21 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.
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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.
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Photo: Via @neonatural.
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.
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Photo: Via @xolovemariexo.
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.
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Photo: Via @ty_me_she_her.
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.
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Photo: Via @nae2curly.
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.
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Photo: Via @mz_tammy.
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.
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Photo: Via @devrivelazquez.
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...
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Photo: Via @hair.goes.taylor.
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."
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Photographed by Rochelle Brockington.
Box Braid Bantu Knots
Transitioning phase: start to one year in

If your braids are starting to loosen up, hide your roots with this easy style (as seen at Curlfest 2017).
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Photo: Via @ibeezdabraider.
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.
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Photo: Via @nae2curly.
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).
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Photo: Via CocoaFab.
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.
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Photo: Via @curlygirlmomo.
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.
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Photo: Via @styleseatatl.
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.
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Photographed by Amber Mahoney.
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."
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Photo: Via @calicurls/Instagram.
Voluminous Curls
Transitioning phase: one year in or more

Trimming off your damaged ends will add major bounce back into your curls and give you volume like you've never seen. Make sure to have a hydrating, lightweight serum on hand to restore any lost moisture.
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Photo: Via @kienyabooker/Instagram.
Soft Twists
Transitioning Phase: three to six months in

Updos can put a lot of tension on your growing hair, so let it relax with loose twists. These are great for shorter hair lengths looking to play with a fun style. Plus, you're able to add some needed nourishment if you seal in the ends with a bit of oil or serum.
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Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
Double Buns
Transitioning phase: any

Follow Janelle Monáe's lead and go for playful, double buns. The best part? It takes barely any time at all. Part your hair straight down the middle (leaving your bangs out, if you have any), create high pigtails, then wrap the hair around the base of each and secure.

Bonus: Top with fun, sparkly, and meaningful accessories.
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Half Up, Half Down
Transitioning phase: start to one year in

For the days you can't deal with your hair in your face or deal with too much product, go for the half-up pony.
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Photo: Via @iam.Nubian/Instagram.
Crochet Braids
Transitioning phase: any

If you don't want to deal with the hassle of a weave, crochet braids are your best friend. Instead of stressing out your tresses with a sew-in that can damage your hairline, simply latch your extensions on to your cornrows with a handy dandy needle.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROCHELLE BROCKINGTON.
Pineapple
Transitioning phase: start one year in

If you want to preserve your curls after a twist-out, this high ponytail with a sleek base is the best (and cutest) way to do so.
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A post shared by Braids By Nana (@nanasbraids) on

Photo: Via @nanasbraids.
Tree Braids
Transitioning phase: any

With tree braids, your stylist does cornrows but leaves the bulk of your extensions loose, according to Neno Natural. The braids are knotted to keep them from unraveling.
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