Whether you’re an OG natural or newly transitioning, we know that the natural hair world can be a confusing place. Not to mention all the acronyms and terminology that’s thrown around! That’s why we wanted to make life easier by creating the ultimate glossary of black and natural hair terms to help you navigate this world and make natural simple!
Using this technique you apply hair products from root to tip (similar to playing the accordion). This helps to define the curl as it springs back into place.
Alopecia is an umbrella term for hair loss anywhere on the body, which can be permanent or temporary.
This is an acronym for ‘armpit length’, which describes when someone’s hair has become armpit length.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The use of apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse is promoted by natural naturalistas due to its low pH. Our post on six common homemade hair treatments that don’t work explained why using apple cider vinegar to lower scalp's pH is not effective. A healthier and more efficient way to achieve a pH balanced scalp is to use a mild shampoo - one that falls within your natural pH range of 4.5 - 5.5 - more frequently.
Bantu is a term used for many ethnic groups in Africa. Bantu knots are a protective style where the hair is parted into smaller sections and coiled into small buns.
Just as it sounds it is cutting your hair, usually after points of damage or when you want to start growing your hair out and use natural styles.
The coils that come about after taking down braids (usually that have been left in overnight and thoroughly moisturised). This refers to the style once the hair is out.
They can also be referred to as microlocs, they start off as braids and every few months they are palm rolled so they take on a loc form.
The stretching of hair with no heat, usually using small hairbands or elastics.
Box braids are a protective braided hairstyle for natural hair, achieved by sectioning off the hair into squares, or ‘boxes’ and plaiting/braiding– hence the name! This style is also known as 'Poetic Justice braids' as they gained popularity when Janet Jackson rocked them in the film.
A protective covering that is put over hair at night. It protects from friction and the absorption of oil by the cotton pillow (which causes afro hair to become dry and brittle).
Also known as a hair twist sponge, is a hair tool that has holes and grooves of different sizes which are used to enhance the curls, coils, and twists throughout your hair. They're typically used on short natural hair and come in oval, round and rectangle shapes. They give hair a finger curled look and are popular in barber shops.
This term is used to explain the pattern of your curls AKA how tight or loose the curls are.
This describes washing hair only using conditioner. NB: ‘Washing’ your hair with conditioner isn’t something we would suggest. Shampoos work by removing dirt from the hair and scalp, and conditioners do not have the cleansing properties to effectively clean your hair. Save your conditioner for after you’ve washed your hair.
A moisturising agent made up of oils alongside other ingredients, which helps to moisturise hair after shampooing. It also helps with providing slip, which can prevent hair breakage and tangling as well as helping to create soft and smooth hair.
The removal of product build up typically using shampoo, which allows hair to become lighter and easier to style.
Clip ins are a form of hair extensions usually used on a temporary basis, they allow hair to look fuller and longer.
A silk or lace hair piece that is attached to a cornrow at its base to help protect hair.
Hair that has tight curls, it can also be described as 'kinky'.
Cornrows or braids, also known as canerows, are a simple style of hair braiding that’s been around for — well, forever. History tells us they originated in Africa, with the earliest recorded usage (on women) dating back to at least 3000 B.C. Parting and plaiting hair, often times with different patterns along the scalp.
Cruelty-free products are products that have not been tested on animals.
The outer cellular layer of hair, which acts as a protective shield.
The use of a thick tooth comb or spread fingers to go through hair and ensure that there are no knots in it.
Dreadlocks also known as locs are formed by rolling, twisting, braiding hair to create a hairstyle that entails the tangling of hair, which causes strands to coil around each other and fuse into formed units.
A trimming technique used to help grow out your hair by getting rid of the damaged tips of all of the hair, regardless of length.
The use of a moisturising formula, usually combined with steam or moist heat to further the penetration of the formula into your hair. Used to give your hair some TLC.
How long hair can stretch before returning to its normal state.
The baby hairs/very short hairs at the edge of your scalp. Doing your edges refers to the styling of these hairs.
Twists that lay flat on the scalp (similarly to cornrows). This is created by adding hair from underneath and as you twist your hair.
Separating and gently pulling it at the ends of your hair until fluffy and full in appearance.
An updo hairstyle for Afro-textured hair that is usually created with multiple ponytails that mimics the look of a mohawk hairstyle.
Healthy Hair Journey (HHJ)
Usually related to growing long natural hair that is well looked after through consistent routine.
Hand in Hair (HI)
Also called Hand-in-Hair Syndrome, it's when you constantly have your hand in your hair.
The Andre Walker System is segmented by numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, where 1=straight, 2=wavy, 3=curly, 4=kinky) and letters (a, b, c, where a is the least wavy/curly/kinky and c is the waviest/curliest/kinkiest). Afrocenchix believes that there is only one type and that’s no type as strict hair typing systems are not scientific and that basing your healthy hair care routine around your hair type is going to hinder, not help, you.
If you find your hair is very difficult to moisturise it may be more porous AKA high porosity. Hair that is long, damaged or 'high porosity' needs more oils or creams to seal in moisture.
These are substances that work by drawing moisture in. So in dry climates humectants will draw moisture away from your hair and into the air and in humid environments they will draw moisture from the air into your hair.
Jamaican Black Castor Oil
JBCO is a heavy oil derived from Jamaican castor beans. Castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, which is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. This makes it stay on the surface to act as a barrier to water loss. At the same time, it acts as a gatekeeper, allowing vitamins in to help strengthen the hair shaft.
Hair with tightly coiled curls.
A form of wig which allows your hair line to be hidden seamlessly, as it creates a new invisible hairline and the wig looks natural.
Also known as no-rinse conditioners. They are usually applied to towel dried hair to moisturise and protect it from damage.
Liquid, oil, cream or liquid, cream, oil. This method is a step by step guide to the order in which different moisturising products should be put into afro-hair. This method optimises the retention of moisture.
The locking process allows hair to become tangled and causes other strands to be coiled around themselves creating fused units of hair.
Hair that is less porous. Short hair, untreated chemically and well looked after is unlikely to have much cuticle damage and so will be 'low porosity.'
Microfibre towels are quick-drying and lightweight towels, making them great for travel, sports, the outdoors and, of course, drying curly and afro hair. Microfibre towels are typically thinner and more lightweight than traditional cotton towels. These towels also have the ability to soak a lot of water due to their finely woven construction and dry quickly (meaning they are less prone to mould and mildew).
Mid Back Length (MBL)
A term to describe when hair is long enough to reach the middle of your back.
A combination of water and oil held together by a stable emulsifier. For a product to be moisturising it must be water-based. Oils and butters do not have hydrating properties as they don't contain water. However, they can be used after a water-based moisturiser to seal in moisture. Using a water-based moisturiser like Sheen or Smooth followed by an oil or butter will make your hair happy.
The anniversary of the day that you decided to go natural with your hair.
No shampoo – it is a method of 'cleaning' hair that usually uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar, rather than a traditional shampoo. NB: not washing your hair isn’t something we would suggest. We suggest using a gentle shampoos to cleanse your scalp.
Afro/curly hair that naturally grows from your scalp, the has not undergone a process to change its texture.
A technique of maintaining/encouraging locs that includes using the palm of your hands to neaten, and bring shape to your locs.
This describes a high ponytail hairstyle which resembles a pineapple. It also used to help keep curl definition.
Is wrapping hair with a T-shirt or microfibre towel while it is still wet to absorb excess water, this technique reduces frizz and defines curls.
This is a product which is applied to your hair before starting the shampooing process. We suggest doing a pre poo with coconut oil to avoid hygral fatigue.
A protective style is any style that keeps the ends of the hair tucked away and minimises manipulation. Protective styling gives the ends of our hair a break from nasty weather conditions. These styles tuck away our delicate ends and usually group the strands together. This gives them “safety in numbers” says Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, the author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care.
Porosity, a term that describes your hairs ability to to take on and hold onto moisture AKA how porous your hair is.
This is short for Permanent. A Perm uses chemicals to create to change your hairs texture resulting in either wavy or curled hair.
Parabens are chemicals that are used as preservatives to stabilise formulas and stop the growth of mold, fungi and harmful pathogens. Parabens are known to cause skin and eye irritation and have been related to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity. They can also mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to increased growth of breast cancer cells.
A self-made or prescribed routine that typically allows you to keep your hair happy and healthy.
Strong chemicals designed to straighten naturally curly hair. They are bad for natural hair and general health.
Search and Destroy
A hair trimming approach, in which the hair dresser looks for and cuts out split ends just above the top of the split.
Water evaporates easily from the hair so a relatively thick oil blend is needed to seal in moisture. The best blends contain olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and jojoba oil. Seal contains all of these and more so it's our top recommendation, it was recently voted the top Indy Best oil for afro hair because it: "penetrates the hair shaft and leaves your strands feeling hydrated and super soft, and it remains that way for hours afterwards."
This is when you use leave in conditioner, a curly cream or gel to define each individual curl of your hair
They are a form of microlocs which are created using a special tool, which locks strands of hair from the bottom up.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sulphates
Sulphates are cleansing agents that remove oil and build-up left on the hair and scalp from styling products. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is sensitising and can cause skin irritation especially for eczema sufferers. It is extremely drying on afro hair as it strips the hair of its natural oils.
Curls becoming tighter and appearing shorter, usually after being wet.
A cleansing product used to wash hair and clean away externalities and dead skin that may have gathered around the follicles.
The types of silicones used in hair care products are supported by scientific research and are considered safe. There are many variants of silicones used in hair and skin care for protection against moisture loss. High-grade silicones allow for nutrients and moisture to penetrate the hair shaft, however, lower grade silicones tend to build up faster.
Are when the hair becomes dry and brittle at the ends causing the strands to split and look frayed and damaged,
Second Day Hair
Hair that has gone more than one day without being washed.
This usually refers to how much lubrication a product like conditioner or hair cream can give your hair once applied. Products with lots of slip can make it easier to detangle curly and afro hair.
Shea butter is fat that is extracted from Shea tree seeds, found in east and west Africa. It is rich and creamy in texture and is also favoured for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Transitioning to natural hair is the process that involves no longer using a hair relaxer, letting your natural hair texture grow and gradually cutting off the chemically processed or damaged ends.
Teeny Weeny Afro
A short crop Afro.
Is used to describe a hairstyle after twisting hair and leaving the twists in (usually overnight) you take them out for a more defined curl pattern.
Two Strand Twists
A hairstyle with which the hair is parted and wrapped around each other to create a twist.
Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 4
Hair types go from 1a to 4c and are meant to be categories for how curly your hair is. See 'Hair Types' definition.
Hair that has not been treated with chemicals or heat.
Products that only use plant-based ingredients and is not tested on animals.
Wash and Go
Washing and styling your hair without the use of heat, protective styling, or other manipulation techniques.
A wig is an artificial covering of hair, made from human hair or synthetic fibres. Due to its versatility, wigs are a popular protective hairstyle for women with curly and afro hair.
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