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.


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.


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.



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



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

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

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Nigeria Riggins

I heart Elle.

Robinson Kyeshia

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

Robinson Kyeshia

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

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… Read more »

My boo! ????


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!


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


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.”


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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »