Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Things You Should Know Before You Chop

By: Tiffany Jones

Even the most near-sighted person can look around and see the abundance of women seeking to embrace their “roots” and become au natural. Everyday more women decide to progress beyond the processed hair, which is often proceeded by the black-girl pat and followed by the oh-I-can’t-sweat-my-hair-out syndrome. Why have the numbers skyrocketed lately? Many often find the courage to take the leap just by watching others make the transition. How one chooses to go natural is a discussion all in itself (reference previous article). Either you can transition or chop, and both has its pros and cons. For those who boldly choose the direction of THE BIG CHOP, it may be helpful to you to clear up some myths and expose some truths about this process. Here are 6 things I wish I knew that may have better prepared me for this huge change and/or helped me make some better decisions:

1) It’s all a test – Your first few months, or maybe even the first year, is all about trial and error. Particularly, you will take on the role of product tester as you go through bottles and bottles of shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers and leave-ins until you find what works for you. And, while YouTube is a great resource, you won’t learn until you actually do it. What works for some may not work for you. You may even discover your own concoction of oils, foods and vitamins that will give you the healthy and manageable hair you want. Just be patient through this tedious process, learn from your mistakes, and live to try another day. The outcome is worth it.

2) Braids are not the always the best cure to beat the Big Chop blues – While the popular method for getting past the short fro stage is to get some form of braids for months on end, this can actually be counterproductive. It is no secret that braids offer a convenience because they are so low maintenance and require hardly any time on our part. However, this fact is braids can make it difficult to moisturize and replenish our strands. This problem is coupled with the fact that such styles can make training our natural texture a more tedious process. Just as presses can straighten the hair, braids cause our strands to separate and go in different directions. This almost hinders the process of allowing your curl pattern, if there is one, to take shape. Those who choose such a path may notice that the hair that was once braided is brittle, extremely dry and may be even damaged. Some even resort to cutting off these sections and just toughing through the short stage. A fresh start can sometime make things easier later on.

3) The idea that natural hair is low maintenance is a MYTH – It can take just as much time, creativity, and maintenance, if not more, than processed hair. I cannot emphasize enough that this will all be new to you. You may have no clue what you are doing in the beginning, especially when it comes to moisturizing, detangling or styling your hair. Why should you know better? You’re just now being introduced to this process. Some popular styles like the two-strand twists or comb coils can take as long as 3-5 hours to do yourself. And a quick wash, which may now include a pre-poo or a round of deep conditioning, may seem a bit too time-consuming. But, anything worth having takes time, and that includes having healthy, stylish natural hair. Again, patience is the key. You may even find that you like having control of your own hair care and find empowerment in being able to style your do.

4) Do not chop in the winter – Especially if you are a newbie, the cold season is not the time to experiment with your natural hair. Moisturizing your natural tresses is going to be the toughest thing to do, and cold temperatures make this process ten times more difficult. Wash n’ go’s are the style of choice for a huge percentage of those after they’ve chopped. They are not as smart of a choice during pneumonia weather. Please DO NOT ignore common sense and choose to sport a dripping head of hair when ice is on the ground. Spring is all about new beginnings right? So, it is more than appropriate to wait for the warmer months to take on this new venture.

5) Your texture may surprise you – Now this can be a good or bad thing depending on how you approach this process. Let’s be honest. Many of us still are plagued with the notions of “good” or “bad” hair. Some people become inspired when seeing others with “good” hair go natural, hoping that they too will discover bountiful locks of coily or loose curls. If you chop your hair with expectations, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, it is best to treat this as mystery. You may have course, fine, kinky, wavy, straight, or even a combination of textures to deal with. It will take time to appreciate whatever you have and to understand that beautiful hair is not “good”, but it is healthy and manageable. As far as texture, be open and go along with the ride.

6) Some days are better than others – Some days, you will wake up and feel so confident in learning the new you. Others, you may feel you have lost your femininity, that you’ve made a huge misstep in your judgment or that natural hair just doesn’t fit you. Remember, most of us have NEVER seen who we really are, so it will be a process. The ups and downs or highs and lows are all part of discovering a much more beautiful you.

Do not for a second think that these tips are some undercover ploy to discourage you from chopping. Instead, this is to give you some clarity in how you approach this decision. Remember when mama first let you start doing your own hair? You were excited and felt a sense of independence. Well, I’m sure you made some faux-pas or maybe even discovered doing your hair was not as easy and always fun as it once seemed. However, over time you learned what worked for you, got experienced and confident, and you maybe even learned how to shorten the time required to complete a manageable style. The same holds true for your new life as a natural girl. Just know that on the other side of this process is a person you should enjoy getting know: the real you. Happy chopping ladies!


  1. This was a very insightful article. I've thought about going natural many times and have yet to have the courage to chop it off. But, this article was as real as it gets in giving me information to consider.

  2. I wish I had known about pressing and braiding when I first went natural. It has taken me a long time to even begin to understand my hair and I believe part of the problem was that I spent so long damaging it in those other ways. I've had to chop out sections many times over to correct those issues and often wonder if I should do a chop after being natural for almost a decade because I transitioned the first time and used those other methods to control during the process. I wonder if the natural I am today is the best of me that I can be.

  3. Solange went so far as to go on Oprah talking about the wonderful gloriousness of natural hair, yet three months later, ASHAMED OF HER BALD HEAD she decides to put in extensions. I lost a little bit of faith in her then, but then I had to realize that for me she never represented the movement of natural hair, the 'realness' behind embracing what is your own on a natural level. She was just another celeb who grasped for some celebrity and got it. Disappointment.

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