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Glossary of Natural Hair Terms

Like we’ve said before, Natural Hair is like a country, and that country has a language all its own. Here’s a dictionary of terms that you may come across on this and other natural hair sites and videos that may help you to decode what everyone is talking about. Feel free to suggest additions to this list as our country is rapidly developing.

 

Accordion Technique A Wash n’ Go styling technique that produces well- formed, highly-defined coils/curls. (Best if performed in the shower because it involves significant dripping.). Hair is first cleansed and conditioned. While soaking wet, a styling curl cream or curl gel is applied. As the head is titled in various angles, the hair now weighted with water and styling product, is lowered into an open palm and gently pressed to the scalp repeatedly. Hair is typically air dried afterward.
ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) Typically used in a diluted form as a final rinse after shampooing and before conditioning. Seals and tightens the cuticle layer for improved shine and smoothness.
APL Arm Pit Length (Reference to length of hair)
BAA Big _ _ _ Afro! Opposite of a TWA, (Teeny Weeny Afro)
Baggy The practice of covering the hair at night with a plastic shower cap for the purpose of enhancing moisture. This method is thought to help reduce breakage, split ends and dryness.
Banding A styling technique used to inhibit hair shrinkage and thereby display more of the hair’s actual length. .Gathering the hair into one ponytail or several smaller ones, covered elastic bands are affixed snugly from the scalp area, one after the other, all the way down to the ends, (or near the ends) of the hair. Several bands may be needed for each section, depending upon hair length. May be done on wet, damp or dry hair. Bands are left in for a period of time or until the hair is dry (if banded while damp or wet.)
Bantu Knots A hairstyle created by carefully and precisely parting hair in small-to-medium sections, and then twisting the sections in one direction until they wrap into neat knots. The knots are often secured near the scalp with bobby or hair pins.
Bantu Knot Out A style, with a highly defined curly or wavy texture, created by releasing Bantu Knots after they are dry.
BC (Big Chop) Cutting off all relaxed or chemically-treated portions of the hair, leaving only natural-textured new growth.
BNC (Braid-n-Curl) A style created by plaiting or braiding the hair while wet, and then curling the ends with rollers or flexi rods. After the hair is dry, the braids and rollers are removed to reveal a wavy and curly hair texture.
BSL Bra Strap Length (Reference to length of hair)
BSS Beauty Supply Store
CBL Collar Bone Length (Reference to length of hair)
CG (Curly Girl) CG is an abbreviation for “Curly Girl,” a book written by Lorraine Massey and Michele Bender. It also describes a routine set forth in the book that helps natural “coilies” and “curlies” achieve healthy, manageable waves, curls or coils. Key is the “no poo” method of cleansing, (i.e. cowashing). Several other techniques of hair care and styling are also recommended.
Clarifying The process of cleansing and removing a build-up of oils, styling products, tap water minerals and/or medications from the hair. Typically performed with specialty shampoos or baking soda rinses.
Coils A hairstyle achieved by taking small sections of wet or very damp hair and smoothing, while rotating the sections, one-by-one, from root to tip. Tiny styling combs have been used for coils, as well as a finger. Typically, a gel is applied prior to coiling for longer-lasting hold and shine.
Coily A term used to reference the texture characteristic of natural Type 4 hair, whereby the configuration of the strand resembles a small-diameter ink pen spring. The coil is most evident when the hair is wet and/or defined with a curling custard/ gel. It usually remains evident when the hair is allowed to dry undisturbed from a soaking wet stage.
Condish Conditioner
Cones (Silicone) Silicones of various types are incorporated into many hair care product formulations because of their ability to impart shine, enhance flexibility, reduce frizz, protect hair from heat, form a water-resistant barrier around the hair shaft and seal the cuticle layer. Many women with natural-textured hair reject products that contain silicones due to the belief that “cones” are difficult to remove and prevent the hair from receiving moisture.
Cowash The practice of cleansing the hair using an appropriate conditioner in place of a conventional shampoo. Preferred by many naturalistas as the predominant method of cleansing because of its ability to help hair retain moisture.
Creamy Crack A reference to chemical relaxers. The term was coined with the thought that the use of relaxers is addictive for those women who strive for a permanently straight hair texture.
DT or DC Deep treatment or deep conditioner. A moisturizing, strengthening and/or damage-repair product that is applied right after cleansing, and often allowed to penetrate for 15 – 30 minutes with the use of a mild heat source. Also used to enhance shine and manageability.
Dusting Trimming of the hair, typically ¼ inch or less. The amount of hair trimmed is usually so small that it appears as dust.
EO (Essential Oils) Aromatic oils are extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, or trees, and maintain the odors and tastes, and thus the essence, of the plants from which they are extracted. Among many applications, they are sometimes used to nourish the hair and scalp.
EVCO Extra Virgin Coconut Oil; Used as a natural hair care product for shine and to seal in moisture. It is one of the few oils with a proven ability to penetrate the skin and hair. Loved for its emollient and sheen-producing properties.
EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Used as a natural hair care product for shine. Also used as a pre-shampoo treatment. EVOO is considered by some to be a natural sealant that locks moisture inside the hairshaft that was provided by a previously-applied hydrating product.
Flat Twists A technique whereby the hair is two-strand twisted flat to the scalp, in cornrow fashion.
Fluff The use of fingers or a pick to add volume and shape to natural hair.
Fro Afro
Frohawk A hairstyle where the sides of an afro are flattened to the scalp, either by smoothing & pinning or by shaving. The center hair is left high and free, in the shape of the distinctive Mohawk.
Hair Types: 1/2a/2b/2c/ 3a/3b/3c/4a/4b/4c Hair typing refers to the amount of texture hair has. Naturally straight hair isType 1, loose-wavy hair is type 2, curly hair is type 3 and coily hair is type 4. In the case of types 3 and 4, the sub-classifications from a – c, are based upon the diameter of the curl or coil. For instance a type 3a curl may have the diameter of a nickel, a 3b, like a dime. Type 4, which is the most common for people of African descent, ranges from the diameter of a pencil eraser (4a), to the diameter of an ink pen spring (4b), and even smaller than that, (type 4c). In some cases, hair may even have a tight z zigzag pattern and no coil at all. This hair type classification system was created by renowned hairstylist and entrepreneur, Andre Walker.
Henna A plant-derived powder, when mixed with water to make a paste, is applied to hair, processed and rinsed out. It is used as a natural hair color-enhancer, strengthener and conditioner.
HG (Holy Grail) Products that one has tried, achieved good results with and remains loyal to
HIH (Hand in Hair) By some, jokingly called a disease, this is a condition whereby one continually touches or manipulates her hair. It is considered to be a compulsion and a habit that, if extreme, causes the hair to frizz or even break.
Locks/Locs A hairstyle whereby small sections of hair are twisted and over time, the strands become permanently secured. As locks/locs grow, they can become quite long.
MBL Mid Back Length (Reference to hair length)
Nappyversary/Nattyversary The anniversary of the day one decided to “go natural” and to refrain from applying chemical straighteners (relaxers) to the hair.
No-poo A non-foaming, non-detergent cleanser, typically a conditioner, used to remove dirt, oils and styling products from the hair and scalp. Used to help hair retain moisture and softness.
Pineappleing Pulling hair into one or several pony puffs, (depending on hair length), using covered or ouch less bands. The balance of the hair remains free. The puff(s) are positioned at the top or at several sites across the head. This procedure helps preserve the coil/curl definition of the style overnight, and also provides some stretch to the hair. When using this technique, it’s best to sleep on a satin pillowcase. In the morning, the bands are removed and the sections are gently shaken or fluffed.
PJ (Product Junky) A person who buys a lot of different products and brands in the quest of finding the “perfect” ones for her hair.
Plopping Hair is carefully lowered and loosely wrapped in a clean t-shirt or soft cotton material, while bending from the waist. Performed after cleansing, conditioning and/or applying a liberal amount of styling gel or cream, it helps to absorb excess moisture from the hair. It’s thought to decrease drying time, reduce frizz, and enhance natural curls.
Pony Puff A hairstyle whereby the hair is pulled back at the crown, sides and nape, using headbands, hair pins, scarves, etc. The remaining hair extends freely.
Poo Shampoo
Pre-Poo Oils, conditioners and other substances applied to the hair prior to shampooing to enhance moisturization and conditioning during cleansing.
Protective Styling A hairstyle that helps protect the ends of hair from dehydration and damage, by eliminating the need for mechanical manipulation, (combing, brushing, picking, etc.) and shielding against environmental exposure, (i.e. sun, heat, cold, wind). Some examples are buns, braids, twists, ponytails and various head coverings.
S&D (Search and Destroy) Identifying frayed, damaged ends for the purpose of trimming them. Such trimming is thought to optimize hair health, encourage the curls to “pop”, and improve the look and feel of hair.
Sealing Applying a product or single ingredient, such as a natural oil, to the hair to help lock in moisture. May be applied along the entire hair strand or just to the ends, following cleansing and/or the application of a cream or conditioner containing water. Sealing is often achieved with the use of natural oils and butters or products formulated with them.
Second Day Hair The state of one’s hair on the day after it is cleansed, conditioned and styled. For some, it is a less-than-desirable look, often referring to frizz, loss of definition, shine or overall shape. For others, it’s a positive description of hair that is fuller, freer, showing fewer partings, etc.
Shingling A form of Wash n’ Go styling whereby a styling curl cream or curl gel is liberally applied section-by section to clean, very wet hair. As the styling product is applied to each relatively small section of hair, the section is smoothed between the thumb and forefinger, in a downward motion from root to tip. The smoothing action, in combination with the styling product immediately makes the coil/curl/wave pattern evident. The hair is then either air-dried or dried with the use of a hood dryer. Once dry, the hair can be gently fluffed for style.
Shrinkage A term used to describe the reduction of the visual length of hair. It is a process that occurs as wet hair dries and re-coils into its natural texture pattern.
Slip A state produced by a product whereby the palms of the hands, the fingers and/or a detangling comb are able to easily and smoothly glide along the hairshaft, from root to tip. For the sake of manageability and feel, it is desirable that hair care products such as shampoos, leave-in conditioners and deep conditioners provide this attribute, without leaving behind a tacky or dulling residue.
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) A synthetic detergent associated with hair dehydration, and semi-permanent and permanent hair color fading. Commonly found in conventional shampoos.
Stretch Refers to the inhibition of hair shrinkage which is characteristic of tightly coily/curly hair. Via specific stretching techniques, more of the hair’s actual length is revealed in the finished style. Some products are also thought to minimize shrinkage, thereby helping to stretch the hair.
Texturizer A chemical treatment used to partially relax or loosen the natural curl pattern of highly textured hair. Provides greater stretch/elongation/length, and helps the hair to trail in a downward direction, (as opposed to an “up on out” direction, like an afro.) Texturizers are usually a form of relaxers, just milder in formulation or allowed to process using a different technique or timeframe. Texturizers alter the natural coil/curl pattern permanently and hair processed with them must be cut off in order to return one’s hair to its natural state.
TNC (Twist-n-Curl) A styling technique whereby wet or damp hair is two-strand twisted and then rolled on rods or rollers. Once dry, the curlers are removed and the hair untwisted.
Transitioning This is the process, (also called “the journey” or “going natural”) whereby one’s natural-textured hair is allowed to grow in, while the previously chemically-treated hair is trimmed off in stages. The goal is to have a full head of all-natural hair, but to do so without abruptly cutting off (via the Big Chop) all of the processed hair. A degree of length is maintained by only gradually removing the relaxed or permed portions. Transitioning also involves managing the coily-textured new-growth as it increasingly co-exists with the remaining hair. The strategy for some is to wear textured styles (i.e., rod sets and braids) as the new hair grows in to minimize the texture differences, or to wear or wigs/weaves for a period of time.
TWA Teeny Weeny Afro
Twist Out A hairstyle created by first two-strand twisting the hair while wet or damp. After the hair is dry, the twists are carefully released and styled.
Two-Strand Twists A hairstyle technique whereby sections of hair are divided into two smaller sections and then wound around each other. The last half-inch or so of each twist is left loose and twirled around the index finger into a coil. 2-Strand Twists can be worn as a hairstyle in and of itself or the twists can be carefully released when dry (Twist-Out) for a look that’s fuller, yet with a well-defined coily/wavy texture.
Wash n’ Go A term referring to a relatively quick and easy styling session whereby a defined finished style is achieved without twisting, braiding, knotting, rodding, etc. Hair is first cleansed and conditioned. Coils/curls are then defined with gel or a styling cream and allowed to air dry or dried using a diffuser attachment on a blow dryer set to a low temperature.  May be abbreviated as WnG or W&G
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