Natural Hair Terminology
Still perplexed by all the natural hair acronyms??? No fear, help is here!
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Accordion Method – This is a technique where you use a squeezing motion to scrunch the product into the tresses of the hair to encourage body and natural waves.
Accordion Technique – Scrunching product into the hair as if playing an accordion.
ACV – Apple Cider Vinegar. This is used as a rinse to close hair follicles.
Afro – This is a very popular natural hair style, often referred to as a “fro”, typically requires picking the hair into a rounded shape around the head. For information on creating an afro, be sure to check our afro hairstyle tutorial.
Alopecia – The term alopecia used alone refers to abnormal hair loss.
Alopecia Areata – This is an autoimmune disorder where an individual’s immune system attacks their affected hair follicles.
Alopecia Totalis – A condition where scalp hair is completely lost.
Alopecia Universalis – A condition where body hair is completely lost.
ALS – Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These are lathering agents in shampoo that can contribute to hair damage and hair loss.
APL – Arm Pit Length. This is a way of describing the length of a person’s hair. If a strand of hair can be stretched out to reach an armpit it qualifies as APL.
AVG – Aloe Vera Gel. Comes from the aloe vera plant. Aloe vera gel has a thickish consistency that is great for DIY products. It is used as a moisturizer for natural hair and can be used to balance the pH level in products.
Baggying – This is a method of soaking the hair with a moisturizer or conditioner and covering the hair with a plastic bag, shower cap, Saran Wrap or even a simple plastic shopping bag secured by a head tie, elastic band or do-it-yourself (DIY) headband for several hours. Ideally the head and all hair should be covered overnight. Baggying can also be applied to just the ends of the hair. Generally, if the ends or full head are bagged, a wig or bun piece is worn to keep the bag from showing.
BC – Big Chop or Big Cut. It means cutting off all the relaxed hair; regardless of the amount of new growth.
BNC – Braid–n–Curl. The hair is braided to get a pleasant kink in it and then the ends are set with rollers or rods to add a curl. Often this is done on the hair wet and then unbraided in the morning.
Breakage – This is when the hair breaks–off without being completely intact. The white bulb which should accompany the hair is not present. This is often times caused by hair that is dry and brittle or roughly handled. Generally, hair that has breakage needs moisture.
Braid Out – Braids that have been left on overnight or a few days that are gently unbraided so as to not disturb the natural kinky nature of the hair. The result is a crimped looking hairstyle. Fluff and style as desired. A great tip to reduce frizz is: do not over manipulate the style and to add a light oil to your finger tips as you unravel the style.
BSL – Bra Strap Length hair. BSL hair reaches the bra strap in the back when the strands are pulled straight down. Because every bra does not wear the same, some naturals also use the acronym BSB, which stands for Below Shoulder Blade.
BSB – Below Shoulder Blade. BSB hair reaches just below the shoulder blade when pulled straight. This is more of a consistent measure for hair growth than BSL, because it never moves.
BSS – Beauty Supply Shop or Beauty Supply Store. This is an offline or online place where styling products and tools can be bought.
Carrier Oil – These are also known as base oils. They are used to dilute pure essential oils (like rosemary) that if used on their own might irritate or burn the scalp or skin. Common carrier oils are olive, grape seed and Vitamin E oil. The oil can be a mix or it can be a single vegetable oil.
CBL – Collar Bone Length Hair. This describes hair strands that when stretched touch your collar bone.
Chunky Fro – A chucky fro is a hairstyle where the hair is set in a twist style then unraveled. The goal is to have the unraveled twist show texture and stand up/out. It is not your average rounded afro as the hair resembles chunks.
Clarifying Shampoo – Clarifying shampoo is a type of shampoo that is used remove product build up from the scalp and hair. Because clarifying shampoos strip the hair of moisture and oil, it typically should not be used often. However, if you use a lot of styling products, you may find the need to clarify more often than those who use less products or natural products that cause less build up on the hair strands. We recommend that you clarify before introducing new products to your regimen. Again, a common use of clarifying shampoos is to remove product build-up, because they’re designed to provide a deep cleaning. Clarifying shampoos are manufactured with a higher surfactant-to-water ratio than moisturizing shampoos.
CLH – Classic Length Hair. This is a desirable length that is achieved once the hair, when stretched reaches the point where your thighs meet your buttocks.
Cones – Cones or silicones are ingredients included in hair products that help smooth, protect and shine the hair. However they also can weaken the hair shaft. Sulfates are needed to remove cones from the hair strand as they act as a barrier that blocks moisture out.
Co–Wash – This is the act of washing your hair with conditioner only so that it is not stripped of its natural oils. It is often done on dry, damaged hair. This method can be used daily and is often referred to as conditioner wash.
CW – Conditioner Wash. This means skipping the shampoo and washing with conditioner. Also referred to as co-wash.
CWC – Conditioner, Wash, Conditioner. Hair is pretreated with conditioner before shampooing so it loses less moisture. It is then conditioned again after washing.
Cornrows – The hair is intertwined closely to the scalp using braiding techniques that may involve three or more sections of hair.
CG – Curly Girl. This describes Lorraine Massey’s regimen of avoiding cone laden shampoo and only using conditioner to wash your hair.
Basic definitions of curl classifications are provided below. For more detailed information, check out our hair typing guide.
- Straight – stick straight (1a), straight with a light wave (1b) and straight with visible S–shaped waves (1c)
- Wavy – loose and long S–shaped waves (2a), shorter more distinct S–shaped waves (2b) and distinct S waves with occasional spirals (2c)
- Big Curly – large and loose spiral curls (3a), bouncing ringlets (3b) and wrapped corkscrews (3c)
- Small Curly – coils of S–shaped curls (4a), bending Z–patterns (4b)
DC – Deep Conditioning. Hair is saturated 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. We recommend following the manufactures instructions for best results.
DIY – Do It Yourself.
DT – Deep treatment. See deep conditioning definition.
Depilatory – Hair remover products and relaxers commonly contain sodium and calcium hydroxide. These chemicals dissolve the protein in the hair strand and then allow the hair to be easily wiped away off the skin and scalp by chemical destroying the hair.
Demarcation Line – This is the place on the hair where natural hair growth and hair that has been relaxed meets. Breakage of hair strands is very likely at this line so be gentle when handling the two textures.
Dew Point – This is the temperature of the air at which water condenses and droplets form. It applies to hair styling when you are incorporating humectants into the tresses. The closer the temperature is to the dew point, the more moisture that will be in the air and the more effective humectants like glycerin will be.
Dusting – This is a hair trim where less than ¼ inch will be cut off. It is also known as a “light trim.” The hair that is trimmed off should resemble dust.
EL – Ear Length. If a hair strand is stretched out and reaches the bottom of your ear lobe then you are said to have ear length hair.
EO – Essential oil. Essential oils are pressed from plants and added to conditioners and other hair products to keep hair healthy.
EVCO – Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. EVCO has a sweet coconut smell and is edible. It a great oil for pre-pooing or pre-conditioning the hair to prevent protein loss when wet combing. It is one of the few oils that have been tested and known for penetrating the hair shaft.
EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil. EVOO can be found in at your local grocery or health food store. It can be used on your skin and hair. It is thought of as penetrating oil and is often used as pre-poo or pre-conditioning.
Frizz – This is a hair state caused by dehydrated hair strands. Be sure to drink plenty of water. Frizz products don’t correct the issue; they are designed to mask the problem, most often with silicone.
Going Natural – This is a common term for letting your relaxed hair grow out so you can enjoy its natural texture. It implies that you will no longer be using a relaxer on your hair. This is a journey/process that can last from a day (if you decide to big chop) to several years (if you decide to transition over a period of time).
Greenhouse Effect – The greenhouse is a technique where all natural products and the baggying method are coupled together to promote growth.
Henna – This is a natural hair dye made from green plant leaves that imparts shades of red into the hair strands. The shade of red that imparts into your hair depends on your hair color. A paste is created from the henna powder which can be further enhanced with tea, lemon juice and other natural liquids. Sometimes the coloring agent of indigo is added to make hair darker.
Hair Analysis – This is an assessment procedure that involves evaluating the hair through examining the hair’s texture, elasticity, density, growth patterns and porousness.
Hair Cuticle – These are tightly overlaying protein cells on the hair strand that protect the inner layers of the hair known as the cortex and the medulla.
Hair Density – This is the number of hairs growing on the scalp per square inch. Density is qualified as thin (low), medium or thick (high).
Hair Elasticity – This is the ability of the hair to be pulled or stretched out and returns to its regular shape without breaking or snapping.
Hair Porosity – This describes the ability of the hair to soak up moisture.
Hair Sebum – This is a coating of natural oil that protects the hair and gives it sheen or makes it shinier. The straighter your hair is the more easily sebum can travel down the hair strand. Spiraling curls make it difficult for the oil to be distributed evenly down the hair strand and all the way down the shaft to the ends.
Hair Strand Size – This is a determination of the thickness of your hair. If a strand of your natural hair is as thin as a piece of frayed thread then your hair is fine. If a strand of your natural hair is thicker than a frayed thread, your hair can be classified as normal. If your hair resembles yarn, then it qualifies as thick.
Hair Volume Classifications – Hair volume is determined by putting your hair in a ponytail and then measuring its circumference. If it is less than 2 inches then it is thin. If it is between 2–4 inches it is normal and if it is more than 4 inches it is thick.
Heat Training – Heat training is a technique used by naturals who prefer to wear their hair straight. They use the heat from heating appliances, like flat irons, to break the hair bond. This keeps the hair from reverting but breaking the bonds of the hair also causes damage to the hair strand.
HHG – Happy Hair Growing
HHJ – Healthy Hair Journey
High Porosity – The more porous a strand is, the more damaged it has undertaken. Also, water will be quickly absorbed and quickly loss by the hair strand; rendering a dry brittle strand. Typically, the ends of the hair are more porous because they are the oldest part of the hair.
HG – Holy Grail. These are products that are known to work well for a person to give them the hair they want. These products will differ from person to person.
HL – Hip Length. If a strand of hair can be stretched to your hip you have achieved HL.
HTH – Hope This Helps.
Humectants – These are ingredients in hair products that help draw moisture from the air into the hair shaft. However your hair can become dry if the air is dry as well, so be sure that moisture is in the air, and so watch the dew point.
JBCO – Jamaican Black Caster Oil. This thick oil is great for sealing or trapping in moisture. It is best applied to the ends of the hair to avoid causing build up on the upper hair strands.
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.
Length Check – This is a technique performed to stretch, measure and record the length of the hair in the five major sections: front, back, right side, left side and crown area.
Listen to Your Hair – This is a proactive, introspective and intuitive action where you are more reactive to your hair than proactive. Being aware of the characteristics and behaviors of your hair helps you achieve stronger, healthier and manageable hair.
Low Manipulation – This means doing very little on an in frequent basis. Do not brush your natural hair with 100 strokes a day and you definitely do not have to comb your hair every day. The less you manipulate your hair; the less breakage you will have.
MBL – Middle Back Length. If a strand of hair can stretch just past your bra strap it is called MBL.
Moisturizing – This is the act of retaining moisture (water) in the hair using an oil and/or butter to trap or seal in the moisture.
MN – Miconazole Nitrate. A prescription hair growth product.
Naturalversary (Natural Anniversary) – This is the anniversary of the day that you decided to no longer use relaxers, chemicals or processers on your hair.
Natural Hair – This is hair that has not been texturized, relaxed or been chemically altered in any way. Please note hair dye can in fact relax your curl pattern- dyers beware.
Natural Hair Advocate – publicly supports natural hair.
NHC – Natural Hair Community
Natural Hair Guru – Gurus are generally thought of as having a wealth of knowledge concerning natural hair or their own hair.
Natural Hair Journal – An electronic or physical note taking activity where the natural hair journey is documented. It can be documented in Word, Excel, Youtube, Fotki, or Blogspot to name a few.
Natural Hair Journey – Describes the personal path that someone with natural hair will take as they wear their natural hair. It can be filled with great detail of triumphs and challenges, personal revelations, and much more.
Natural Hair Meet Up – When natural hair women, men, and/or vendors meet up in one place to discuss and/or showcase natural hair.
NG – New Growth.
NL – Neck Length hair. When stretched a strand of hair is NL if it reaches your neck.
No poo – This is a term for no shampoo. You wash your hair with conditioner instead.
Over lapping – This involves applying relaxer to hair that has already been relaxed instead of relaxing only the new growth.
Over–processed – Leaving the hair relaxer on for too long causing a limp, overextended appearance.
Plopping – This refers to a technique for drying your hair. You use a t–shirt to dry your hair instead of rubbing a towel on it. This can tremendously reduce your drying time.
Pre poo – This refers to applying oils and/or conditioners to the hair before shampooing.
Product Junkie (or PJ) – Product Junkie (Junky)! This is someone who splurges on tons of natural hair products in pursuit of that one miracle product that is going to fix their hair.
Protective Hairstyle (Hair Style) – This is a style that requires little manipulation, protects the ends of the hair by keeping them tucked away and allows regular moisturizing. Common styles like twists, coils, flat twists and cornrows can all be converted to protective styles by tucking or hiding the ends.
Protein – This natural component is the building block of hair, specifically keratin protein. Protein is added to hair products to help mend, protect, and strengthen hair strands.
Pineappleing – This is a night–time hair styling technique that is used to protect or preserve the hair by gathering the hair loosely in a high pony tail on the top of your head. Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or using a satin cap can greatly improve the effectiveness of this technique.
Relaxing Bone Straight – Using a chemical relaxer to “relax” the hair until the natural curl pattern has been completely removed. Keep in mind that relaxers can act as depilatories and relaxing bone straight can haphazardly dissolve the hair. Relaxing bone straight is not recommended.
Relaxing Straight – Straightening the hair to a point, but stopping before the hair becomes bone straight.
SAA – Silk Amino Acid
Scab hair – Newly grown hair that is dry, wiry and crinkly. If you recently big chopped and previously had a relaxer, the follicle may have been damaged previously from using the relaxer. Scab hair doesn’t represent the actual texture of your natural hair and will need to grow out and snipped off to show your true texture.
Scalp Burns – These are first and even second degree burns that are the result of using chemicals that are too harsh on the scalp. The result is scarring and damage to the hair follicles and skin. Scarring can be permanent.
Sealing – This is a process of trapping moisture (water) into the hair strands and then sealing it with oils or butters. Oils and butters that are commonly used to seal hair include castor, JBCO and shea butter.
S&D – Search and Destroy. A “search and destroy” mission allows you to find split ends, knots and weak spots and then cut them out using hair shears. Only use quality hair shears (scissors) when cutting your hair. This technique helps to preserve your length by only cutting the damage that you see when you search through the strands of your hair.
Second Day Hair or 2nd day hair – This is a hairstyle that lasts more than one day. You can sleep on it and it will still be as presentable as the day before and there will be no need for major restyling.
Slip – This describes the slipperiness of conditioner or detangler. The more slip a product has, the more likely it is to coat the entire strand of hair to assist in detangling the hair.
Silky Hair – This is shiny hair that has a low sheen and wets easily.
SL – Shoulder Length. If strands of hair can be stretched to the shoulder it is SL.
SLS – Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Spongy Hair – This hair has a tight frizzy compacted look with low shine. It must absorb a lot of water before it feels completely wet.
Straight Hair – This is a hair type with no curl pattern. As it hangs straight it is very sleek and shiny, since there is no curl pattern light reflects off of the hair dull looking straight hair is often damaged.
Stretched Fro – This describes an afro that has been extended to its maximum length. This type of afro is achieved by first wearing twists, cornrows and braids and then is picked out to an afro. Overtime the afro will naturally shrink back to its original size.
Stretching – Prolonging the time between relaxers. Instead of relaxing at 6 weeks, relax every 8, 10, 12 weeks. Resembles transitioning to natural hair but the intent is to relax again.
Stretching Hair – This technique involves gently pulling the hair straight down while it is still in its natural state. This is an alternate method to checking the length of your hair that doesn’t require the use of heat. Stretching the hair can be done with various techniques: banding, African threading, blow drying, and twisting/braiding.
Texlaxed – This refers to hair that is under-processed purposefully, so the relaxer isn’t left on long enough to make the hair straight. This is used to give your hair some thickness and texture. This is also referred to as relaxurized.
Texturizing – Using products to loosen the curl slightly without straightening the hair.
Thickness of Strand Classifications
- Fine – Translucent thin hair strands that are hard to see and as fine as silk
- Medium – Hair strands that feel like a cotton thread and that are neither course nor fine feeling
- Course – Thick strands of hair that are larger than cotton thread and easy to see and that may make a noise if rasped between the fingers
Thready Hair – This is hair that has a low sheen but shines when the hair is stretched out tautly in a braid. Another identifying characteristic of thready hair is the ability to dry quickly.
TNC – Twist–n–Curl. This is a hair style where the hair is twisted and the ends are curled with rollers. It is a great transitioning style. It caters to both your natural texture and your relaxed ends.
Transitioning – Is a part of going natural and describes the period of time that has passed since your last relaxer to current date. It is similar to stretching, however the intent in not to relax again.
TWA – Teeny Weeny Afro. This refers to a relatively compact afro. Many women have a TWA after they big chop to start their natural hair journey.
Twist Out – A hairdo where you two strand twist the hair, then allow it to dry by either air drying it or sitting under a hair dryer. After the twists have dried, you can take them apart and style. To prevent frizzy hair, wear plastic gloves or latex gloves and rub a light amount of oil on to the finger tips or you can add a light oil to your figure tips as you separate the twist.
Two Strand Twists – For this hairstyle, you take two equal sections of hair and twirl one section around the other until you reach the very end of your hair. This is also referred to as double strand twist. Tip: do not borrow hair as you twist to the end. You can also wrap the ends of the hair around your finger to create a tendril/coil.
Under–processed – This describes hair that did not straighten totally after chemical processing – kinks, waves and curls are still present. The relaxer may not have penetrated and processed the hair enough.
WL or WSL – Waist Length. If strands of hair can be stretched to your natural waist it is WL.
Wash and Go (also WnG or W&G) – This is a carefree style where you wash your hair with conditioner, add gel or cream to style it and then leave it to air dry or use a diffuser. The accordion technique can be used to help achieve this style.