If you are just starting out your natural hair journey or you’ve been binge-watching on natural hair youtube videos undecisive if you should transition to natural hair or not, you’ll probably notice a lot of words frequently used by “natural hair gurus” that are not so popular to you. When I first decided to go natural and started transitioning to natural hair, it felt like I needed to take a whole university course to fully understand this natural hair dialect every one was speaking in the natural hair community.
I can’t count how many times I would visit a natural hair blog or watch a natural hair video and leave more confused than I came with the tons of natural hair jargon, so many words I was hearing for the first time. At the time, it was so overwhelming, all the research I had to do to finally get a grip of the language, the routines, just a lot of things I had to be schooled on, this natural hair road is no joke.
These are some terms you’ll tend to see very often as you go through your natural hair journey, be it on natural hair blogs, videos or social media posts. These are keywords to know so you don’t feel left out.
30 common terms used in the natural hair community with their meanings all arranged in alphabetical order.
- Air dry: to air dry means to make or become dry through contact with unheated air.
- Banding: a technique used to counteract shrinkage and increase hair length by stretching it. This is achieved by holding a section of hair and placing several elastic bands along its length to stretch it.
- Bantu Knots: its hairstyle where you take several sections of hair (small to medium-large) and twist them until they wrap onto each other in a knot. It is usually done with a thread and can help straighten the hair or give it a looser curl definition.
- Big chop: the term big chop is the act of cutting off all of your relaxed hair, leaving just the new growth, which is the unaltered natural hair. A big chop can also be done by cutting off damaged straight ends of natural hair that won’t revert back to its curly state, this is usually caused by heat damage.
- Blow dry: the act of drying and styling with a handheld dryer.
- Blowout: A blowout simply means styling your hair with a round brush as you blow it dry. a blowout is a method of straightening natural black hair, usually performed with a blow dryer featuring a comb attachment. often used to stretch the natural hair before styling.
- Bun: is a hairstyle in which the hair is drawn back and put together into a tight coil usually at the back of the head.
- Carrier oils: also know as base oils or vegetable oils are used to dilute essential oils since essential oils are very concentrated and should not be used undiluted.
- Cornrow: a hairstyle where the hair is braided or twisted close to the scalp in a continuous row.
- Co-wash: is a short form for the term “conditioner-only wash”. Instead of washing your hair with a shampoo and a conditioner, co-washing is simply washing your hair with just a conditioner, no shampooing needed.
- Creamy crack: is another name for hair relaxer. This term refers to a relaxer as “crack” since most black women use it every 6 to 8 weeks kind of in an addictive manner especially for those constantly aiming for straight hair.
- Curl definition: is making natural hair adopt it’s a naturally curly state. For some curl patterns, great curl definition can only be achieved by adding some natural hair curl activator creams to hold the curls and maintaining the definition by preventing it from getting frizzy.
- Deep conditioning: simply means saturating hair with a deep conditioning product that is specially formulated for deep conditioning treatments and left on the hair for a specified time per the directions. It is recommended following the manufactures instructions for best results. Deep conditioning can be done either with heat or no heat but the conditioner is left on your hair for usually a long period of time and depending on the conditioner you use, this can aid in adding protein or moisture back into the hair making your hair soft and shiny.
- Ends: are typically the oldest part of your hair strands and being furthest away from the blood supply, they are generally the most fragile part of our hair.
- Flat iron: A Flat iron is a hair straightening tool constituting two plates used to iron hair straight and give it a smooth luster.
- Greenhouse effect method/ Baggy method: Is a method used to help reduce breakage, split ends, and dryness. After moisturizing your hair and sealing it at night, put a plastic cap or shower cap on overnight to help your hair retain the moisture it needs for maximum growth retention. This is a method of soaking the hair with a moisturizer or conditioner and covering the hair with a plastic bag, shower cap or even a simple plastic shopping bag secured by a head tie, or a headband for several hours. Usually, all the hair is covered with the plastic bag and head wrap overnight but bagging can also be done to just the ends of the hair. This method is most frequently done with deep conditioning.
- Hand in hair syndrome: (yea, sure you didn’t know this was a thing) this term is kind of self-explanatory. Your hands are always in your hair. It is a disorder where people with all types of hair can’t keep their hands out of their hair. They keep pulling their curls or brush their hair too much, twirl it around their fingers, and other numerous acts of over-manipulation. So are you one of those always touching and twirling your hair,? You just might have the hand-in-hair syndrome.
- Hair regimen: a system for taking care of natural hair made up of four important building blocks: Cleansing, Conditioning, Deep Conditioning, and Moisturising. For each block practices, techniques, products, and frequency of procedures are defined. Other blocks can be added such as Pre-poo or Maintenance.
- High Puff: Is a natural hairstyle where all the hair is gathered with the help of a string of a hair tie and lifted to the top of your head almost in the form of a bun but made to be more voluminous.
- Inversion method: is the process of turning the head upside down in order to increase blood flow to the scalp. This increased flow of blood to the scalp region actually promotes hair growth. The Inversion Method is usually done few times per month, where you wet your fingertips with some easy penetrating oil, flip your head over(upside) and give your scalp a good 5-minute massage with your fingertips. You can do this once every week.
- LCO method: L.C.O is the acronym for liquid, cream, and oil. It is a technique for moisturizing hair with the aim of locking in moisture in the hair through it’s layering process. It constitutes using a moisturiser e.g water as the base product, then applying a cream or conditioner next to close the hair cuticle and finally using an oil as the final layer to seal in the moisture.
- Leave-in conditioner: This is a conditioning product that you do not have to rinse out of your hair. These types of conditioners contain humectants and help attract moisture back into the hair. This helps create a stronger, more flexible hair strand. are typically applied after you shampoo and condition, usually to towel-dried hair before styling. They can help provide extra moisture as well as detangle strands, which can help make styling easier.
- The line of demarcation: is the point where naturally curly and transitioning hair meet. It’s a weak area where hair can break easily.
- LOC method: is a technique for moisturizing hair. The LOC stands for Liquid, Oil, and Cream. It is basically moisturizing hair with a water-based product which stands as our Liquid, sealing in the moisture with an Oil, then applying a Cream product to close the hair cuticle which prevents moisture loss. This method can be used for both relaxed or natural hair
- Low manipulation: Low manipulation is a hair care practice where handling, styling, and maintenance of the hair is kept to a minimum. The tendency for curlier hair textures to be drier, easier to tangle, and more prone to breakage makes regular makes everyday handling of the hair harmful to the hair strand over time.
- Moisture: Moisture is water
- Naturals/ Naturalista: Usually referring to someone with natural hair (hair that has not been chemically altered, texlaxed or relaxed).
- Over manipulation: the tendency of always handling, styling or having to touch our hair more frequently than needed. This, in turn, leads to breakage and poor length retention.
- Perm: perm is short for “permanent”. It could be a permanent weave or a permanent straightener. A permanent weave is used to add curl to hair that is naturally straight. This is done by using a liquid that is applied to the hair along with rods or rollers. The hair then takes the shape of the rods or rollers and is neutralized. A perm usually lasts until it grows out or cut. On the other hand, a permanent straightener involves the use of heat and/or chemicals to break and reform the cross-linking bonds of the hair structure to make it straight and the straight look lasts until the hair grows out or is cut. Examples of perms are relaxers.
- PINEAPPLE (Pineappling): Holding one’s hair at the top front of their head to preserve curls and also prevent the hair at the back from shrinking a lot. It’s normally done at night before going to bed using an elastic band or even a scarf.
- Porosity: Hair porosity simply refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.
- Pre-poo: This is done before you shampoo your hair. Oils and/or conditioner are applied to the hair the night before or right before you shampoo. This process helps hair to retain moisture after being shampooed, and also softens and helps detangle the hair.
- Protective Styling– a hairstyle that is meant to protect the hair from moisture loss and environmental and mechanical damage. It requires little to no manipulation and protects the hair ends by keeping them tucked in.
- Scab hair: name that is given to describe newly grown hair that looks wiry, feels dry and can have a wavy shape rather than a curly one. It is hypothesized that the continued use of chemical relaxers in the past damaged the scalp and ingrown hair which makes the hair grow out of the hair follicles still “damaged”.
- Relaxer: A relaxer is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair which makes hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls breaking the bonds that keep hair curly.
- Texturizer: Texturizers are mild versions of a chemical hair relaxer. A texturizer loosens the natural curl pattern of an individual’s hair without completely straightening it. Texturizers give the hair more of a wave pattern and loosen a curly afro.
- Transitioning: This is the period of time since one’s last relaxer to the time where all the straight relaxed hair is gotten rid of.
- TWA: is a popular acronym used in the natural hair community meaning Teeny Weeny Afro. A tweeny weeny afro is the opposite of a big afro. It’s usually the first step into transitioning to natural hair. An afro of about ½ – 1 ½ inch is a TWA.
- Twist Out/ Braid Out: This refers to a styling technique. The hair is styled in two strand twists. The hair is allowed to dry either by air drying or sitting under a dryer. The twists are separated back into the two original pieces and separated further to add volume.
- Wash and Go: doing a wash and go is when you wear your hair out in its natural state and natural curl pattern, without stretching, straightening or doing any form of twist out on the hair. No styling tools are needed for this. It is simply co-washing your hair then adding styling products (like gel) to set your curls to their natural state and you are ready to GO. The hair is usually left to air dry or you can use a hair dryer when in a hurry.
Do you know of any terms which may have been left out? Feel free to add in the comment section below. Meanwhile, you can keep your dictionary handy by downloading for free here.