question: “Do I have to cut my hair to go natural?”

Do I Have to “Big Chop” Or Can I Grow Out My Relaxer Slowly?

The one consistent question we get is about whether you have to cut your hair off to go natural. Surprisingly, there are still many women that don’t realize how many others are transitioning to natural hair slowly instead of cutting off all their relaxed hair. There is no reason that you HAVE TO cut your hair off to go natural; you can cut off your relaxed ends if and when you’re ready to.

How Long Can I Transition From Relaxed to Natural Hair?

do I have to cut my hair to go natural?

Depending who you ask, you’ll get a range of different answers to the question of how long you can transition from relaxed to natural. While it can be challenging to maintain two hair textures for a long period of time on one head, it is entirely possible. If you’re willing to take good care of your hair then you can transition as long as you want to.

You have the option of doing a series of little chops and cutting off your relaxer slowly as your natural hair grows in or you can keep the relaxed ends. In one case, your hair length will remain about the same while you transition- in the other case, your hair will get longer and longer while you transition. It’s up to you to decide which one will work best for you.

Voluntary Loss of Relaxed Hair (Cutting) vs. Involuntary Loss (Breakage)

Unfortunately, I have seen many women transition to natural hair for a long period of time but not see much (or any) hair growth. By “growth”, I mean they do not retain the hair that grows from their scalp. Going natural does not make your hair come out of your scalp at a faster rate; instead it can help you retain length better by slowing down the rate of breakage.

That being said, if you don’t take good care of your transitioning hair, you will end up with a head full of 100% natural hair even though you never cut off your relaxed ends. In that case, the relaxed hair is gone because it broke off. That’s not a good situation but it’s avoidable. By doing the following things as you transition, you will retain length better and therefore see your hair growth.

How to Grow Hair Longer, Faster While Transitioning


  • Limit or eliminate direct heat styling.
  • Deep condition hair with a moisture and/or protein rich conditioner at least once a week.
  • Practice gentle manipulation methods such as finger-detangling while soaked with water and a slippery conditioner or water and coconut oil.
  • Wear protective hairstyles that keep ends tucked away and off the shoulders/clothing. This prevents damage and breakage from friction.
  • Use styling tools that limit breakage and pulling on edges and ends. Examples include wide-tooth shower combs and soft-bristled brushes (for edges).
  • Prevent dryness by moisturizing hair whenever it feels dry (even daily, if necessary). Seal moisture into hair by applying a natural emollient such as nut butters (mango butter, shea butter) and oils (coconut oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, olive oil).
  • Sleep in a satin or silk scarf (or use a satin/silk pillowcase). This prevents moisture loss and friction from cotton sheets.




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