The Natural Hair Dictionary
1, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4A, 4B, 4C - a classification of hair types developed by Andre Walker, an American hair stylist. It’s a spectrum of curliness ranging from 1 (straight) to 4 (kinky/coily). The numbers within each category determine how intense the curls of each strand are (A being the least curly; C being the most).
Accordion Method - a technique whereby styling products are applied to second-day hair (or older) by scrunching them in a squeezing motion into the hair. The purpose is to prevent the original style from going flat.
ACV / Apple Cider Vinegar - useful for clarifying your hair and sealing the ends after shampooing, balancing the pH of your scalp, and eliminating dandruff.
Almond Oil - an excellent moisturizer that can also make your hair softer.
Aloe Vera Juice / Gel - fantastic for detangling, soothing scalp irritation, and moisturizing. It’s safe enough to use daily.
Alopecia - hair loss due to either improper styling or health problems. Traction alopecia occurs when too much stress is placed on the hair follicle over time. In some cases it is reversible, but always ensure your braids and puffs aren’t pulled too tight!
Alopecia Areata - also known as spot baldness, this is a non-contagious autoimmune hair loss condition that attacks the hair follicles and causes growth to stop in certain areas.
Alopecia Totalis - complete hair loss on the entire head
ALS / Ammonium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulfate - This surfactant is commonly added to shampoos to make them produce that foamy white later we all know and love, but it's also incredibly good at drying out our hair and scalp. Fortunately, there are plenty of sulfate-free shampoos to use if dryness is a problem for you.
Amla Oil - great for maintaining overall hair health, amla oil acts not only on the hair but on your scalp too. It is often recommended as part of the Ayurvedic Regimen for encouraging the growth of stronger hair.
APL / Armpit Length - hair that goes down to your armpit when stretched to its full length.
Apricot Oil - fantastic for sealing hair cuticles, thus smoothing, locking in moisture, and adding shine. It also contains vitamins A and E, which serve to relieve scalp irritation, promote growth, and prevent hair loss.
Argan Oil - derived from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree, argan oil is awesome for letting your hair air dry and retain moisture at the same time. It’s also good at cutting down on frizz by preventing split ends and allowing moisture to soak deep into the hair shaft.
Aritha Soap Nuts - an Indian alternative to shampoo that works well on cleansing an oily scalp
AVG / Aloe Vera Gel - an amazing moisturizer that soothes the scalp and is safe enough to use daily. You can also use aloe vera juice; they both have the same effect of hydrating and helping hair grow.
Avocado Oil - packed with potassium, amino acids, and vitamins A, E and D, this oil is excellent for deep conditioning. Serves as an effective carrier oil, too.
Ayurvedic Regimen - inspired by traditional Indian practices, this regimen emphasizes the use of plant extracts like amla oil, neem, and henna to encourage the growth of strong hair.
BA - big afro
BAA - big @ss afro
Baggy Method / Bagging / Baggy Job - covering your hair with a bag or conditioning cap during a deep conditioning treatment. The purpose is to utilize your own body heat to help the moisturizer penetrate your hair shafts. To further intensify the process, you can also wrap a warm towel over the baggy.
Balancing Shampoo - cleanses hair without causing dryness
Banding - a method of stretching your hair without using any heat. Similar to braiding your hair in sections after washing, banding involves wrapping each section in multiple elastic bands every few centimeters in order to prevent shrinkage.
Bantu Knot-Out - similar to a twist- or braid-out, a bantu knot-out involves unraveling bantu knots and fluffing out the curls to achieve a more defined curl pattern
Bantu Knots - sections of hair that are braided or twisted from root to tip, then wrapped and tied around the base of the braid/twist to resemble cute little knots. Both Rihanna and Jada Pinkett Smith have rocked this look in the past.
Base Oil / Carrier Oil - a thick, fatty oil that other oils can be added to for easier delivery to your hair. (Don’t worry - they contain the good kind of plant fat that your hair loves!)
BC / Big Chop - shaving all your relaxed hair off so you can begin a new life as a proud naturalista. (Or just cutting all your hair off because you look so darn fly with your teeny weeny afro!)
BKT / Brazilian Keratin Treatment / Brazilian Blowout / Keratin Cure / Keratin Straightening / Escova Progressiva - a method of straightening hair by using a flat iron to trap liquid keratin and a preservative solution into the hair shaft. The effects only last about three months, and because the solution is highly toxic it has been banned in a few countries including Canada.
BNC / Braid-n-Curl - braiding or plaiting your hair in sections, and then making them pop by using flexi rods to curl the ends.
Box Braids - a popular protective style in which synthetic or human hair is incorporated into small sections of hair by being wrapped around the roots and braided down to the tip (or further). The singer Brandy is often pictured with beautiful box braids.
Brahmi - this Indian herb is used to stimulate hair growth and reduce dandruff.
Braid-Out - a fabulous hairstyle that results immediately after the removal of braids.
Brazilian Nut Oil - a nutrient-rich oil that feeds protein to the hair, thus decreasing breakage.
Breakage - often caused by split ends and over-manipulation, breakage happens when a strand of hair snaps rather than being pulled cleanly from the root. To avoid this, keep your hair hydrated, trim at the first sight of split ends, and try not to style too often!
Broccoli Seed Oil - this is an awesome product to use if you're trying to avoid shampoos because it behaves much like the silicones found in shampoo. It contains beneficial fatty acids and vitamins C and B6, all of which contribute to smoother, thicker hair.
BSB / Below Shoulder Blade - hair that goes to the lowest part of your shoulder blade when stretched to its full length.
BSL / Bra Strap Length - hair that goes down to the clasp of your bra when stretched to its full length.
BSS / Beauty Supply Store - anywhere you shop for products to keep up your regimen. If you can, try to shop local and support Black-owned businesses because unlike most department stores, they genuinely understand your gorgeous kinks!
Buds / Budding - sectioning off small bundles of hair to begin the process of locking (for dreadlocks)
C - hair with a coarse texture as opposed to being fine
Camellia Oil - this oil is derived from a beautiful flower and has grown in popularity especially in Japan and China. Its benefits include supplying good fatty acids vitamins A, B, C, and E to the hair shaft. It's also credited with being a great conditioner and growth promoter.
Canopy - all the hair that is on the outskirts of your hairline. Because it is on the edges it’s constantly being bombarded with sun, wind, dust and rain, and is therefore more susceptible to frizz.
Carrier Oil / Base Oil - a thick, fatty oil that other oils can be added to for easier delivery to your hair. (Don’t worry - they contain the good kind of plant fat that your hair loves!)
Castor Oil - a popular carrier oil that is praised for its ability to stimulate hair growth by providing moisture and cleansing the scalp of bacteria. Lighter and more refined than Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO).
CBL / Collarbone Length - hair that goes down to your collarbone when stretched to its full length
CC / Creamy Crack - a nickname for chemical relaxers and texturizers due to the fact that the products tend to be creamy and the process can be addictive.
CG / Curly Girl Method - developed by the author of Curly Girl: The Handbook, Lorraine Massey, this hair care philosophy limits the use of shampoo and opts for conditioner washing instead. Followers of the CG Method detangle their hair with their fingers rather than combs and brushes, avoid using heat on their hair, and steer clear of products that contain silicones.
Chamomile Oil - definitely worth a try if your scalp is irritated by chemicals or harsh weather because it relieves itchiness by reducing inflammation.
Chunky Fro - another name for a twist-out, this hairstyle is achieved by taking down twists and fluffing out the strands while maintaining the twisted texture
Clarifying - rinsing your hair out with a pH-balanced cleanser like apple cider vinegar in order to eliminate buildup and unclog pores
Clumping - when strands of hair collect in groups to form a more defined curl or wave
CO - can refer either to conditioner products or conditioner-only washing techniques
Co-Wash / Conditioner Wash - skipping the shampoo and only using conditioner
Coconut Oil - the best oil for penetrating hair and sealing in moisture. Because it contains protein, vitamins, and minerals it is great for softening and strengthening hair. It is also fantastic for protecting your scalp because it is both antifungal and antibacterial.
Coils - groups of small, spring-like curls
Cold-Pressed - a method of extracting oils and butters from seeds using friction. This process is called "cold" because the temperature of the seeds never exceeds 49℃ (120℉), which enables them to retain their nutrients and natural scents.
Collagen Protein - an ingredient in conditioners, gels and other products that promotes hair elasticity
Comb Coils - a hairstyle that's especially popular among short-haired naturalistas that involves twisting the end of a rattail comb around small sections of hair to create individual coils
Condish - the cool way of saying “conditioner”
Cones - short for silicones, they are typically added to hair products that are designed to stay in your hair until your next shampoo. Don’t leave them in too long otherwise they might dry out and break your hair.
Cornrows - an incredibly versatile protective style made up of adjacent rows of small French braids
Creamy Crack - a colloquial term for relaxer chemicals that can be really hard to stop using
Crochet Braids - a protective style in which your hair is cornrowed underneath extensions that have been crocheted in with a crochet needle, rather than woven (which would be a weave)
Crunch - the tough and crusty texture of dried up gel. Ew.
Cupuacu Butter - known for its ability to soothe skin and moisturize hair, this butter is cold-pressed from cupuacu fruits and is sometimes used as an ingredient in white chocolate. It also boasts UVA and UVB protective abilities, so it can be used as a heat protectant on your hair.
Curl Pattern - the looseness or tightness of your curls. Kinkier textured hair doesn’t have a defined hair pattern; it’s more poofy like a cloud in the sky.
Curlformers - available in different widths and lengths, these flexible tubes create uniform curls by stretching damp hair into a predefined curl pattern and allowing it to set. They can be used on a wide variety of hair textures.
Cuticle - the protective outer layer of a strand of hair
CWC / Conditioner, Wash, Conditioner - using a conditioner before shampoo, and then conditioning once more. This helps reduce the drying effect of shampoo so your hair can stay hydrated.
DC / Deep Conditioning / DT / Deep Treatment - allowing your hair to absorb the maximum amount of moisture from your oils or products by leaving them to soak in for 20 - 45 minutes. Rinsing afterwards is imperative to prevent buildup and clogged pores.
Demarcation Line - the fragile area where your relaxed hair ends and your natural hair begins
Denman - a brand of brushes used to detangle and define curls
Density - the amount of hair per square inch that is growing on your scalp. If you have thick hair, it’s high density.
Detangle - getting rid of knots and tangles in your hair. If you have kinkier hair, detangle when your hair is damp and use your fingers to reduce breakage.
Diffuser - a special attachment for your blow dryer that allows the air stream to be dissipated into a larger circle, rather than blowing all the hot hair onto one small area. This is usually done to prevent frizz.
Dreadlocks / Dreads / Locs - a popular hairstyle where sections of hair are encouraged to bind together to form thick, locked strands. Dreads are sometimes incorrectly viewed as being dirty and uncared for, but they absolutely can be washed and do require periodic touch-ups in order to maintain their uniformity.
Dry Combing - combing dry hair. Depending on your hair type, this might be a recipe for disaster as it can invite frizz and breakage.
DT / Deep Treatment / DC / Deep Conditioning - allowing your hair to absorb the maximum amount of moisture from your oils or products by leaving them to soak in for 20 - 45 minutes. Rinsing afterwards is imperative to prevent buildup and clogged pores.
Dusting - trimming such a small amount of hair that it literally looks like dust when it falls to the floor. Not recommended unless your ends are straightened, otherwise you’ll probably end up cutting mid-curl and losing more hair than you expected!
EL / Ear Length - hair that goes down to your ears when stretched to its full length
Elasticity - how far your hair can stretch and bounce back without breaking. Highly elastic hair is able to be pulled completely straight, and when let go it instinctively returns to its original curl without showing signs of having been stretched.
EO / Essential Oil - oil containing the unique scent of the plant from which it was cultivated (ex: rosemary and lavender)
EVCO / Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - 100% pure, it’s the best oil for penetrating hair and sealing in moisture. Because it contains protein, vitamins, and minerals it is great for softening and strengthening hair. It is also fantastic for protecting your scalp because it is both antifungal and antibacterial.
Evening Primrose Oil - rich in fatty acids, this oil is purported to nourish the scalp and combat issues like psoriasis and eczema
EVOO / Extra Virgin Olive Oil - fantastic for maintaining moisture and getting rid of dandruff, it can also be used as a pre-poo treatment. Can be used as a carrier oil.
F - fine-textured hair, rather than coarse
Fade - a hair cut with gradually varying lengths of shortness that serve to give it a gradient or faded appearance.
Fairy Knots - also known as single strand knots, they are literally knots that form on an individual strand of hair. As your hair grows they typically become more common, so keep an eye on your ends so you can stop them from traveling up to the root.
Finger Coils - a hairstyle especially popular among short-haired naturalistas in which sections of hair are repeatedly twisted around one's finger to produce individual coils
Flat Twist - similar to cornrows, except you make the rows using two-strand twists instead of 3-strand braids. Super cute!
Flaxseed Oil / Gel - the substance that results from pressing or boiling flax seeds, respectively. When applied to hair, the oil locks in moisture while the gel provides moisture, softness, great hold, and curl definition.
Flex-Set - using flexi rods to set your hair. Gives the illusion of a defined curl pattern.
Flexi Rods - foam tubes that come in different widths depending on how big you want your curls. To set them, roll each section of hair up from tip to root and secure in place by bending the ends of the rods inward.
Fluff - the act of using your fingers to separate clumps of hair into smaller groups of strands, thus creating a fluffy effect
Fly-Aways / Fly-Away Hair - hair that is raised away from your head due to static electricity. To avoid fly-aways, keep your hair moisturized and don’t over-brush it.
Follicle - the cells around the base of the hair shaft, just under the surface of your scalp
Freeform Fro - an afro in its natural state (ie: after washing, no stretching, no combing, no detangling, no heating, no styling...NADA!).
FSG / Flaxseed Gel - a light moisturizer especially effective for coily hair because it helps deliver hydration throughout the curls, thereby giving them more definition.
Gooseberry - this herb is known for its ability to add sheen and bounce to curls. It's also great for reducing dandruff and soothing an itchy scalp.
Grapeseed Oil - a light, scentless oil that is great for combating dryness. Can be used as a carrier oil.
Growth Cycle - your hair grows in three phases:
Hair Lengths - usually broken down into the following acronyms:
Havana Twists - a hairstyle that involves incorporating Havana brand hair into chunky two-strand twists
Heat Damage - occurs when hair is no longer able to return to its original kinkiness or curliness due to being over-exposed to heat. Even when wet, the hair will lie limp and relatively straight. Unfortunately, heat damage is irreversible and can happen in just a single application (ex: from one use of a hot comb or flat iron). This is not to be confused with heat training, where the hair remains healthy despite its inability to revert to its original curl pattern.
Heat Training - the process of using flat irons, hot combs, etc to apply heat to the hair regularly enough that the repeated exposure permanently prevents the hair from reverting to its original curl pattern. The difference between training and damage is that heat-trained hair is still technically healthy. Unlike damaged hair, it isn't dull, dry, or frayed.
Henna - a plant extract that is fantastic for thickening and conditioning, and can therefore be used as a substitute for deep protein treatments (if your hair enjoys it). Henna is also a strong dye that might leave your hair with red undertones depending on how often you use it. There are many different ways to apply henna, so you’ll have to experiment with the frequency and duration of your treatments. Always be mindful of how long the henna has been soaking in, though. If you leave it in too long it could start damaging your hair.
Henna Gloss - a conditioner-diluted henna treatment that sits on your hair for less time than a full-strength henna treatment would. It will cut down on frizz while boosting shine, and may even add a subtle red tint to your hair.
Hemp Seed Oil - packed with tonnes of omega and essential fatty acids, this oil is excellent for strengthening hair by aiding in the formation of keratin. For this reason it can also improve the elasticity of your hair. The vitamin E in it soothes scalp irritation and boosts moisture retention.
HG / Holy Grail - the arsenal of tried and true products that you absolutely swear by!
HHG - Happy Hair Growing!
HHJ - Healthy Hair Journey!
HIH / Hand In Head / HIF / Hand in Fro - touching your hair too much, which is a really bad idea. Each time you put your hands in your hair you’re weakening the already fragile strands. The less you play with your hair the healthier it will grow, so just leave it alone!
Honey - an awesome humectant and preservative for DIY product recipes. Can also make hair shinier.
Hot Oil Treatment - a luxurious pleasure you can allow yourself every two weeks to intensely condition your hair. It involves warming up a mixture of your favourite oils (make sure it’s not too hot!) and letting them soak into your hair for 20 - 30 mins. The hot oil treatment is most effective if you cover your hair with a plastic cap and hot towel. This provides extra heat that assists the oils in penetrating the strands of your hair. Afterwards, wash the oil out using your preferred method.
Humectant - a substance that deposits moisture into your hair shaft by stealing it from the surrounding air. It’s a good idea to use a humectant like honey or vegetable glycerin only in humid climates because if the air is too dry, it will start leaching moisture out of your hair!
Interlock Braids / Tree Braids - extensions that are added to hair that is either cornrowed or sectioned. The extensions remain loose like a weave.
Japanese Straightening / TR / Thermal Reconditioning - similar to a relaxer, this chemical straightening technique is said to work better on looser curl patterns
JBCO / Jamaican Black Castor Oil - a thick carrier oil touted for its ability to stop hair loss and thinning. It also softens hair and conditions the scalp to stimulate new growth. Unlike regular castor oil, it's much darker because it contains the ash from the castor seed. Many people consider this to be an advantage for achieving healthier hair, and so it is a favourite for hot oil treatments.
Jojoba Oil - an effective natural oil that mimics the sebum your scalp produces to condition and provide nutrients to your hair. Jojoba oil is great for treating dandruff and encouraging hair to grow stronger. Can be used as a carrier oil.
Kanekalon - a type of synthetic hair fibre well-suited to cornrow and box braid extensions.
Keratin Cure / Keratin Straightening / BKT / Brazilian Keratin Treatment / Brazilian Blowout / Escova Progressiva - a method of straightening hair by using a flat iron to trap liquid keratin and a preservative solution into the hair shaft. The effects only last about three months, and because the solution is highly toxic it has been banned in a few countries including Canada.
Kink - the fantastic zig-zagginess commonly associated with afro-textured hair
Kinky Twists - two-strand twists that are installed relatively tightly and then curled
Kokum Butter - sourced from a type of Indian tree, this butter is known to encourage growth by improving hair elasticity due to the fatty acids and antioxidants it contains.
Laid Edges - a styling choice that involves smoothing out the strands at your hairline so that they lie perfectly flat for an up-do, such as a puff
Latch Hooking - adding new growth to existing dreadlocks
Lavender Oil - stimulates hair growth by soothing the scalp. It combines well with other oils and is often used to treat excessive hair loss.
Lemon Oil - excellent if you have an oily scalp or lots of buildup, as lemon oil is able to cut grease quite effectively
Length Check - periodically stretching and measuring the length of your hair to keep track of how much it’s growing. Try not to do this too often, otherwise you might get frustrated! (The maximum your hair can grow in a year is about six inches.)
Length Retention - allowing hair to keep its current length or grow more by taking great care of it. Some strategies include regular moisturizing, protective styling, and eliminating split ends.
LIC / Leave-In / Leave-In Conditioner - water-based conditioner that isn’t supposed to be rinsed out so that it can continue to hydrate your hair
LOC Method - providing moisture to your hair by spritzing with a Liquid (water), sealing with an Oil to prevent the water from just evaporating, and then applying a Cream or butter to protect the ends.
Locs / Dreads / Dreadlocks - a popular hairstyle where sections of hair are encouraged to bind together to form thick strands. Locs are sometimes incorrectly viewed as being dirty and uncared for, but they absolutely can be washed and do require periodic touch-ups in order to maintain their uniformity.
Low Manipulation - resisting the urge to touch your hair all the time by opting for styles that can hold for a few days or weeks. This is a good idea because every time you touch your hair, you are weakening the already fragile strands. Some examples of low-manipulation hairstyles include cornrows, box braids, and Marley twists.
Lye - used as a powerful cleaning solution, lye is a highly alkaline chemical solution commonly added to relaxers.
M - hair with medium texture. It’s neither fine nor coarse.
Macadamia Nut Oil - contains antioxidants and fatty acids, and locks in moisture to reduce frizz. Also great for detangling and adding shine.
Mango Butter - this stuff is packed with nutrients! It's got vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as calcium, iron, folic acid, magnesium, and fatty acids, all of which make it highly nourishing to the hair. Moreover, it can even protect your hair against UV radiation.
Manipulation - anything that involves touching your hair (ex: detangling, washing, styling, conditioning). Because our hair is so fragile, manipulation should be kept to a minimum.
Marley Braids / Twists - hairstyle that involves incorporating Marley brand hair into thick braids or twists
Marshmallow Root - a natural conditioner credited with the ability to protect the scalp
Marula Oil - derived from the nuts of an African tree, marula oil is light yet highly moisturizing. It can be used for hot oil treatments and to remedy an itchy scalp.
MBL / Mid Back Length - hair that goes down to the middle of your back when stretched to its full length
Mid-Shaft Split / Mid-Strand Split - similar to a split end, this form of damage can occur anywhere between the root and the tip of a strand of hair. A mid-shaft split looks like the eye of a needle and should be cut before it causes further damage. The easiest way to avoid these splits is to be gentle. Moisturize often, don't over-manipulate, cover your hair with satin or silk at night, and use tools that won't snag your hair.
Milk Protein - packed with nutrients, this moisturizing protein provides slip and makes curls pop
Moisturize - regularly using water or water-based products to keep your hair from drying out and breaking
Moroccan Oil - derived from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree, argan oil is awesome for letting your hair air dry and retain moisture at the same time. It is also good at cutting down on frizz by preventing split ends and allowing moisture to soak deep into the hair shaft.
Murumuru Butter - the Brazilian rainforest is home to the plant from which we get murumuru butter. It is known to improve hair elasticity due to its fatty acid content.
Nappversary / Nattyversary / Naturalversary - Congratulations! This is the day you decided to do away with harsh relaxers and embrace your natural hair.
Nappturalista / Naturalista - a person who rocks glorious hair that hasn’t been treated by chemicals! Some people argue that having coloured hair is not natural, but it's just a matter of personal opinion.
Nappy - a sometimes negative and even offensive adjective describing afro-textured hair.
Natural - a product or person void of chemicals. Some people think colour-treated hair is not natural, but it's just a matter of personal opinion.
Neem / Neem Seed Oil - when mixed with coconut oil, this Indian oil is a great solution for an itchy or dry scalp.
NG - new hair growth
NHC - Natural Hair Community
NL / Nape Length - hair that goes down to the back of your neck when stretched to its full length
No-Poo - as part of the Curly Girl Method, this involves washing your hair with a conditioner instead of shampoo. In order for this to work, you should avoid using thick products that can only be removed with shampoo.
Oil Rinsing - usually performed after shampooing and before conditioning, it involves letting an oil like extra virgin olive oil soak into your wet hair for five minutes or so. Doing this can expedite detangling and helps your hair hold onto moisture.
Overlapping - relaxing hair that has already been relaxed
Over-Processing - using too many chemicals (relaxers, colours, etc) or treatments (keratin, heat, etc) on your hair to the point that it begins to show signs of damage
Palm Rolling - a method of keeping dreadlocks neat and tight by rolling individual locks between your palms like you would a stick of clay to make it more cylindrical
Peppermint Oil - one of the most popular oils for stimulating hair growth. Be sure to dilute it (2 - 4 drops for every ½ cup of water or carrier oil) as it can be a bit irritating at full strength.
pH Value - the level of acidity or basicness of a product, on a scale of 0 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly basic). The human scalp is slightly acidic (roughly 4.5 - 5.5) in order to prevent fungal and bacterial growth. Try to use pH-balanced or pH-neutral products so you don’t upset the pH of your scalp.
PHHB / Pantyhose Headband - a headband handcrafted from old pantyhose. Useful for pineappling and puffs because of its elasticity and ability to keep hair gathered.
Pineappling - a method of making your twist-out or braid-out last longer by pulling your hair up at night into a high ponytail (except it looks like a pineapple instead). Don’t forget to protect it with a satin or silk material so it doesn’t get messed up overnight!
Pixie Braids / Pixies - small, short box braids that resemble a pixie hair cut. Adorable and quite professional-looking!
Pixiecurl Diffusing Method - using a diffuser on only one section of your hair at a time. Start by scrunching up your hair from tip to root, then diffusing that section for 30 seconds to two minutes. Repeat until your whole head is dry. The point is to avoid making your hair frizzy during the drying process.
PJ / Product Junkie - a person whose cabinets are stocked with more hair products than they can use in a month because they feel an uncontrollable need to try everything on the market. Being a PJ isn’t the worst thing in the world (how else are you going to find out what works for you?).
Plopping - using a t-shirt / paper towel / microfibre cloth to absorb the extra water that your hair won’t be able to drink up. This is much faster and healthier than towel-drying, as it is gentler on the strands of your hair and won’t rob them of hydration.
Poo - the cool way to say “shampoo”
Porosity - how much moisture your hair is able to absorb; your hair is highly porous if it soaks up moisture quickly
Praying Hands Method - a detangling trick that minimizes abrasion by avoiding the use of combs and brushes. It involves putting your palms together in prayer formation and running them down small sections of wet or damp hair from root to tip.
Pre-Pooing - applying oils or conditioners before washing with shampoo
Protective Styling - one of the best ways to help your hair grow, protective styling involves keeping your hair in low-maintenance styles like Havana twists or cornrows. This prevents breakage by requiring little manipulation and protecting the strands from the elements. One thing to watch out for is that your hair isn’t pulled into the style too tightly, otherwise it may do you more harm than good.
PVP / Polyvinylpyrrolidone - a polymer sometimes used in hair sprays and gels to prevent other ingredients like oils from separating from one another.
‘Quats - polyquaternium polymers added to styling products to encourage hair to lie flat
Regimen - the routine you follow to keep your hair healthy and fabulous. While it is advisable to find out what other people are practicing in their hair regimens, ultimately no two heads of hair are identical so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you.
Relaxurized / Texlaxed - hair whose curls have been straightened slightly by limited use of a relaxer
Rod Set / Flexi Rod Set - foam tubes that come in different widths depending on how big you want your curls. To set them, roll each section of hair up from tip to root and secure in place by bending the ends of the rods inward.
Rolls - literally rolling the hair onto itself in such a way that it ends up resembling a French roll
Rosemary Oil - suitable for dry hair, this oil is great for encouraging the growth of new hair.
Safflower Oil - promotes the growth of strong hair by encouraging blood flow to the follicles
SAO / Sweet Almond Oil - an excellent carrier oil and sealant for moisturized hair. It allows hair to grow thicker and shinier, and cuts down on shedding.
Scab Hair - once you stop using relaxers, you may notice the new growth that comes in is weak and dry. This is only temporary, but it’s important to keep this scab hair well moisturized so that it doesn’t break.
Scrunch - a method of either adding hair product or maintaining second-day hair by squeezing your hair on itself upwards with your hands, from tip to root.
Sealing - preventing moisture (water) from evaporating by applying oil or butter to damp hair. Do this every single time you moisturize and your hair will thank you!
Search and Destroy Method / S&D - seeking out split ends and trimming them one by one rather than scheduling trims every few weeks. This can be an effective strategy if you don’t have a lot of split ends. It’s also advisable if you’re super reluctant to cut your hair, but still want it to grow strong and healthy.
Sebum - the oil your scalp naturally produces in order to feed nutrients to your hair. Afro-textured hair requires more TLC than straight hair because our kinks and curls make it difficult for the sebum to travel down the length of each hair strand. Not to worry, though! There are plenty of oils like jojoba oil that act like sebum to make your hair happy again.
Second-Day Hair - a hairstyle that has survived 48 hours well enough to be worn in public again. The best way to achieve second-, third- and even fourth- day hair is to put your hair up at night, protect it in satin or silk, and re-moisturize as needed.
Senegalese Twists - similar to box braids, this protective style involves twisting hair extensions into sections of your own hair. Senegalese twists are easier to remove than box braids, and can be installed at thinner widths.
Sesame Seed Oil - an antioxidant packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s also excellent for preventing fungal and bacterial growth, as well as protecting the scalp from the harsh sun. Can be used as a carrier oil.
Shea Butter / Oil - a moisturization all-star, perfect for conditioning and sealing ends. Can be used to dilute oils, relieve an itchy scalp, and soften hair.
Shedding / Shed Hair - none of your hairs will stay in your head forever. When a strand of hair has reached the end of its growth cycle, it is released from the root and falls out. To determine whether you’re looking at a shed versus a broken hair, inspect the ends. A shed hair will have a little white bulb on one end. Shedding is completely normal, as long as it doesn’t happen excessively. If you feel like your hair is shedding too much (ex: coming out in handfuls), talk to your doctor.
Shikakai - used for conditioning and cleansing, the bark and leaves of this Indian plant are ground into powder and used as mild cleansers in shampoo to stimulate growth and reduce dandruff.
Shingling - often done to maintain curl definition, shingling is a method of applying product to sections of your hair, one by one, to ensure even distribution.
Shrinkage - an amazing phenomenon exclusive to afro-textured hair whereby moisture causes the hair shaft to curl up onto itself. Although many people try to combat shrinkage because it makes their hair look shorter, it’s actually a sign of healthy hair!
Silk Protein - an ingredient in conditioners, gels and other products that softens and reinforces each hair strand
Sisterlocks - invented by hair expert Dr. JoAnne Cornwell, sisterlocks are a patented method of weaving hair into tiny dreadlocks using a specialized tool. This hairstyle can only be installed by recognized technicians, so be sure to do your research before asking just anyone to put them in for you.
SL / Shoulder Length - hair that goes down to the top of your shoulders when stretched to its full length.
Slip - how readily a product is able to assist in detangling. An effective detangler is said to have lots of slip.
SLS / Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - a surfactant in many shampoos that dries out your hair
Soy Protein - a vegetable protein that attracts and retains moisture in order to strengthen hair strands and boost glossiness
SSK / Single-Strand Knot - also known as fairy knots, they are literally knots that form on an individual strand of hair. As your hair grows they typically become more common, so keep an eye on your ends so you can stop them from traveling up to the root.
Strand Size - the thickness of an individual hair strand. Typically, "fine" strands are less than the width of a sewing thread. "Normal" strands are thicker than sewing thread but thinner than yarn, whereas "thick" strands more closely resemble yarn than thread.
Stretched Afro - an afro that was first braided, twisted, or banded, etc before being picked out
Stretching - any method of preventing hair shrinkage (ex: banding, braiding, or twisting damp hair before it dries to preserve length)
Sunflower Seed Oil - a light oil that prevents moisture loss
Surfactant - a variety of chemical ingredients usually added to hair products in order to serve as either a detergent or foam enhancer
T-Shirt - what you should be using to dry your hair instead of a towel! T-shirts are great for leaving your hair with enough moisture to drink up as it air dries, whereas towels tend to rob your hair of that moisture. Moreover the tiny loops in towel fibres can snag and pull on your precious hair, thereby placing unnecessary tension it.
TA - teeny afro, but not as small as a teeny weeny afro
Texlaxed / Relaxurized - hair whose curls have been straightened slightly by limited use of a relaxer
Thready Hair - hair that dries rapidly and is shiniest when stretched
TNC / Twist ’N’ Curl - putting your two-strand twists in rollers to boost the curl
TR / Thermal Reconditioning / Japanese Straightening - similar to a relaxer, this chemical straightening technique is said to work better on looser curls
Traction Alopecia - a form of hair loss that occurs when too much stress is placed on the hair follicle over time. In some cases it is reversible, but always ensure your braids and puffs aren’t pulled too tight!
Transition - the emotional and liberating experience of going from relaxed to natural hair!
Transitioner – someone who has bravely done away with relaxers and is headed down the natural path!
Tree Braids / Interlock Braids - extensions that are added to hair that is either cornrowed or sectioned. The extensions remain loose like a weave.
TTO / Tea Tree Oil - if you have an itchy scalp, this is the oil for you! It removes dead skin cells from your scalp while stimulating the secretion of sebum to protect it. Tea tree oil is also used to moisturize hair.
Tucuma Butter - this hair-softening butter comes from the seeds of palm trees and effectively delivers both shine and slip.
TWA - teenie weenie afro, often the result of a daring big chop!
Twist 'N' Curl / TNC - putting your two-strand twists in rollers to boost the curl
Twist-Out - applying a two-strand twist to either dry or wet hair, allowing it to set, and then unravelling to reveal more defined curls
Twists / Two-Strand Twists - a quick and easy style that involves dividing a section of hair into two parts, then twisting one over the other from root to tip
Ucuuba Butter - derived from the cold-pressed seeds of a tree native to South America, ucuuba is packed with fatty acids that make it perfect for a hair mask.
Understory - the layer of hair underneath the top layer, or canopy
Vatika Oil - lemon, henna, and amla oil added to coconut oil as the carrier. It’s meant to strengthen and cleanse your hair.
Vegetable Glycerin - a water-soluble humectant that can be found in leave-in conditioners. Great for keeping your hair moisturized and can be applied regularly if you buy it in its pure, natural form.
Vegetable Protein - an ingredient in conditioners, gels and other products that is more easily absorbed than other types of protein and can behave like a humectant
Virgin Hair - hair that has always been natural (never subjected to the oppressive force of harsh chemicals)
Vitamin E Oil - packed with antioxidants, vitamin E oil keeps your scalp healthy and stimulates blood flow to the follicles to encourage hair growth.
Volume - the thickness of your overall head of hair. Volume is normally measured by the circumference of a ponytail. "Thin" hair measures under 2 inches. Anywhere from 2-4 inches is "normal". "Thick" hair is any measurement over 4 inches.
Water - the greatest moisturizer on Earth. It’s not only perfect for spritzing whenever your hair feels thirsty, but your hair will benefit if you also drink water regularly.
Weave - a popular protective hairstyle that involves cornrowing your hair and attaching (weaving) synthetic or human hair into the tracks of cornrows. The final effect is much like that of a wig: your hair lies braided underneath the added hair.
WG / WNG / Wash and Go - applying curl-defining products to washed hair and then letting it air dry. Can be tricky to achieve with intensely kinky hair, but it has been done!
Wheat Protein - a form of vegetable protein that is known for its strengthening and moisturizing properties
WL / Waist Length - hair that goes down to your waist when stretched to its full length
Yarn Braids - a nifty hairstyle that involves incorporating acrylic yarn into small sections of hair by braiding them from root to tip (or further down). Depending on how they’re installed, they can sometimes look like thin dreadlocks. If you’re interested in this style, be careful to not buy wool yarn as it might dry out your hair.