Big Chop vs. Transitioning

Both of these methods are based on preference for each individual but the purpose and outcome are the same, restarting their natural hair journey with a healthy foundation.
Big Chop vs. Transitioning - Naptural Queen Hair Care

Raise your hand if you have suffered from hair loss, breakage or damaged hair before. Like you knew your hair was heat damaged every wash day, but you just kept on straightening it (raises hand). Or every visit to the braiding salon, the lady was pulling your hair from the ROOT and breaking your edges one strand at a time (raises hand). Maybe you weren’t trying to do too much to your hair and kept putting it in a bun, but that middle section just got shorter and shorter overtime (raises hand). Or for a lot of us, our mamas permed our hair as little girls to help maintain it and our hair just never bounced back from the chemical processing (raises hand).

Most of us have experienced hair breakage, loss or damage from some of these scenarios or for multiple other reasons. It can be as simple as not nurturing your hair enough to too much tension on your hair. But other things like hair dyes, relaxers, too much heat, neglection, super dry hair, not trimming your ends and more can be contributing factors to why we experience these issues with our hair. Then most times we have to make the decision to either big chop or transition to get back to our healthy roots. But what is the difference between these two journeys?

The Difference

            At the beginning of the natural hair movement, the terms big chop and transitioning were usually used to describe someone’s hair that was relaxed or texturized and they were making the decision to go back to their natural hair texture. Both of these terms mean to cut off the chemically processed hair to reveal their healthy natural hair underneath but each decision has a different timeline. The big chop is an immediate change from longer damaged hair to shorter healthy hair, while transitioning is cutting the damaged hair overtime (weeks or months) while letting the healthy hair grow at the roots. However, since the decline of chemically processed hair, people also use the term big chop when they want to drastically change the length of their hair due to hair damage or just wanting to start their natural hair journey over again. There are many people that have big chopped multiple times throughout their life.

The Big Chop

The big chop is when someone cuts off all of the chemically processed or severely damaged hair. An example could be cutting off 5 inches of your hair and being left with an inch of healthy hair or completely cutting off all of your hair. Completely cutting off the damaged ends gives your hair a fresh new start to grow healthy. Most times you will hear this method more often because people are just tired of having straggly damaged ends or their hair it just hard to maintain with the damage.

However, big chopping allows you to get right into your new hair journey and new hair regimen. You get to see exactly what your healthy hair texture is to be able to buy products and try different methods and hairstyles to keep it healthy. Back when everyone started big chopping and starting their hair journey in the early 2010s, most people started off with Cantu leave in conditioner and Shea Moisture’s coconut and hibiscus line to style their TWAs (teeny weeny afros or short big chopped hair). These were like the only “natural hair products” out on the market. But now 10 years later, there’s plenty of hair lines to choose from. Anywhere from big brands to small businesses, there are way more options for each hair type to help keep your hair healthy on this new journey.


Transitioning describes the process of letting your hair grow out and slowing trimming the damaged or chemically processed ends off overtime. For example, someone may have 4 inches of damaged hair, so overtime they allow their hair to grow and they could trim their ends monthly to slow chip away at the 4 inches. This method is usually used when someone wants to retain length to continue to do diverse hairstyles while their healthy hair grows in. But this method also results in having two hair textures. The two hair textures is the difference of unhealthy/damaged ends and the healthy hair growing in at the root. This results in a line of demarcation, which is the line where the healthy hair ends and the damaged hair begins. This is also the line where the person would usually cut their damaged hair off in the future.

Although transitioning is not an immediate change and your hair care routine wouldn’t change drastically, you still have to be careful not to cause any further damage. This can be true for both methods but since the damaged hair is still attached while transitioning, it is easier to break off as well. Transitioning will always be more difficult to find products that work for both hair textures, so it’s harder to find out what your healthy hair truly likes. So it’s important to incorporate styles that will help retain moisture, not create tension and have low manipulation to avoid breaking the hair because of its fragility due to both textures.

Different Methods, Same Outcome

Which method is more beneficial? It honestly depends on the person, but as long as you do it right then both methods are great. Some people don’t like big chops because they don’t feel comfortable having really short hair. While others have the confidence to rock a baldie or a low cut until their hair grows back. However, once you big chop, there is no going back. It will take time to retain length. Plus, everyone’s hair grows at different rates, so you can’t always compare how long your hair will be in a year or so when you are looking at someone else’s journey. But with transitioning, you have more time to slowly adjust to your new texture and you always have the option to cut off the damaged hair whenever you are ready. But all in all, if I had to pick one to be more “beneficial”, I would say the big chop gives you way more flexibility for learning your hair and starting with a healthy foundation.

In the end both of these methods are based on preference for each individual but the purpose and outcome are the same, restarting their natural hair journey with a healthy foundation. I mean, if you’re nervous about either process you can always choose one and use wigs or braids as protective styles to help pass the time. Patience is key but once you finally chop off those damaged ends for good, it’s truly a liberating journey!

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