Natural Hair & Hair Care Glossary of Terms: Cultivating Minds!

Natural Hair Terminology:

2nd Day Hair – Naturally kinky/curly hair that stays curly after styling and looks good the next day without turning far too frizzy.

ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) – ACV is an all-natural substance that can be used in several ways as part of a natural hair routine. ACV is known to balance the pH level/acidity of the hair. When diluted in water to form an “ACV rinse,” it can take the place of shampoo to cleanse the hair and scalp. It is used as a final rinse after shampooing and before conditioning, as the acidity is close to that of natural hair, to promote healthy hair by tightening and sealing the cuticle. It also closes the cuticle of the hair shaft, which helps the hair retain moisture and boosts shine.

Afro – A hairstyle that is rounded in shape and naturally kinky curly coiled hair.

ALS (Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate) – A harsh cleansing agent which is found in shampoos.

APL (Arm Pit Length) – This is a guide to the length of your hair growth in reference to when the hair reaches your arm pit.

Baggy – This is a method that helps reduce breakage, split ends, and dryness. After moisturising and sealing one’s hair at night, simply cover the hair with a saran wrap, a plastic cap or shower cap on overnight to keep it moist and help the hair retain the moisture it needs for maximum growth retention. This can be done overnight to preserve a wet style, like a wash and go, or just for a short time while getting dressed.

Banding – A technique used to stretch the hair out. Wet hair is put in small ponytails, then ouchless bands or small rubber bands are placed every inch or so down the length of the ponytail. Once dry, the ponytail holders are removed and the hair is styled as usual.

Behentrimonium Methosulfate – Derived from grapeseed oil, this is the Mildest detangler available. It provides first class detangling without the buildup. It is also recommended for use in leave in baby/children products due to its mildness.

Braid Out – A curly style achieved by braiding the hair in loose plaits or cornrows. These are then unravelled and fluffed for a defined, uniform texture.

Bantu Knot – Hairstyle created when the hair is sectioned off in diamond, triangle or square shapes and twisted into knots. Also known as Zulu knots.

Bantu Knot Out – Hairstyle created by sectioning the hair into Bantu Knots on damp wet hair and then after it dries, the knots are taking out to achieve defined curly hair.

BC (Big Chop) – Cutting off relaxed, heat damaged, coloured and or chemically treated hair completely off to leave only one’s natural textured hair (also known as regrowth/new growth). If you’ve recently done this and are newly natural embarking on a healthy hair journey, CONGRATULATIONS and a warm welcome to The Natural Hair Community #TeamNatural!

BNC (Braid n Curl) – A hairstyle achieved by plaiting or braiding damp or moist hair and curling the ends with rollers or flexi rods. Air dry overnight or use a hair dryer. Then take out the rods and braids to reveal deep wavy and curly hair.

Braid Out – A curly hairstyle achieved by braiding damp or moist hair in cornrows or single braids and after it dry’s the hair is unravelled to reveal a more defined curly hair.

BSL (Bra Strap Length) – This is a guide to the length of your hair growth in reference to when the hair reaches where your bra strap is positioned on your back.

Cetearyl Alcohol – This is an alcohol, a fatty alcohol that acts as a gentle humectant which promotes the retention of moisture and is naturally derived from fatty acids from coconut oil.

Co-wash – Conditioning wash, is a method of washing the hair with conditioner only. Washing one’s hair with conditioner as a replacement for shampoo (A step in many naturals’ hair regimen) simply washing the hair with conditioner to cleanse and moisturise the strands. This type of washing avoids harsh results from frequent washing with shampoos that contain detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, and helps to keep natural Afro Kinky/Curly hair soft and manageable.

CBL (Collar Bone Length) – This is a guide to the length of your hair growth in reference to when the hair reaches your collar bone.

Chelating Shampoo – This is a shampoo specifically designed to remove hard water minerals and product build up from the hair that are often found trapped in the hair.

Clarifying Shampoo – This is a specially formulated shampoo which is designed to remove heavy residues and product built up in the hair.

CGM (Curly Girl Method) – A method specifically formulated to achieve your best natural curls based on the book “Curly Girl” written by Lorraine Massey.

Comb coils – A hairstyle technique achieved by placing the tail of a rattail comb at the root of small sections of the hair and turning it clockwise to create a coil. A great style for shorter length hair i.e. TWA’s.

Cones (Silicones) – Ingredients in some hair care products that are not water soluble and has to be washed out well unless it will cause a heavy build-up on the hair.

Cornrow – Type of braiding style where the hair is braided very closely to the scalp in an underhand, upward motion to create a continuous, raised row. The styles are endless that can be achieved with cornrow designs.

Creamy Crack – A term created by women who found it hard to stop relaxing their hair while transitioning, used to describe permanent relaxers.

DC/DT – A deep condition or treatment is meant to infuse the hair with moisture or protein. DCs are available commercially, or you can make your own from common products like olive oil or honey for moisture OR mayo/eggs for protein. A good DC will leave the hair shiny and moisturised from the inside, or stronger and less prone to breakage. Deep Condition treatments help add moisture back into the hair, by leaving a moisturising conditioner with a penetrating heat source on your hair for an extended period of time. You hair will LOVE you!

Decyl Glucoside – An amazing and preferred alternative to sulfates due to its ability to generate a lot of foam/lather. It is a mild surfactant derived from a plant, which is used in many natural personal care products.

Detangler – Type of hair tool such as a wide tooth comb, conditioner and or oil that smooths your hair either by combing through or by coating it, so that the hair tightens up and smooths the scales on the outer surface of the hair or cuticle to prevent tangles. Detangling is a process in which you use a Detangler tool to soften and smooth the hair for manageability i.e. wide tooth combs or finger detangling can be used to separate tangled hair and smooth the hair out.

Detangling – Combing and or brushing out the hair to eliminate knots and or tangles. Detangling is best done on wet hair that is saturated with conditioner that has slip or dry hair that is full of oils that provide slip, most easily done in sections especially once the hair is long. Start detangling from the ends and working your way up towards the roots in order to prevent further tangling or ripping out of the hair. Great detangling tools include your fingers, a wide tooth comb, Denman brush, paddle brush and or tangle teezer.

Direct heat – The application of a styling implement such as a blow dryer or flat iron to the hair, where the hair receives the full force of the heat emitted from the tool. Too much direct heat, especially at too high a temperature or without heat protectant, can lead to permanent damage of the hair. Using your blow dryer on cool or keeping a flat iron on a lower temperature setting when straightening the hair can decrease the detrimental effects of direct heat.

D.I.Y – Do It Yourself.

Dusting – Evenly trimming 1/4 in of hair or less (trimming of the ends of the hair). Regular dusting can prevent the need for a larger trim later.

Elasticity – This is the hair’s ability to strength out to its fullest length without snapping, and revert back to its natural curl similar to an elastic band. Put simple a property of the hair that allows it to stretch and return to its natural un-manipulated state without breaking.

Emollient – An ingredient which is used to aid the hair strands retain much moisture. This is achieved via coating the surface of the strand with oil i.e. Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter etc. Emollients also have the ability to soften the skin.

EO (Essential Oils) – Natural oils (Basil, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Sage, Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender, etc.) that promote optimum healthy hair.

EVCO (Extra Virgin Coconut Oil) – A natural conditioner that promotes hair growth, strong healthy hair, prevents dandruff, and makes the hair shiny and soft. Additionally it is a natural sealant used to seal and lock in the moisture from one’s moisturiser, while smoothing the hair cuticle and adding great shine. This oil can also be used for a Pre-Shampoo (Pre-Poo) Treatment.

Flat Twist – A two strand twist braiding technique similar to cornrows, by twisting the hair flat to the head.

Fluffing – Finger combing your hair to obtain maximum fullness and volume for your curly hair.

FSG (Flax Seed Gel) – This is a DIY Homemade recipe for a styling gel made with flax seeds that does not weigh the hair down, dry it out, or create flakiness.

Hair Lengths – This is a popular guide to the length of your hair growth in reference to when the hair reaches a particular length and can be easily categorised by stating where the hair reaches on the body.  Usually categorized into set lengths, as stated below:

EL – Ear Length
CL – Chin Length
NL – Nape/Neck Length
SL – Shoulder Length
CBL – Collar Bone Length
APL – Arm Pit Length
BSB/BSL – Below Shoulder Blade or Bra Strap Length
MBL – Mid Back Length
WL/WSL – Waist Length

Hair Porosity – This is a property of the hair that measures how well water or other products are absorbed into the hair shaft.

Hair Types – A system used to categorise natural hair by its curl diameter or pattern. The more common hair types within naturally afro textured hair include type 3 and type 4. Type 3 hair is a classification numbers for naturally loose curly hair. Type 4 hair is a classification numbers for naturally tight kinky curly hair. Below are a list of the different hair types and their simplified properties.

Type 1 hair is generally very straight and has no natural wave or curl. No shrinkage.
Type 2 hair ranges from a very loose body wave to a definite yet elongated S pattern. 5-25% shrinkage.
Type 3 hair has a tighter S pattern or a loose curl to it, with about 50% shrinkage. There are three subcategories:
Type 3a — loose, shiny ringlets.
Type 3b – dense, well-defined ringlets or corkscrews.
Type 3c — tightly curled corkscrews.
Type 4 hair has kinky, fragile coils and curls with up to 75% shrinkage. There are 2-3 subcategories, depending on the system:
Type 4a – small, well-defined coils with little shine.
Type 4b – less defined curl pattern; strands bend at sharp angles and require external moisture
Type 4c – cottony, no defined curl pattern.

Heat Damage – Permanent, irreversible alteration of the curl pattern caused by use of heat styling tools, including blow dryers and flat irons. Heat can damage the cuticle of the hair by causing it to swell and break away from the surrounding fibres, making the curls looser or completely straight, even when wet. This can lead to excessively dry, brittle, breaking hair that is riddled with split ends. Heat damage can be caused by appliances that are too hot, attempting to flat iron dirty hair (product buildup can increase the temperature of your hair) or not using a heat protectant spray, serum or cream.

Henna – A plant used to naturally strengthen or color the hair. It is often sold at Indian stores and is one of the ayurvedic herbs. A natural colorant or hair dye, and strengthener.

Humectants – A class of natural and synthetic additives that help the hair retain moisture by drawing water from the atmosphere and bonding it to the hair. Common humectants are honey, glycerin and Aloe Vera Gel.

HG (Holy Grail) – A statement used for products that you have tried and works perfect for your hair, and of which are your staple products and are used consistently due to the amazing results produced on one’s hair. The products you have tried and LOVE as part of your natural hair regimen.

HHJ (Healthy Hair Journey) – An expression used to describe the journey a woman takes to achieve healthy hair.

JBCO (Jamaican Black Castor Oil) – Castor oil that has been manufactured and derived from the sunny isles of Jamaica. It is used to moisturise, rapidly increase hair growth, increase blood flow to the scalp which supplies valuable nutrients to the hair follicles, strengthen, thicken, and increase hair growth. Jamaican Black Castor Oil will also prevent hair breakages, dandruff, eczema and dry, itchy scalp.

Latch Hooking – A method used to maintain dreadlocks by incorporating the new growth into the locks to keep them neat.

MBL (Mid Back Length) – This is a guide to the length of your hair growth in reference to when your hair reaches the middle of your back.

Locs/Locks/Dreadlocks – A hairstyle where the hair is encouraged to mat or “dread” together in order to form long, thick coils of hair.

Nappyversary – Also known as Nattyversary/Naturalversary/Curlyversary. This is the Anniversary date of when your hair became fully natural. Put simply the anniversary of when you became a natural.

No-poo – A hair regimen of which you do not use shampoos to cleanse your hair. Some use conditioners in place of the shampoo also known as Co-washing.

Moisturising Shampoo – A great and effective moisturising shampoo should have no more than two mild sulfates, no parabens, petroleum and mineral oil. These help to retain moisture in the hair whilst cleansing and not stripping the hair excessively.

Panthenol – This is a nutrient (vitamin B complex) and an important ingredient for healthy hair that adds strength and body to hair.

Palm rolling – A method used to maintain dreadlocks by helping the knots in the locks tighten and compress. This is done by grabbing a single dreadlock between the base of your palms and rubbing it back and forth vigorously.

Pineapple method – This is a way of preparing the hair and sleeping to preserve the curls to have amazing 2nd day hair. A method of preserving a curly hairstyle (twistout, braidout, rollerset curls, wash and go, etc) overnight. This is achieved via loosely gathering the hair at the crown and secured with a satin scarf, scrunchie, or ouchless band and either covered with a satin bonnet or left to hang freely. In the morning, the hair is gently let down and shaken, scrunched with the fingers and/or fluffed. This method preserves the hair’s volume and keeps the curls from being flattened.

Product Junky – This is an expression used for a person who buys any and all hair care products they can find to try the next best thing on the market, in the effort to form a hair care regimen OR in order to try a number of different product lines.

Plopping – A way of drying your hair quickly and help enhance your waves and curls by wrapping your hair in a t-shirt or cotton cloth material.

Pre-Poo – Coating the hair, for about 30 minutes or more, with a mixture of natural oils or a deep conditioner before you shampoo.

Protective Hair Styling – A hairstyle that tucks the ends of your hair away from being exposed to damaging agents such as sun, heat, and constant manipulation. The purpose and benefits of this hairstyle is to grow healthier, longer hair and reduce split ends and damage. Some examples are Twists, Updo Styles, Buns, Braids, some Sew-in Weaves, Wigs, cornrow, pinned styles etc Styles that last for a longer period of time in order to give the hair a “rest/break” and avoid continuous manipulation of the hair. Those who incorporate protective hairstyling into their regimen can be transitioning, attempting to recover from heat or colour damage, or simply be trying to reach a length goal as protective styling allows for length retention.

Regimen – One’s day to day or weekly hair care and styling guide, and the list of products and/or techniques used in order to keep the hair healthy.

Scab Hair – The straighter, often wiry and thin first few inches of hair that grow in immediately after you stop getting relaxers. It is usually a different texture than your actual natural hair due to the follicles recovering from the use of chemicals.

Scrunching – A technique used to define the hair’s natural curl or wave pattern. The hair is sectioned and moisturized, and each section is crumpled in the palm of the hand from bottom to top. Scrunched hair can be allowed to air dry like a wash and go style, or it can be blow dried using a diffuser attachment on the end of the appliance.

Sealant – An oil or oil based product used to lock in moisture i.e. coconut oil, creamy shea butter mix.

Sealing – This is the method used to Seal the Ends of one’s hair. Achieved via applying product to the ends of the hair to keep them moisturised and limit breakage. The choice of method is to use a water-based moisturiser (conditioner or cream that has water as its first ingredient), and then seal with a butter or oil such as coconut oil, argon oil, olive oil and or creamy shea butter mix.

Sebum – This is the natural oil created by our skin in order to keep or hair and skin lubricated and naturally moisturised. 

Shampoo – A liquid clarifying solution used for washing hair i.e. black soap or creame of natures shampoo.

Shrinkage – An inevitable phenomenon element of curly/coily hair where the strands are compacted due to their curl pattern. But do not despair shrinkage is a GOOD thing, it shows the health of your hair as the more elastic your hair (with correspondence to your hair type/texture) the healthier your hair. In most cases, the hair appears to be much shorter when shrunken than it is when elongated. Depending on the hair type or curl pattern, shrinkage can lead to tangling or breakage if the hair is not cared for appropriately. Braidouts, twistouts, and rollersets are ways to combat shrinkage as they leave the hair stretched and often detangled.

Silk Amino Acids – provides curly hair with moisture, natural shine and smooth control.

Sisterlocks – Tiny uniform deadlocks. These locks are created by a method of a specialized tool that places the hair into its locking formation and does not require waxes or gels. These locks are very versatile and has hairstyle options as relaxed individuals.

Slip – This refers to how slippery a product is and how effective it will coat the hair for detangling. Primarily referring to detanglers such as conditioners and or oils.  The more slip a product has, the easier it is to detangle the hair as your detangling tools will glide through the hair.

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) – A high volume synthetic chemical (harsh cleansing agent), that is drying to the hair, often found and used in many shampoos. It is what causes the foam, bubbles and lather in shampoos.

Sodium Myreth Sulfate – This is a noted milder sulfate which places greater focus on moisturising the hair as opposed to strenuously cleaning it.

Stretching – Methods or styles used to combat shrinkage or show the true length of your hair, such as washing the hair in braids or twists (for easy detangling), wet setting the hair for a twistout/braidout, rollersetting, threading, banding, blow drying or flat ironing.

Sulfates – These are cleansing agents commonly used in today’s shampoo formulas to lift product residues from the hair and scalp.

Surfectants – Noted cleansing agents. For example Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate is a mild, high foaming surfactant derived from coconut oil, which leaves the skin and hair feeling soft after use.

TMS – Texture Manageability System

TNC (Twist n Curl) – Hairstyle achieved by two strand twisting damp or moist hair and curling the ends with rollers or flexi rods. Air dry overnight or use a hair dryer. Then take out the rods and twist to reveal deep wavy and curly hair. Put simply it is a style similar to a twistout, except rollers (perm rods, flexi rods or sponge rollers) are used to set the last few inches of the twist.

Transitioning – The process in which you take steps to stop relaxing the hair to grow out your natural hair texture. Reverting back to your natural hair without the Big Chop, so the period of time taken for ones relaxed hair to grow out and to return to its natural texture via the emerging of new growth. Growing your hair and cutting off relaxed, heat damaged or colour treated/damaged ends when going natural. The relaxed  hair can either be grown out and cut a little at a time in order to avoid a drastic change in length, or the hair can be grown for a few days up to a few years before big chopping. The start of the transition is measured from the last use of a chemical relaxer, the last use of heat if transitioning from heat damaged hair,  or the last application of colour if transitioning from colour treated/damaged hair.

TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) – A small Afro short in length, typically in reference to the first stage after the Big Chop (BC) until the hair is long enough to be a medium sized afro.

Twist Out – A hairstyle achieved by two strand twisting the hair (usually while damp or wet then air drying or use a hair dryer) and then unravelling the twist to reveal a crinkly wavy hair texture.

Two Strand Twist – Also known as double strand twists, twists, or twisties. This hairstyle technique can be performed on dry or wet hair. Take a section of hair and divide into two even pieces and twist each section of hair around the other. You continue until all of your hair is twisted like single braids. Two-strand twists can be a great protective style, lasting for anywhere from a few days to months, if properly moisturised and maintained.

Twistout – A style achieved by two-strand twisting or flat twisting the hair, then unravelling once dry. The texture/pattern produced may be looser or more voluminous than a braidout.

Virgin Hair – Hair that is natural from the roots and have not been chemically processed or altered.

Wet and Go – A hairstyle technique similar to Wash and Go (WNG), but you do not wash your hair. You drench or spray the hair with a leave-in conditioner and water to define the curls and style as desired for a quick hairstyle.

Wash and Go – Also abbreviated as WnG or W&G. Method of co-washing the hair, adding a styling gel or cream and then getting on with your day so practically a WASH & GO! The hair air drys or you can dry it with a diffuser. So simply washing your hair, moisturising and letting it air dry. Depending on your curl pattern, a small amount of manipulation may be necessary to achieve your desired look.

This Natural Hair Glossary is a compilation of terms most commonly used regarding natural hair.

This glossary is a work in progress and as such will be continually updated where possible. Kindly forward an email to and or leave a comment below with any specific terms you believe should be included here!

natural hair glossary

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