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Getting From TWA to BSL: The Skills You Need to Master

Avatar • Mar 14, 2013

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There are many naturals searching for the perfect regime and set of products, often turning to other naturals to adopt what appear to be successful routines. However, hair has different requirements depending on how long it is, so it is actually not wise to follow the regime of someone with very long hair when your length is shorter. The skills that you have to maintain your hair at a TWA are different from those you require when it is 5 years old and getting to BSL or longer. Here is my guide to the skill set that you can master at every length:

1. TWA and short hair (3–6 inches)

Skills to learn:
‑Wet hair handling (shrinkage)
‑Dry hair handling
‑Breakage prevention

While hair is short it is easily styled as a wash and go giving you the opportunity to see how your hair shrinks, whether it forms curled spirals or not and whether or not it is the type that will progressively get drier when left open. Kinkier and finer hair textures will be more prone to breakage at this stage because hair will generally be in open styles. Gentle handling of hair when wet and dry is a key skill that helps to prevent breakage.

Key Mistake: One skill that you really cannot learn at the short hair phase is detangling. In general, most short hair will be detangled very easily especially if you choose to conditioner comb. You are unlikely at this stage to experience severe tangling or knotting unless you dry comb hair. Never carry on the detangling method of short hair to longer hair stages without reassessing if it really works for the length.

2. The awkward mid length stage (6–9 inches)

Skills to learn:
‑Detangling
— Styling
‑Damage prevention

The time to master detangling is at the mid length stage when hair is long enough to form complex knots and tangles especially during a shampoo and conditioner wash. This will be the stage when you learn whether or not you can wash your hair free or if you need to place it into twists or braids to control it. You will also learn if you prefer to dry detangle prior to washing or wet detangle with conditioner. You will learn too if you need to finger comb exclusively or if you can continue to use your comb or brush.

Styling will also come to the forefront as you will learn whether or not your hair needs protective styling. You will soon learn what styles suit you and which ones work when you need to be fast or when hair is not fully dry.

Key Mistake: The main error that many naturals make at this stage is over use of heat and over stretching hair. At this stage hair will be a nice full shoulder length but shrinkage may make it look exactly the same as a TWA or neck/ear length. This tempts many to straighten hair more often than they did before or be more aggressive when stretching hair out. This can cause cumulative damage that eventually causes breakage and prevents hair getting into the next phase. Damage prevention is therefore a key skill that should be gained at this stage.

3. The long hair stage — APL and longer (10/12 inches and longer)

Skills to learn:
‑Maintaining moisture
— Product knowledge specifically for cuticle repair (e.g proteins, humectants)
‑Knowing when to trim your hair

Once your hair starts grazing APL, the one fact that you should clutch firmly on to is that your hair is old. It may have much more difficulty maintaining moisture than it did when it was shorter as it probably has fewer cuticle layers. You may find that products that had no real effect previously e.g using hydrolysed protein may now actually be necessary at every wash to give your hair moisture and strength. You may find that you require more intense conditioning sessions (with heat or for longer times) while previously when your hair was short, daily co-washes were enough. You may find that although water and oil was sufficient to moisturise your hair previously, you now require a leave in with humectants to help you.

Key Mistake: The main error of the long hair phase is not wanting to trim hair. Naturally if you have been careful with your hair at the awkward phase, you will have less damage and less need for trims. However if your hair naturally breaks easily or you constantly see split ends, get into a dusting or trimming routine that works for you.

Ladies, what skills did you have to learn to get from one length goal to another?

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About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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SJ
SJ
7 years ago

LOL But why is it that I made each every one of the mistakes (except the one at the TWA stage since I transitioned). Anyway, as a person who is BSL in the back and actually MBL (mid-back) in the front (grows faster there), these tips are spot on. I would also add to the APL stage to not get too scissor happy either. I have fine, naturally porous strands in the back (always have; I don’t use heat, combs, or chemicals; I finger detangle and protectively style, as well as deep condition and do protein treatments). I used to… Read more »

7Fille
7Fille
7 years ago
Reply to  SJ

I must echo your sentiment on finger detangling! I also have fine strands, but they are DENSELY packed. So basically, my hair tangles when I just look at it the wrong way. At first, I thought finger detangling would never work for me, but after three months I have noticed my hair is finally past BSL. It felt like I was stuck there for months. Protein followed by moisturizing conditioner has also helped.

biancarichards
biancarichards
7 years ago
Reply to  7Fille

I realise that the aloe vera in my spritz bottle is the key to pre-detangle my hair , then i detangle it with KCKT which i found has truly save time on detangling. I can do it in 10–20min in 4 sections, it really is a breeze compared to coconut oil or other conditioner/leave in.

mlank64
mlank64
7 years ago

This article was very helpful. I’m at the “awkward” stage. I have anywhere from 6–9.5 inches on my hair. I find styling it very routine and boring. But, I pushing through. I don’t go out of my way to strech my hair and according to the article, that’s a good thing. I do stay on top of moisturizing, steaming my hair once a week. I’m a big fan of cowashing, once a month mud wash and acv rinses. I have low-porosity hair so, I can’t use heavy butters, but since I’m at this stage I have found the coconut oil… Read more »

LBell
LBell
7 years ago

Very good and useful article… The first time I seriously tried to grow my natural hair out (long before all this stuff was around online) I never made it out of the “awkward” length stage because once my hair got past the TWA stage I was so excited to be able to do all these different styles I’d read about that I basically overdid it and suffered consistent breakage. I’m now entering the long hair stage and what’s gotten me there this time around is leaving my hair ALONE as much as possible. I’ve sowed my wild style oats and… Read more »

Kurinko
Kurinko
7 years ago
Reply to  LBell

Hi LBell,

It would be great to know what your styles are. I’m very much looking for super simple protective or low manipulation styles to incorporate into my regimen.

Many Thanks!

LBell
LBell
7 years ago
Reply to  Kurinko

Hi Kurinko, Well, basically after washing and conditioning (which I do every 7–10 days) I will do one of the following two things: 1) Apply leave-ins in order of liquid, oil, cream (LOC), put my hair in about 8 large twists until it’s close to 75% dry, then make 2–3 braids out of each twist and let them dry overnight. When I take them down in the morning I put my hair into an updo (roll-tuck-pin or, now that I have enough length, a small bun in the back). 2) Apply curl defining products (the combo I use most right now… Read more »

Leslie Mac
7 years ago

Just hit the awkward stage myself (6–7 in) — trying to embrace it & resist the urge to big chop again. How I miss my TWA! Great tips — definitely learning again at this length what type of detangling & styling works, as it definitely is NOT the same as it was during my TWA phase. For me, it has also been very useful to get a trim every 6–8 weeks so that the length I retain is healthy. I made the mistake of thinking I didn’t need to get trimmed (since during my TWA I didn’t need one at all)… Read more »

T.
T.
7 years ago

I’m at the long hair stage now — my hair is about 12 inches long on average — and that thing about need special treatment for cuticle repair is so true. Up to recently, I was conditioning my hair the same way I had been doing when it was short/mid-length and wondering why it was staying dry and rough. I’ve now realised that it needs regular protein treatments; they have made a huge difference to my hair.

jjac401
jjac401
7 years ago

I am also at that awkward stage. I have 10 inches, but my hair looks like I have a curly bob. I think the main reason I haven’t had breakage issues is because I have yet to put a flat iron on my hair.

This article is good because it lets us know what we might expect at each phase. I can’t wait to get to the long hair phase.

Ambular S
Ambular S
7 years ago

The best ingredient for long successful hair growth is PATIENCE…and a little TLC 🙂 Great post!

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

I’m below APL for the majority of my hair and I feel like the detangling portion is the newest thing for me to master. Detangling was a breeze when I was at shoulder length. The longer it gets, the more tangled it gets. Oiling it every other day helps a lot but also protecting the ends (not protectiving styling) helps. I find that twists are the BEST for my hair as it gets longer during the winter. I can feel my hair break if I try to wear it out with a coat on (purse snagging it etc.). What I do… Read more »

me
me
7 years ago

i didn’t see my hair grow past shoulder length when I was relaxed until i started doing the same thing. I’d put castor oil on my ends and that tuck it in a bun. My hair retained length at the ends and they were so strong and moisturized. Found out about it on LHCF and plan to do the same thing if my hair ever hands that low 🙂

Ambular S
Ambular S
7 years ago
me
me
7 years ago

ok this is a really great article. i had to bc from the awkward stage because i finally caught on that I was using all the wrong products and had been taking out my anger on my hair (my poor hair forreal) and was really rough with it for about a year. I’m not lying when I say I couldn’t get a comb through my hair even with tons of conditioner in it. I’m using products my hair likes, being consistent with taking care of it and I’m teaching myself to be more gentle with my hair. The difference is… Read more »

me
me
7 years ago
Reply to  me

i also used to try tons of different styles on my hair…really manhandled it. I’m going to try my best to avoid retwisting/braiding my hair EVERY night like some naturals with longer hair do. I know over time it would probably damage or weaken my hair.

Hair freak
Hair freak
7 years ago

I got some advice: just keep hands out of hair!! You don’t see other races with LONG hair caking the hair up with a zillion products and constantly doing hours of styling on a day to day basis. My sis grew her hair to past waist length wearing sew ins for 3 years. If you want long healthy hair just leave it alone!! Take my advice. It’s taken me since 2009 to grow my hair PAST mid nose length. I finally am, “leaving it alone” (3rd big chop in jan 2013) and finally my past my nose.

Gina
Gina
7 years ago
Reply to  Hair freak

This is so true! We change our hairstyle daily, but other girls wear the same style day in and day out. I have started doing the same boring routine daily and my hair is growing by leaps and bounds! My hubby misses the adventurous styles, but I just want to be able to pull my hair back into a ponytail easily! Almost there!!!

me
me
7 years ago
Reply to  Hair freak

i’m sure that’s why most of us who were natural for years as kids and had our hair braided or put away most of the time can talk about having long hair during that time. Imagine if our moms sat us down every night or every other night to redo our hair again…

Ellipsis
Ellipsis
7 years ago

I learnt the hard way that not everyone NEEDS protein…even though im at APL my ends we’re healthy…notice i said WE“RE because recently i had a protein overload that caused my ends to break (i had to trim alot after that)

Abby
Abby
7 years ago

Hello Jc
i have highly textured hair 4a/4b and no matter what i do i see breakage just a little bit not to much. I gave myself a good trim and moisturize it and put it in box braids. I plan on taking care of it while its in braids. Does breakage and knots come with my hair texture?

Gina
Gina
7 years ago
Reply to  Abby

I have the same hair type and there is always some breakage. I would watch the braids, though. They cause a lot of breakage for me. I only put my hair in super loose braids at night. I don’t wear tight braids long-term. Once my hair gets longer, I will put it in a low tension twist weekly. I spray with water morning and night and use a heavy cream moisturizer daily. I like Redken, though it is pricey. Use coconut oil as needed. A little breakage is likely just normal shedding. All hair types shed. My husband is caucasian… Read more »

Abby
Abby
7 years ago
Reply to  Gina

Thanks Gina I think I will go back to products I use before I was natural. I tried to do the all natural products but its just not working for me. Could you name which Redken products you use?

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

Ok due to my psychotic BC last year, I have both the short and awkward phase on my head: the front of my head is in the short hair phase (3–6 inches) which means I handle it with kiddy gloves whether wet or dry; whilst the back is in the awkward phase (6–9 inches) otherwise known to me as ‘Welcome to detangling hell!’
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/20130220-NewStyleforFriday22I.jpg[/img]

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
7 years ago

at the mid length stage, protective styling is key. I have been doing buns everyday since December, and my hair can do a high bun and pretty thick, full and long ponytail now.

Ekene
7 years ago

I’m in the short hair phase- 3 to 5 inches- 4C very fine high density hair.
My hair knots like crazy. Annoying annoying fairy knots.

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago

so i just learned that i’m in the long hair stage lol my hair is on average 12 inches i thought that was mid-lenght. i’m currently trying a mineral oil, sulfate and silicone free regimen and i just use shea butter to seal my hair while it’s still damp on wash day then i moisturize from time to time until the next wash day. well the best i can do for my 4C hair is leaving it in protective styles most of the time so i hope to hit 14–15 inches by the end of the year. #crossingfingers

MrsM
MrsM
7 years ago

I now how between 11–13 inches…when I first came out with my natural hair after transitioning for 2 years, I was so excited to finally have length that I flat ironed it to death, and it stayed around 7 inches for the next 2 years. Finally decided in Jan 2012 to wear twists the majority of the time and fine tune my regimen, and LAY OFF heat! What a difference a year can make! These tips are on point! I’ve also had to trim off damaged ends.

Jumoké
Jumoké
7 years ago

I’m in the “awkward” mid length stage and one of the biggest thing I had to master is was DETANGLING! I “transitioned” for a year and some weeks before I “bc.” (I quote everything because it was all unplanned and I didn’t know what “natural” was at the time.) anyways, when I started attempting to take care of my hair, I didn’t know about sectioning and let’s just say SSK EVERYWHERE! >.< yikes! I was over here thinking I could just hop in the shower, wash my hair and walk out. Ha! And another important thing I learned was to… Read more »

Sophie
Sophie
7 years ago

Awkward length in the house! This article is spot on. I had to re-BC about a year ago because from APL because my hair was so scraggly from breakage and heat damage (from the blowout from h‑e-double-hockey sticks!!) because I was treating my longer hair like my TWA. Back to awkward again, which is encouraging because I’ve retained 4–5 inches with two trims in the year, but styling and detangling are getting challenging again! Gentleness is the theme this year

RukiyatG
7 years ago

Such great tips!!! Thank you 😉

Aisha M. (@Cosmoaisha)

This was such a useful article to read. I was under the impression that once I mastered my routine and products in the TWA stage, I was set for the rest of my hair journey…until my mid-length hair officially arrived and began rejecting pretty much everything I learned. I tried to ignore it for a few months but it hit me earlier in the year that I’m so out of the TWA stage, have been for awhile and my hair now has different needs. It’s helpful to know what to expect for the next stage and also how to actually… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

This article has some great advice. I’m in the awkward stage (7inches of hair). I’ve definitely learned not to focus on stretching my hair. Also, when I had shorter hair, I didn’t really use many products (water, oil, and butter basically). This past winter was so rough on my hair that I finally decided to look for better products. I’ve since been using Qhemet Biologics and my 4c hair is incredibly moist. I could be simple with my twa. I can still be simple now too, but I need some real moisture in this hair! I just had to address… Read more »

Codie
Codie
7 years ago

Wow, what a great article. I always wondered what exactly needed to be done for my mid length hair. This really helped me!

Brandice
Brandice
7 years ago

Sigh…I have a twa, but not really, it’s 6 inches blown out. I’ve been wearing ponytails because my hair is extremely fine and extremely soft and color treated so it’s prone to tangling and breakage. Ironically ponytails have become my protective styles because it keeps me from needing any heat and keeps my hair tangle-free. I wish i had a bigger poof, but patience is a virtue.

napfrocurlzgirl
7 years ago

I still swear by low manipulation. I only mess with my hair when it’s my weekly wash time, and during that time, I deep condition with my steamer. Then, I set my style for the week. In the mornings, I just fluff and go. My hair also stays moisturized throughout the week. I’ve been able to gain up to a foot in length each year.
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/me.jpg[/img]

Safie
Safie
7 years ago

Hi, I just wanted to know what do you use in your hair to hold the style. I have been natural since Dec 2011 and my hair is about 9 inches and since then to now no style I do (twist out, braid out, etc) stays longer than 1 day. By the next day, I have an afro (and not even textured, lol). Any suggestions on products and/or methods?

m2
m2
7 years ago
Reply to  Safie

Safie, I hv the same prob. I’m a 4bc n I’m now trying a mix of castor oil to seal n reduce frizz, olive n coconut oils in a twist out. If it doesn’t work then I’ll go back to my twists 100% of the time. But kno that we train our hair so it will take some time to respond 4 lngr than 1–2 days @ a time.

Abstract
Abstract
7 years ago
Reply to  m2

Have you tried putting your hair in a high, loose pineapple at night? Or some people do a low, loose ponytail. I’ve heard of others putting their hair in loose, chunky twists to maintain some of the stretch and texture for the next day. Maybe you could make smaller twists for your twist outs and use a gel so that there is more definition and a harder hold.

Safie
Safie
7 years ago
Reply to  Abstract

Thanks for the replies. I have not really tried the pineapple at night. To be honest, by the end of my day, the definition is almost gone so don’t even bother to try to save what’s left. I will continue to try to find something that works because my hair thrives on low manipulation, so I need to find something that can keep my hair for at least 4–5 days before I interfere with it again, with just minor sprucing up in the morning. My hair type is 4b/c and it is doing pretty good so far, thanks to all… Read more »

crist_lite
crist_lite
7 years ago
Reply to  Abstract

@safie do u know your hair porosity? if ur using products with glycerin and/or honey, that could be cramping your style and making your hair poofy…trying using products w/o any glycerin whatsoever and i think u’ll see an improvement 🙂

crist_lite
crist_lite
7 years ago
Reply to  m2

@safie do u know your hair porosity? if ur using products with glycerin and/or honey, that could be cramping your style and making your hair poofy…trying using products w/o any glycerin whatsoever and i think u’ll see an improvement 🙂

Safie
Safie
7 years ago
Reply to  crist_lite

Oh ok…interesting. I will try that. Thank you

Ms.ATC
Ms.ATC
7 years ago

I just started a similar routine in Jan. Washing every 7 to 10 days, deep conditioning with a steamer, & a protective style. Im shoulder length & my coils get dry if I leave them out too long.…hardly ever wear twist/braid outs…definitely a low manipulation girl!

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

I do the same as you; low manipulation and steam conditioning. Every Sunday, I wash my hair, apply protein (Aphogee or Nexxus), wash out, then steam condition with coconut oil and roux porosity. Then rinse out, apply moisturiser (mango butter) and roller set in the style I want my hair to sit in for the week, then sit under my hood dryer for an hour and half, then style. Every night I apply grapeseed oil or coconut oil to my ends and protect with satin scarf. By doing this routine consistently (and eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and exercising… Read more »

lina
lina
7 years ago

A great article! I am at the “long” stage and the description of the issues fit me to a tee! I thought it was hormonal ! I just got a trim and although I dreaded it, my hair feels and looks.so much better !

Natural Hair Styles 101

I am struggling with the detangling part of my regimen big time. I’m still not trimming as often as I should either. 🙁 I have come up with a way to maintain my moisture-protein balance, though. Pre-pooing with coconut oil has been an AMAZING discovery!

ShayD
ShayD
7 years ago

Useful article. Patience will get us to which ever hair length we desire. Thank you BGLH. Insightful!

Lena03
Lena03
7 years ago

Great article! My hair is APL now and everytime I style my hair I find tons of knots. I never thought of it this way. Thanks!!!

Kelly
Kelly
7 years ago

The article states that at the awkward mid-length stage one of the main mistakes naturals make is using too much heat because they want to see their length, not just the bigger hair shrinking up above the shoulders. Actually for some of us, you can have your hair shrink to above your shoulders even if your hair is 10 or 12 inches depending on your hair type. I’ve seen YouTube videos of naturals who finally get to 12 inches. Instead of making heat an occasional thing, they get real heat happy and damage their hair. All that hard work for… Read more »

Catonseia
Catonseia
7 years ago

Great article, but remember the best is yet to come… Stop ‘tressing over the length of ones hair and focus on the need for healthy hair. Most new naturals want long hair.
This need for long hair can make your hair journey.… An awful exprience as if you are waiting for a watch pot to boil. Stop.… And breath. stop length checking and relax the best is truly yet to come and aim for healthy hair.

ABAgail Dunn
ABAgail Dunn
7 years ago

This was an awesome article!! I never really thought from this perspective before lol

I am back to my low manipulation routine now that my hair is midlength and I am growing it to midback length. Love all of these articles; they really make you take a step back and think!!

Ronnie
Ronnie
7 years ago

It might be helpful for some people (myself included) if you explained the acronyms at least once in your blurb. Some helpful tips otherwide.

karen
karen
7 years ago

Great information. Love the way that it was broken down to various seasons. I’m learning that I have to stay aware of my hair and it’s changing needs. Protective styling, finger detangling, steaming and right products are resulting in consistent growth for my almost APL hair.Thanks

trackback

[…] length. I like the thickness of their hair. Oh, here’s a great article from Black Girl Long Hair. Getting From TWA to BSL: The Skills You Need to Master | Black Girl with Long Hair __________________ http://ravenpriestess.blogspot.com The Forgotten Natural… A blog for […]

Jasmine W
7 years ago

Excellent article. Thank you! Helped to reaffirm what I’m doing.

Tia
Tia
7 years ago

Good evening everyone. I have been natural for 1 yr and 5 months. I am in the awarded stage where my fro is not short but not long. This information is really good.

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago
Reply to  Tia

I’m only 10 months natural and at the awkward length stage almost a year

mariette*
mariette*
6 years ago

Hello beautiful ladies! The conteint of this article os what i needed! I just did my BC(3 weeks ago) and my hair is on a super TWA. First, i had no idea what to with my hair and it was very frustating. After watching a bunch of videos from youtube (God bless all natural sistas on Youtube coz without them i’d be lost) and reading a couple of articles, i realised there is hope. I’ve learnt a lot about others experience and i’m happy i decided to return natural coz i want to get to know my hair, to experience it… Read more »

mariette*
mariette*
6 years ago
Reply to  mariette*

Oh no i mean they do ship stuff here. They just don’t seem to ship the natural hair products i wanted

black nerd lover
black nerd lover
6 years ago

This article is SPOT ON! I am at the long hair stage and those are the exact things that I am struggling with and need to master! Natural Haven, you are a genius 🙂

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

Omg I HATE THE awkward LENGTH Stage I Miss My ONE Inch Twa . Like I just did my first blow out and my hair was big to my shoulders and I got it flat ironed once ro my shoulders . I’m tempted to get it blow dryed again I hate braiding my hair but I only blow dry every few weeks . I found braiding my hair in a protective style works best and it grows even more then when left free also the front and sides of my hair grows fast and is longer but the middle and… Read more »

Tiffany
Tiffany
5 years ago

I wish I would’ve read this before cutting my hair off last year lol It was about 8in long and like this article stated, it shrunk to a TWA, which frustrated me a bit TBH because I wanted to show my length. This time around I am just learning to appreciate every stage and length that I go through. I want to reach my goal one day.

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