Should Transitioners Be Concerned With Length Retention?

My September-December Side By Side via Instagram @maneobjective

I've been grappling with that very question for the past two weeks, namely as I grow more accustomed to the new stuff coming in...and more annoyed by the heat damage.

Should I just cut it all off? I mean, it's going to get cut eventually, anyway...

I love my long hair. I don't want to chop it all off (again).

Ugh, this heat damaged hair is dreadful.

Those are just a few of my internal struggles as it relates to my transitioning hair. The longer I transition, the more I begin to wonder about my own hair goals. Is it length? Thickness? Just to have healthy hair? After a couple of weeks of digging and soul searching, I have developed an answer to the question previously posed....

Yes, and No.

Here's Why Length Retention Does Matter:

You Didn't Big Chop For A Reason
Midway point: January 2013
Maybe you didn't have the cojones. Or perhaps, your head is too big (one of my excuses). You might even just be accustomed to longer hair (hello!). Whatever your rationale, the point is that you didn't big chop. For the ladies that BC'ed, I commend you. I don't think I'd every be ready for that undertaking. For those engaging in a long-term transition, you obviously have some affinity for your hair length -- and there is nothing wrong with that. Sidebar Soapbox Rant: I've seen comments on blogs attacking ladies that choose to transition -- citing that they'd rather maintain two raggedy textures than to be bold enough to chop it all off in favor of one. I would just like to say, however you go about your natural journey is a personal decision. Why hate on someone else's methods? Their heat damage doesn't cause you breakage, right? Okay, off my soapbox. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, why you didn't big chop. The bottom line here is, you care about the length of your hair to some degree, and you made that decision. I am not ashamed to say that I have enjoyed longer hair for most of my life, and this transition phase for me is no different. I like my long hair. My boyfriend likes my long hair. I have a big head. Therefore, I am transitioning. Whatever your reason is, is yours and yours alone. Not doing a big chop doesn't make you any less legitimate in the natural community, and it doesn't make the opportunity to learn to care for your hair any less valid.

Length Is An Indicator Of Health.
Wait, wait, WAIT! Hear me out, now. I am by no means saying that long hair is healthy hair, and that short hair is unhealthy. I've seen the complete opposite be true too many times for that to be the case. But in the journey of the transitioner, hair length can perceived as a vital sign of sorts. If you have been transitioning for 6 months, and you have more breakage than you've ever seen in your life, that is a strong indicator that something is going wrong. Perhaps your products aren't working, you lack protein or moisture, you're styling too tight, or the tools you have are ripping your tresses apart. Whatever the case may be, if you remain unable to retain some length (or at least break even), you may need to re-evaluate your transitioning practices. 

And Here's Why It Doesn't:

You're Going To Chop It Off (Gradually) Anyway...
This was the pill that I had to swallow in order to move forward. Regular trims or mini chops are a part of the transition. The point of a transition isn't to forever maintain damaged and natural hair -- it is to gradually get rid of the overworked, overprocessed stuff. Now, how much you cut and how frequently you do it is all a personal matter. Some transitioners do 3-6 month trims, others do a series of mini chops. Personally, I just cut whenever my hair looks extra raggedy or janky on the ends (which is bound to happen because well, it's heat damaged and prone to splits and dryness). That typically happens once every 2-3 months, and I take off about an inch or so of hair. Inbetween those times, I may do a super light dusting, or search and destroy. Sometimes, I hate to see the inches go, but then I look at how uneven and dry they are, and how much better my hair looks afterward....and that helps me understand that I made the right decision.

What say you, ladies? How important is length to you in your transition?


  1. This is a great article. I transitioned almost 8 years ago and I wouldn't cut mine either. You can trim it out slowly. There's nothing wrong with that. Keep your length if you want to. Who cares what other people think anyway!

    1. Absolutely!!! Thanks for the feedback :-) Sorry it took me forever to Although I must say, I can't WAIT to finish my transition. Alllllllmost there. Almost.