October 3, 2022

BIPOC Portrait Sitting Down Against a Chair with a Long Buzzcut Style Haircut Against Abstract Background

We love a cropped cut, and what’s not to love? It’s versatile, generally low maintenance, and makes your facial features stand out. One cropped look we love is the TWA, aka the “teeny weeny afro.” Beauty icons like Lupita Nyong’o, Sanaa Lathan, and Willow Smith have donned the style on red carpets, magazine covers, beauty campaigns, and famously in the Netflix film Nappily Ever After, where Sanaa Lathan shaved her own hair on camera. Each of these stars, and many others, has added their own spin on the traditional TWA by adorning their cropped curls with accessories and even switching up the shape of the beloved cut with tapered profiles, designs, and cool undercuts.

Sanaa Lathan wears a short afro hairstyle with red bobby pins
@SANAALATHAN

We can’t say for sure who coined the term “teeny weeny afro,” but what we do know is the TWA is often a gateway to going natural (and creativity). To get the full details on how to style and care for a tapered TWA, we reached out to Tonya Thompson and Sharie Wilson, sisters, stylists, and co-founders of DreamGirls, and Camille Friend, who is known for creating big-screen beauty looks for blockbuster films like Black PantherDreamgirls, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Lupita Nyong'o wears a short Afro hairstyle and warm-toned makeup
GETTY IMAGES

Keep reading for the dos and don’ts of caring for a tapered TWA.

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What Is a TWA?

Bethann Hardison wears a short gray Afro hairstyle and large square sunglasses
@GABUNION

So, what is a TWA? It’s just like the acronym details: a small afro. However, the creativity the TWA can spark is unmatched. You can highlight your curls and coils, opt for a more structured crisp silhouette, or embrace a mixture of both with stylized, creative designs. Thompson and Wilson tell Byrdie, “A TWA is a short natural hairstyle commonly worn after you do the big chop. This cute style is often done when you are trying to transition from relaxed to natural hair, or when you are giving your hair a fresh start after excessive heat damage done through day-to-day styling.” In addition to helping hit the reset button on your curls, the cropped cut can also be a way to try something new.

A TWA is a teeny weenie afro that ranges from a super short to two to three-inch length afro,” Camille Friend tells Byrdie.
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How Do You Style a Tapered TWA?

Jodie Turner-Smith wears a short Afro hairstyle with sheer orange fabric
@JODIESMITH

One key thing to keep in mind before making your next appointment with your stylist is your face shape. Friend says this step is essential. “Face shape and hair type should always be considered when it comes to a TWA.” With a stylist’s help, the first question you want to answer is if your face is square, oval, or round. “[For] a rounded face, you want to keep your taper tighter on the sides and back, keep your length at the top to create more of a triangle shape. For a square face, you want to keep your sides and back longer with your taper with length at the top to create a softer shape. On an oval face, start the taper about a half-inch above the ear and taper up to create an oval tapered look,” Friend says.

Yvonne Orji wears a short tapered Afro hairstyle with a Black power symbol cutout
@YVONNEORJI

Once you have your desired shape, deciding how you style your curls is totally up to you and full of possibilities. For a more defined look, Thompson and Wilson recommend finger coiling. “We recommend coiling your hair to give it definition. You would start by finger coiling your hair in sections when it is wet and then later manipulating it a little more when it’s dry.” One thing to note about finger coiling is that it is a more hands-on form of styling coils and requires more time than your tried-and-true wash and go. But finger coiling can give you a long-lasting style, and the process helps ensure your hair is properly hydrated from root to tip.

Michaela Coel wears a tapered short Afro hairstyle and natural makeup
GETTY IMAGES

If you’re hoping for a less-is-more approach, carving out a wash-and-go routine that hydrates while allowing you to embrace your natural curl with little to no manipulation is an option too. For a successful wash-and-go, hydration is key. For optimal hydration, getting to know the porosity of your hair can be a game-changer. Knowing this little piece of information can help guide your product application for the best results.

In addition to the tapering, adding a part or parts can add dimension and the style your own, but where you start your part is all about your brows. “All shapes look great with tapered fros, and a side part is always a great way to accentuate your afro. You can part it anywhere from the beginning of your eyebrow to the arch of your eyebrow,” says Friend.

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How To Care For a TWA

Jade Novah wears a short blonde Afro hairstyle, orange sunglasses, and large hoop earrings
@JADENOVAH

For more low-maintenance naturals, a tapered afro at first glance could feel like too much of a time commitment, but tapering can be as subtle or as structured as you like. Talk with your stylist about your ideal salon visit frequency to select a tapered TWA that works for you. Like any natural hairstyle, moisture and hydration are key. “When caring for your TWA, it is important always to keep it moisturized to protect your ends from future damage after your chop,” Thompson and Wilson tell Byrdie.

Dream Girls True Essence Oil
DreamGirls Hair True Essence Oil Treatment $20.00

The duo recommends keeping an oil that protects the hair and stimulates the scalp on standby. An oil infused with peppermint oil is at the top of their list to help stimulate the scalp and promote healthy new growth for those transitioning from processed to natural hair.  In addition to a stimulating oil, all of our experts recommend building a wash day routine with a line of products made for curly and coily hair types. One more must-have Friend recommends is a microfiber towel to remove excess water without disrupting the hair cuticle.

Argan Oil 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray
Hask Argan Oil 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray $8.00
Patter Microfiber Towel
Pattern Microfiber Towel $19.00

Choosing to go for a TWA can feel like a big step, because let’s face it—it is. But, with the right stylist, a haircut that suits your face shape, and a hydrating wash day routine, you’ll be well on your way to giving your teeny weeny afro all the love and affection it rightfully deserves.