How to Transition From Relaxed to Natural Hair, According to Beyonce’s Stylist

Beyonce
Beyonce in 'Lemonade.' Courtesy Beyonce

Curls run the world! Summer is the perfect time to play with your style, especially for natural-haired ladies whose ringlets thrive in the hot and humid temperatures. But what if you’re in the middle of taking your strands from relaxed to natural? Celeb hairstylist Kim Kimble, who counts Beyoncé, Brandy and Mary J. Blige as clients, is here to help.

While you’re in the process of kissing your relaxed stands goodbye (which could take up to a year), pay special attention to the new hair growth, which is delicate because it’s closer to the scalp.

Some people believe that the big chop — cutting off all of your relaxed hair à la Solange in 2009 — is the best method while transitioning, but it’s not totally necessary. “You can blow your hair out straight, braid it or have fun with twist outs,” Kimble says. “Keep the hair texture consistent so you can’t tell which part has chemical relaxer in it and which part is new growth.”

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There are benefits to trimming, though. You’ll be able to go natural sooner if all of the relaxed hair is gone. Just make sure that the line of demarcation between your natural and relaxed hair is clear before trimming your ends, Kimble advises.

Whether you choose to chop or not, be sure to shampoo and condition once or twice a week. Sudsing up much more than that can strip strands of necessary oils and its ability to retain moisture. And don’t skimp on the conditioner, which can help keep frizz at bay. “I recommend that you use conditioner or a co-wash that cleanses but doesn’t have a lot of surfactants in it or any other detergents,” Kimble suggests. And try to air-dry before styling, as heat can cause frizz as well. 

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When you’re ready to style, Kimble recommends even more moisturizing, using a product like her Kimble Beauty Bounce Back Curl Cream ($12.99, sallysbeauty.com). Try to stay away from products with alcohol, usually found in gel and hairsprays, because they’re drying. “The more hydration, the better!” The Los Angeles–based hair pro says. Other Kimble-approved tools of the trade include a paddle brush to detangle and your own hands! “Use your fingers to style your hair,” she says, in order to keep your curls intact. 

If you have damaged hair, braids (like the cornrows Kimble created for Beyoncé in Lemonade) give your hair a rest from heat while growing your curls out. Have them done by a professional who knows not to make them too tight, cleanse your scalp while they’re in and don’t keep them installed for too long. A product like the K2 Scalp Relief Scalp Treatment ($17.50, kimkimble.com) with peppermint and antiseptic eucalyptus reduces scalp itch, odor and tightness. You can also test twist outs and braid outs, an overnight process that gives you great texture in the morning. “But if all else fails, you can put it in a bun or a ponytail!” Kimble adds.

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