What is the length of your hair?
This will help us personalize your experience.

How to Master the Big Chop and Embrace Your Natural Hair

Mimagephotos/Adobe Stock Images

Are you ready to embark on a natural hair journey? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re itching for a change or you’ve been embracing your hair’s texture now that you've taken a break from your weekly salon appointments, going natural and taking a rest from relaxers typically starts with a healthy cut. This cut is also commonly referred to as the “big chop” (dramatic, right?). “A big chop is when you’re ready for change, growth, or as I’d like to say, coming into a newer version of yourself,” says Joann Gruny, texture expert at Maggie Rose Salon.

If you’re here, you might be considering the big chop yourself. For most of us, haircuts are always a little anxiety-inducing—but it’s important to keep in mind that the big chop is a crucial step in spotlighting your natural texture and encouraging healthy hair growth. When it comes time to find the right cut, prepare for the change, and style your new ’do, we know it can seem overwhelming. But you’re in luck, because we’ve created a playbook on the big chop to help guide you through the process so you can rock your new look with unwavering confidence.

About the Expert:

Joann Gruny is a texture expert at Maggie Rose Salon in Florida, where she teaches clients to embrace their natural curls. You can follow her work on her Instagram page.

Should you do a big chop?

Ready to embrace your natural hair but not sure if the big chop is right for you? “Some people either do the big chop when they’re transitioning from chemicals being used in their hair (like the relaxer) and they’re ready to embrace their natural texture, while others do a big chop even if their hair is healthy and they just want a ‘noticeable’ change or a simplified hair routine,” says Gruny.

If you want to be happy with your results, how you prepare for the big chop is just as important as how you carry out the cut. One part of the prep work is growing out your natural hair, which allows your strands to take a break from chemical processes. In addition to this transition phase, it’s also important to manage your expectations so you know what to expect after your appointment. “First, I talk it over with my client and see where their head is at,” says Gruny. “What made them decide to do this? Is there any style that inspired them or what they’d like their cut to resemble?”

If you’re ready to go for the big chop, it’s crucial to manage your expectations and trust the process; patience is key, especially during the transition phase. You’ll also want to figure out the duration of your transition period before the big chop, because that window of time is unique to your individual hair texture and length preferences. “Give it a couple of months until you know you’re ready for that big transition or until your hair reaches a length you’re comfortable with,” says Gruny.

How to do the big chop at home

If you’re ready to DIY the big chop, be sure to block off some time so you don’t feel rushed–trying to cut your hair in a hurry is never a good idea.

Step 1: Invest in the right tools.

You’ll want to be sure you have proper tools before you take on the big chop at home. “If you’re embarking on a new hair journey and ready to do a big chop, you need clips for sectioning and holding hair out of the way, a detangling brush to ensure there are no tangles, and shears,” says Gruny.

Step 2: Wash your hair.

Reach for a sulfate-free co-wash or cleansing conditioner to wash your hair. The reason you’re better off with a cream cleanser? It won’t strip your hair of moisture, and in this case, moisture = your BFF. You’ll want your hair to be super soft so the natural texture shines through before you pick up the scissors. Then, be sure to follow up your wash with a hair mask or moisturizing conditioner treatment.

Step 3: Let your hair air dry.

Wash and go. Let your hair dry naturally sans heat styling so you can really see the curl pattern. “I cut textured hair in its natural state which requires a dry cut,” says Gruny. Not only does it allow you to see the way your curls naturally fall, but it will shape the way you cut your tresses and gives you a road map as you work. “This provides the opportunity to cut the hair based on the multiple textures that may be present on a client’s head,” says Gruny. It isn't uncommon to have a variety of hair types and curls on top of your head. By letting your hair air dry, you can tailor your trim. This also allows you to see the line of demarcation, where your natural hair texture meets your straight hair (or relaxed ends).

Step 4: Divide and cut.

Section your hair, using clips to divide each area. Leave one section out and take small pieces of hair from the section, cutting below the line of demarcation. It’s always best to leave your hair on the longer side when you first start cutting, so you have room for trial and error (which is a must, especially if this is the first time you’re cutting your own hair). “Now that doesn’t mean the cut is done after that,” says Gruny, who recommends going through in sections to “finalize the cut to your liking.” Once you’re satisfied with a section, use the length as a guide for the rest of your haircut. “Once the hair reaches that guide length I know to stop cutting,” says Gruny.

Using a stylist for your big chop

Putting your hair in the hands of a professional by enlisting a hairstylist to do the big chop means less pressure for you—but it’s still best to consult with your stylist beforehand to make sure you’re both on the same page. Not sure where to look? Gruny recommends browsing your social media feed. “When looking for a stylist to cut hair, Instagram is a great go-to,” she says. Once you find a stylist with results you like, you can do your own research and then schedule a consultation. To help you prepare, be sure to bring along photos of hairstyles for inspiration (pics of celebs rocking their natural hair are always a good reference!). Next, your stylist can assess your texture and tell you what your short hair will look like after the cut. Just make sure they’re “comfortable working with natural, textured hair,” says Gruny.

What do you do after the big chop

Unlike relaxed hair, styling your natural hair is a whole different ball game. If you do enlist a hairstylist to perform the cut, don’t be shy after they put down the shears. Instead, inquire about the hairstyling process. “While I’m styling my client I walk her through what hair products I’m using and I show her how I’m styling her so she can replicate it at home,” says Gruny.

The key component to styling natural hair centers around hydration. A common misconception about coily or kinky hair is that it’s more resilient; however, the truth is that it’s actually more delicate. For that reason, leave-in conditioning treatments, hair masks, and regular breaks from heat styling are key. So next time, instead of reaching for the flat iron, embrace a protective style for short hair (like twist-outs) to make the most of your haircut.

To make the most of a natural hairstyle, it’s a good idea to change your approach to wash day. “When it comes to washing your hair, I always say wash once a week,” says Gruny. Curly hair tends to be dry, so spacing out wash day will ensure you don’t strip your hair of much-needed natural oils.

Having the right hair products on hand for natural hair care is also key to making the most of the big chop. Gruny tells clients to have “Creams, mousses, gels, and a little oil for that shine and to help reduce frizz when separating your curls or fluffing it out.” She also says to “Avoid products with drying alcohol, any sulfates, silicones.”

Cutting long hair will definitely give you an entirely new look, but embracing your shorter hair and giving your natural curls a rest from heat styling and chemical relaxers will give your hair a chance to grow longer, healthier, and stronger.

Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
Share Article
Article Last Updated October 14, 2020 12:00 AM