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 fourth fea­ture is from Geniece. Be sure to check out our first fea­ture from Ijeo­ma, our sec­ond fea­ture from Chin­we and our third fea­ture from Elle. 

Big Chop
Big Chop

I made the deci­sion to wear my nat­u­ral­ly hair ear­ly in 2004, dur­ing the spring semes­ter of my junior year of col­lege. I had spent the pre­vi­ous six months fol­low­ing the hair jour­neys of a few oth­er wom­en who tran­si­tioned to nat­u­ral hair and decid­ed that for at least a few years in my adult life I too should wear my hair in its nat­u­ral state. I final­ly took the plunge and cut off my relaxed hair in Novem­ber of 2004, soon after I com­plet­ed my appli­ca­tions for grad­u­ate schools.  My big chop marked a new sea­son in my adult life, one in which I was prepar­ing to embark on the new jour­ney aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and per­son­al­ly. It was only fit­ting that I start a new sea­son in my phys­i­cal appear­ance as well. I nev­er con­sid­ered tran­si­tion­ing long term so when I decid­ed to grow out my nat­u­ral hair I knew that I would even­tu­al­ly have a TWA (teeny weeny afro).

The first few months after I cut my hair, I wore most­ly wash n’ gos because I found the idea of wash­ing my nat­u­ral hair every 2–3 days and sport­ing my nat­u­ral coils and curls excit­ing. Even­tu­al­ly, the wash n’ go rou­tine became tire­some and I decid­ed to style my hair in flat twists and medi­um twists, a style that took about 1 hour to com­plete on my 5–6 inch long hair. I’d have to say that dur­ing the first two years of my nat­u­ral hair jour­ney, I wasn’t even focused on length reten­tion because I took it for grant­ed that my hair would retain length espe­cial­ly because I was no longer using chem­i­cals. Well, I sure was wrong!

My Aha! Moment

The two biggest mis­takes I made along the way were:

1) comb­ing my nat­u­ral, tan­gled hair with­out any mois­tur­iz­er

2) exces­sive abuse of heat the first time I decid­ed to flat iron my hair.

Both of the­se mis­takes were root­ed in the false belief that my nat­u­ral hair was inde­struc­tible. Sure, I knew my chem­i­cal­ly processed hair could be prone to dam­age but my nat­u­ral hair should be able to with­stand any­thing, right? Wrong! I learned the hard way that such think­ing only stunt­ed my pro­gress and led to frus­tra­tion.

My Hair Now

By the fifth year of my nat­u­ral hair jour­ney, I used my new­found knowl­edge from vlogs and blogs, like this one, to care for my nat­u­ral tress­es in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent way. I detan­gled once a week after my hair was coat­ed in con­di­tion­er, I wore pro­tec­tive styles almost exclu­sive­ly and I began using mois­ture rich prod­ucts. Prod­ucts like whole leaf aloe vera gel, Qhemet Bio­log­ics Amla and Olive Crème and non-sul­fate sham­poos were cen­tral to trans­form­ing my hair dur­ing my ear­ly days of good hair care and con­tin­ue to be impor­tant now.

Had I known in the begin­ning of my nat­u­ral hair jour­ney what I know now, I would like­ly have reached waist length in 5–6 years. Because of my set­backs and mis­takes it took about 9 years to accom­plish that goal. In hind­sight, I wouldn’t change a thing because I have been able to help friends strug­gling with their hair care for  the very same rea­sons I strug­gled in my ear­ly years of nat­u­ral hair care.

Can you relate to any aspect of the hair jour­ney? Where are you in your growth process?


Island girl raised in the most roy­al of NYC’s bor­oughs. Proud nerd, social sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor and recov­er­ing awk­ward black girl. When not lis­ten­ing to NPR, try­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly, or detan­gling my fro, I’m search­ing for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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4 Comments on "How I Went from TWA to Back Length, Part 4; Geniece’s Story"

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Alwina Oyewoleturner

I feel like even though I read every­thing to grow my hair, I’m still mak­ing mis­takes with my hair. I’m five and half years into my hair jour­ney and still fig­ur­ing out my hair. So your jour­ney is help­ful, that one day my hair will get much longer. Thank you for shar­ing!

I feel that I have been very for­tu­nate to have avoid­ed a lot of the mis­takes some wom­en talk about. I did quite a bit of research on tech­niques and prod­ucts durn­ing the ear­ly days. I nat­u­ral­ly prefer week­ly pro­tec­tive styles because I’m lazy and only want to do my hair once a week. I nev­er was a girl that liked doing my hair even in my relaxed days. I nor­mal­ly put my hair up on wash­day and leave it until the next wash day. Also, I dis­cov­ed Qhemet Bio­log­ics ear­ly on and fell in love, so I avoid­ed becom­ing… Read more »

My big prob­lem with retain­ing length is know­ing when to make a major cut of thinned den­si­ty near the ends that have sin­gle strand knots and split ends. I’m torn between hav­ing the length and hav­ing health­ier short­er hair. My hair is shoul­der length after 1.5 years so going short­er is a bit unnerv­ing. I’d almost want to wait until I reach the length I want while grad­u­al­ly trim­ming, then do a sig­nif­i­cant chop.


It can be SO tempt­ing to hold onto that dam­aged length. But cut­ting makes over­all hair care so much faster, sim­pler, and eas­ier. I hon­est­ly feel I reach my mile­stones faster and more eas­i­ly when I don’t delay nec­es­sary cuts; it is a much less frus­trat­ing process and I don’t have to over-baby my ends just to main­tain my length. On the oth­er hand, if you have the patience to trim a lit­tle bit at a time on a reg­u­lar and fre­quent basis, go for it!