Now is the time to transition. If you’ve been playing around with the idea of going natural, check out these five tips to easing your way into the lifestyle.

1. Figure out if you want to transition or simply do the big chop. This takes a lot of stress and frustration off of your shoulders, if you first determine whether or not you’d like to grow out your hair several inches before cutting off your relaxer, or boldly buzz off your locks. Typically, most naturals are comfortable cutting off relaxed ends after growing three to four inches of new growth, which may take anywhere from six months to a year.

2. Equip yourself with products that help you blend two textures: The most irritating part about transitioning is the time and effort put into blending curls and straight pieces in styles like spiral sets, straw sets and braid outs. You’ll need to invest in product that helps smooth the two dueling textures. Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue is a godsend, because it magically smoothes curly hair and creates bouncy wet sets. For those that still have a little texture, try Pantene Relaxed and Natural Daily Oil Cream to transform your loose, limp waves into a slightly tighter spiral. Spray and scrunch!

3. Deep condition like your life depends on it: Transitioning hair is quite sensitive and many naturals-in-training find themselves dealing with tons of shedding from the tugging and pulling while styling and detangling. Develop a weekly routine of deep conditioning with a product that intensely moisturizes like Curl Ecstasy Hair Tea Deep Conditioner.

4. Use products that cultivate your curl: Lines specifically created for natural hair will encourage your hair to curl and help enhance your pattern. Switch over from your straight girl must-haves to a full line that specializes in kinks, curls and waves.

5. Protect your hair when heat-styling: Many transitioners heat-style but don’t protect their tresses, first. Using a serum like Beautiful Textures Curly to Straight Flatiron Silkener helps prevent your curls from permanently straightening. Yes, that can happen, ladies. You’ll end up having to start all over, which kind of defeats the purpose, right? Use just before blow-drying.

—Kimberly Walker