Transitioning from chemically straightened hair to your natural texture can be a roller-coaster ride of emotions. If you’re considering it, in the middle of the process, or simply want to define your curls more, here’s the inspiration and advice you need.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
christina vega with natural curl hair
Credit: Courtesy of Christina Vega

Christina Vega 

The Panamanian and Puerto Rican mom is all about embracing and promoting curl power. 

Slow your role.

Anyone who has transitioned will tell you that the most important ingredient is patience. As Vega says: "It took a long time to get where you're at; it's going to take a long time to get back to your natural texture."

Be extra gentle.

"You need to baby your hair," Vega says. For her, that meant weekly deep-conditioning treatments, trims every three months, minimizing hot-water use, drying hair with a T-shirt or a microfiber towel, and sleeping with the strand-saving combo of a silk wrap and a silk pillowcase because less friction equals less damage. 

Have a talk with yourself.

"I would try to wear my hair down and the curls would look like I got electrocuted. They weren't defined because I was still occasionally using a flat iron." She eventually put away the hot tools (with the exception of a diffuser) and took ownership of her half-damaged 'do, trusting the process. "I haven't blown out my hair in five years now," Vega says. 

Get a curly haircut. 

"Mona Baltazar is heaven-sent. I'd never had the right shape, and she took me under her wing and taught me how to take better care of my curls," Vega says. 

Christina's Curl Cocktail

briogeo scalp revival shampoo
Wearing a shower cap traps heat so a hair mask penetrates better.
| Credit: Courtesy of Briogeo

1. Briogeo Scalp Revival: "I massage this into my scalp the night before I wash my hair to remove product buildup and dead skin."

maui heal and hydrate shea butter mask
Credit: Courtesy of Maui Moisture

2. Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Hair Mask: "I shampoo and then apply this mask and detangle with a Denman brush. After about 10 minutes, I rinse."

3. Creme of Nature Pure Honey Moisture & Twist Curling Mousse: "Next I apply a generous amount of this mousse, combing it through with my fingers, and then gently shaking and scrunching my hair to create a curl pattern. If it looks stringy, I add more mousse and a little water to create the clumps I want."

botanika beauty mousse curl enhancer
Credit: Courtesy of Botanika Beauty

4. Botánika Beauty The Definer Light Curl Cream: "This lightweight cream works so well in my fine hair. I apply it in sections and scrunch upward." 

5. Rizos Curls Light Hold Gel: "Now I flip my hair over and scrunch this upward in sections. If I'm in a rush, I'll mix it with the Botánika curl cream. Then I air-dry or diffuse."

johanna espinosa wearing colorful scarf and glasses
Credit: Courtesy of Johanna Espinosa

Johanna Espinosa 

Pandemic life helped kick-start this Dominican and Puerto Rican mom's goal of discovering her natural hair texture. 

Know your why.

Chances are that there will be moments when you question your incoming curls-especially within the first few months of transitioning. "At first, I'd look in the mirror and think, 'Who is that?' So I had to psych myself up. I'd say, 'You want to be strong and proud of yourself and your hair,'" Espinosa says.

Have a go-to style on standby.

When her hair wasn't completely curly or straight, Espinosa would return to a familiar look: her trusty buns. "What's the style that when you look at yourself you say, 'Okay, that's me'? Go with that," she says. 

Beware of breakage.

olaplex hair perfector no. 3
This protein treatment helps strengthen dry, damaged strands.
| Credit: Courtesy of Olaplex

The point where the relaxed section meets the natural growth is fragile and can often snap. Your options are to cut off the relaxed ends or to be as gentle as you can. "I kept my length, and found that a protein treatment helps it stay strong," says Espinosa, who uses Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector Leave it on damp or dry hair for 10 minutes to an hour, then rinse. 

Johanna's Curl Cocktail

aussie moisture shampoo
Credit: Courtesy of Aussie

1. Aussie Miracle Moist Shampoo and Conditioner: "I detangle my dry hair with a pick before using this duo."

2. Silicon Mix Intensive Leave-in Hair Shine & Conditioner: "After the wash stage, I finger-comb this moisturizing Dominican product through my hair."

3. Eco Styler Professional Styling Gel With Argan Oil: "When my hair is in a bun, I use a little bit of this gel to lay down my edges."

erica esmeralda wearing red top
Credit: Courtesy of Erica Esmeralda

Erica Esmeralda Barrett 

Tired of what she put her hair through with relaxers, this Panamanian mama decided to celebrate her coils, which has made life a lot easier while raising three kids, she says.

Consider the big chop.

"When I started to grow out my hair, the texture wasn't cohesive; the ends looked straight and limp." For a fresh start, Barrett cut off 8 inches. 

Have a post-chop plan.

At first, Barrett wasn't comfortable showing off her haircut. "So I'd treat my hair with rich oils and butters and then cover it with a head wrap. I was still rocking a look while giving my hair a break until it got where I wanted it to be."

Relax without the relaxer.

Protective styles-like braids, cornrows, and Bantu knots-are integral to the process and can stay in for weeks. "They gave my scalp a chance to breathe, and my hair returned to its curl pattern," Barrett says. 

Learn your curl type.

For example, Barrett is a 4B/4C: The number refers to the type of texture (3s are curls, and 4s are more coiled) and the letter refers to the tightness (A is loose, and C is tightest). "Knowing your curl type helps you choose the right products for you," Barrett says. 

Erica's Curl Cocktail

1. Jane Carter Solution Hydrating Invigorating Shampoo and Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner: "I love washing my hair every day. It's extremely therapeutic and part of my daily self-care."

2. Vitamin E, coconut oil, castor oil, and jojoba oil: "After washing and conditioning, I pat my hair dry and trap in moisture with this cocktail of oils. I use about a quarter-size pour of each."

mimosa hair honey shine pomade
Apply before giving yourself a protective style.
| Credit: Courtesy of Carol's Daughter

3. Carol's Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey: "This provides a lot of moisture but isn't heavy. I put a nickel-size amount in damp hair before doing two-strand twists or Bantu knots."

Transition Tools

After the big lifestyle change that is motherhood, you may have found you don't have the time, money, or desire to continue straightening treatments and are ready to embrace your natural texture. Let's do it! First thing to know: Like your new mama role, reviving your curls comes with a transition period. "Give it a year," says Cristina B., Panamanian and Puerto Rican mom-to-be and stylist at Rita Hazan Salon in New York. She has helped clients go natural and been through the process herself. "You might not love your hair in that first year, but eventually it will be softer, have more movement, shed less, and grow in fuller. It's worth it." For more words of wisdom, read the transitioning experiences from these three moms.

Rizos Resources 

The grow-out process can be easier with the support of an online community. Check out:

Swivelbeauty.com

Whether you want a wash-and-go or box braids, you can find a stylist who is well versed in your hair texture here. 

YouTube.com

Master wash day (Naptural85), learn a new technique (Franchelli Rodriguez), or get product recs (Hi F3licia)-it's all there. 

Naturallycurly.com

Discover articles, videos, product reviews, and more to help you up your texture game.

This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's June/July issue as "Come on, Curls."

Parents Latina