How I Went from TWA to Back Length, Part 3; Elle’s Story

Many black women have been led to believe that retaining length in their hair is virtually impossible. But with the right regimen and knowledge, it doesn’t have to be. This week, four BGLH writers will share stories of how they went from TWA to back length. They represent a diversity of hair textures and life experiences. We hope that you gain inspiration and information. Our third feature is from Elle. Be sure to check out our first feature from Ijeoma and our second feature from Chinwe.

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I big chopped on December 26, 2009. That previous summer, I decided to stop relaxing my hair because it was so humid that my hair just wouldn’t stay straight. I was flat ironing up to three times a DAY and I knew that regimen couldn’t be healthy for my hair. I needed a solution that allowed my hair to work with the weather. I wanted to ring in the New Year with completely natural hair (I previously had a Mohawk with relaxed hair on top and natural hair on the sides).

The first year, I was the biggest product junkie ever and joined pretty much any forum challenge there was – a deep conditioning challenge, ayurvedic, hair growth shake (which contained raw eggs, flax seed powder, and wheat germ oil – and a TON of calories), henna – you name it, I did it. Maybe it was to keep myself busy because I pretty much wore my TWA all the time, and doing my hair only took a few minutes. I didn’t mind playing in my hair and trying different methods. In fact, I really enjoyed it! As I learned my hair, I also learned that although my hair is fairly coarse, it’s low porosity, so a lot of super heavy products did NOT work for me at all. I used to think I needed the thickest oil or butter, the heaviest gel, or the conditioner combined with the most butters. That was totally wrong. I learned that my hair LOVES water-based products that contain aloe vera and lighter oils, like rice bran or jojoba, over heavier ones, like shea butter and castor. I would say medium to lightweight is best for me, especially because I cannot stand build up! Additionally, I realized I was using too much protein (I was using a lot of products with wheat protein), so I lightened up on that as well. I also minimized my glycerin use, because my hair gets bratty with dew points and I don’t have time to monitor them daily.

After I started focusing more on porosity, my regimen quickly simplified and I mainly focused a cleansing my hair at least once a week, and getting my wash and go to last 3 or 4 days, then either rinsing/cowashing or wearing it in a bun for a few more days so I didn’t have to restyle. I mainly use gels for my wash and go because I find they help prevent tangles because of the hold, but as my hair has gotten longer I have to make sure it’s not too flat. I hate wet cat hair. I never got into twist outs and braid outs – I thought they took too long and the style wasn’t guaranteed. But as soon as I could make a bun, I was SO happy. I freakin’ love buns – they’re just so easy and you can make them look very conservative or hip, depending on where you position them and how big they are.

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I’ve kept the same regimen for probably…three years or so. It just works for me. So unless something breaks, I’m not fixing it. Five years later, I’m still not at my goal- which is curly bra strap length dry and I may never achieve that due to shrinkage! But I’ve certainly learned to love my hair for what it is and how it wants to be. I realized that when you kind of let your hair do its own thing, it thrives. Don’t fight your hair and it will be nice to you.

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Can you relate? Where are you in your hair journey?

 

Elle

Elle

Elle is the editor and creative director of the YouTube channel and blog, Quest for the Perfect Curl at www.questfortheperfectcurl.com. Her channel focuses on natural hair, beauty, and fitness. She loves products that smell like dessert, yoga, and glitter. Follow her @qftpc.

15 thoughts on “How I Went from TWA to Back Length, Part 3; Elle’s Story

  1. I’m still at the product stage. I will be year 2 this June, so I’m trying different products. I’ve already ruled out ALL Shea Moisture products ( No bueno in my hair), Camille Rose, AS I AM Jessie Curls, A product that I got from Sprouts ( I can’t remember the name, and Garnier (the orange bottle) does well. I’m going to try 2 more products and then I’m narrowing it down to like maybe 2 products to switch between.

    When my hair is dry and flat ironed it’s a little touch past shoulder well the back is ( I have layers), but wet it’s to the bottom of my ear lobe. I usually flat twist as my protective style and call it a day Unless I have a long weekend then I do twist outs because I have the time to sit. Also being natural I’m doing my best not to wear my hair too tight, so I can’t do a bun right now cause I would really have to snatch it back. I can’t do wash and goes because my scalp doesn’t like to stay wet and when I wash my hair it really holds on to moisture and it has now started a scalp issue, so I have to dry it with a dryer with low heat until its about 75% dry and then air dry the rest of the way.

  2. Hi, Elle. After nearly five years of following a regimen that used protective styles 95% of the time, I knew I needed to make a styling transition. I was not a concentrated protective styler before I began wearing my natural texture. And, I wasn’t growing my hair long to always wear protective styles to preserve the length. Then I came upon a BGLH article about you and retaining length without protective styling. I didn’t start right then. But, I was determined that I would master the WnG. You were my inspiration. I subscribed to your YT channel and enjoy the advice you give. For the better part of the past year, I’ve been working on getting a good handle on WnGs. Although I haven’t been doing WnGs for very long, I really like the potential.

    I’d really be interested to hear (1) the success you have had with the measures you said you would be taking when you began your grow out challenge, (2) any adjustments you have made, additional measures you are taking or plan to take to retain length, and (3) adjustments you have made in your regimen because of your move from CA to TX. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Hey Mary! Thank you for the input – I really appreciate it. I haven’t done a length challenge in quite some time because I’ve let go of wanting length a lot; it’s not nearly as much of a priority as it was for me before, but I always did a follow-up video or blog post at the end of my challenges. The last one I did was a Grow Out challenge, but I ended up cutting my hair in the middle of it, because I just realized I wasn’t holding onto it in the same way anymore. My regimen in full can always be found on my blog as well at http://questfortheperfectcurl.com/current-regimen/. I keep it updated if anything changes!

      I also don’t live in TX, I live on the east coast (the climate is much different than TX, haha), but the main thing that really changed was that the weather is more extreme while CA is very mild, so I do need to pay more attention to battling dryness in winter and humidity in summer.

  3. After years of hearing how Black women can’t grow long hair unless they are mixed with something it’s refreshing to see us putting an end to that ignorance. I always knew it was a lie but people really believed it and didn’t mind spreading that nonsense. Hair will grow if you take care of it.

    Do whatever works for you and your hair has always been my motto. Anyhoo, great article and I enjoy reading Elle’s posts and watching her videos because she doesn’t overcomplicate the process when it comes to styling her hair. Less is more.

  4. Nice post and I love your hair Elle!

    I especially loved the last lines: “…when you kind of let your hair do its own thing, it thrives. Don’t fight your hair and it will be nice to you.”

  5. My question is how do you know when your wash and go is no longer working. Curl definition is no longer there? What if you never had definition to begin with

    • Well to me, whether a wash and go works really isn’t about curl definition – it depends on the person and their natural curl pattern. I think for me, the climate can affect how my hair looks (if it’s too humid, it definitely is huge!), but as long as my hair isn’t dry or tangled, I don’t really mind. But I don’t think you need defined hair to wear a wash and go.

  6. Elle… I’ve been following you since forever! I can’t believe Izzy has gotten so long… And BIG! Keep up the awesome blogging and thanks for the tips over the years!

  7. I’ve been natural for longer than most people I know (about 15 – 16 years), not because it was the thing to do but I just found that I liked the way my hair looked when I’d let the perm grow out for whatever reason, and I just didn’t need it. All this time and I’m stuck at shoulder length! I’ve seen women grow full heads of hair 2-3 times and mine just won’t. I need help, I’m a product whore and not all that patient with my hair. How do I know what kind of porosity it has??? I’ll do the same thing two different times and it’ll look completely different :/ I also don’t really do twist outs much anymore, they just don’t work for me. Help!

  8. You probably need to do more low maintenace… your hair cant handle all the wear and tear… most likely that or keeping it moisturized are the two biggest culprits to length retention

  9. You probably need to do more low maintenance styles
    … your hair cant handle all the wear and tear… most likely that or keeping it moisturized are the two biggest culprits that prevent length retention

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