Do the acronyms "TWA," "BSL," or "ACV" sound familiar to you? What about the terms "pre-poo," "seal," or "pineappleing?" If you're totally confused, fret not because we're here to decode the entire gamut of natural hair lingo in the ESSENCE Ultimate Natural Hair Dictionary. We enlisted the help of Jenell Stewart, naturalista blogger of Kinky Curly Coily Me, to help us explain all the terms you'll need to know when you decide to do the "BC" — Big Chop that is.
A phrase used to describe the number of days since you last styled your hair. Hair styled today would be considered 2nd-day hair tomorrow.
These represent the Hair Type Classification System created by hairstylist Andre Walker. Type 3 hair is curly with a visible curl pattern. Type 3 curls can range from big, loose, bouncy ringlets to tight corkscrews. Type 4 is kinky, or very tightly curled, with a less visible curl pattern. Type 4 curls can range from tight zig-zag curls to extremely tight coils.
Apple Cider Vinegar. This is used as a rinse to close hair follicles.
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These are the lathering agents in shampoo that can be drying and may contribute to hair damage and hair loss. This is why some companies are now touting sulfate-free on product labels.
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 your armpit it qualifies as APL.
A hairstyling technique consisting of a squeezing motion to scrunch the product into the hair to encourage body and natural waves.
The loss of hair. In some cases, alopecia is due to medical conditions, but it can also result from hairstyles such as tight ponytails or braids, which is known as traction alopecia.
Big A*s Afro. This is used to describe a very large, picked-out afro.
A method of soaking the hair with moisturizer and then covering the hair in a plastic bag, shower cap, Saran Wrap or even a simple plastic shopping bag for several hours. Baggying can also be applied to just the ends of the hair.
Cutting off all the relaxed hair regardless of the amount of new growth.
Braid–n–Curl. A styling technique where the hair is braided and the ends are set with rollers or rods to create curl definition.
Occurs when part of the hair strand breaks without the entire strand remaining completely intact. This is different from shedding because there is no white bulb at the root of the hair strand.
A styling technique where the hair is braided to get create curl definition. The hair is then unbraided resulting in a full, crimped hairstyle.
Bra Strap 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 your bra strap, it qualifies as BSL.
These are also known as base oils. They are used to dilute pure essential oils 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.
Collar Bone 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 your collar bone it qualifies as CBL.
Refers to the “Curly Girl” method explained in the book by Lorraine Massey. It is a philosophy for curls that involves, no or low shampoo usage, cone avoidance, and conditioner washing, just to name a few.
A method of cleaning your hair using conditioner instead of shampoo. This is believed to avoid stripping the hair of its natural oils.
A hairstyle consisting of tiny, sectioned curls all over the head. This style is most commonly seen on hair of short to medium lengths and is achieved by twirling the hair with the fingers or a rattail comb.
Short for silicones, which are found in hair products to help smooth, protect and add shine to the hair. In some cases, cones have been found to weaken the hair shaft.
A hairstyle consisting of hair that is braided closely to the scalp using techniques that may involve three or more sections of hair.
Conditioner, Wash, Conditioner. Hair is pretreated with conditioner before shampooing to help it retain moisture. It is then conditioned again after washing.
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 and requires very gentle handling to avoid breakage where the two textures meet.
Deep Treatment or Deep Conditioner. A DT is when you leave a moisturizing (or protein based, depending on your needs) conditioner on your hair for an extended period of time, along with a heat source to aid in penetration.
Essential Oil. Essential oils are the highly concentrated, volatile, aromatic essences of plants. They are non-oily, highly fragrant oils that are extracted from plants and evaporate quickly.
EVCO- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Hair cells on the hair strand that overlap and protect the inner layers of the hair known as the cortex and the medulla.
The number of hairs growing on the scalp per square inch. Density is qualified as thin (low), medium or thick (high).
The ability of the hair to be pulled or stretched out and return to its regular shape without breaking or snapping.
The ability of the hair to soak up moisture. The more porous a strand is, the more quickly water will be absorbed into the cuticle.
A coating of natural oil that protects the hair and makes it shinier. The straighter the hair, 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.
HG- Holy Grail. A group of products that you love and use regularly to care for your hair.
HIH-Hand in Hair (syndrome). This is a funny way of describing your lack of self control when it comes to touching your hair.
Ingredients in hair products that help draw moisture from the air and into the hair shaft. The hair can become dry if the air is dry as well, so usage of humectants is recommended when there is moisture is in the air.
A technique performed to stretch, measure and record the length of the hair.
Gaining length to the hair by reducing or eliminating breakage from the ends of the hair. Maximum length retention can be achieved by wearing protective styles that require little manipulation and protect fragile ends.
A hairstyle consisting of coiled, ropelike strands created from shed hair that “locks” onto itself. Hair is not detangled or combed during the locking process, which causes the strands to bond and form into locs.
Doing very little styling to your hair on an infrequent basis. The less you manipulate your hair, the less breakage you will have.
Mid Back 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 the middle of your back it qualifies as MBL.
The anniversary of the day you became a natural. If you became fully natural on January 1st, every January first thereafter will be considered your Naturalversary.
A bedtime hair sleeping technique that curlies with long hair use to preserve and protect curls overnight so that they have great 2nd day hair. You gather all of your hair in a high, but loose ponytail at the top of your head and go to sleep on a satin pillowcase. In the morning you take it down and shake it out gently and all of your curls will have been preserved.
Product Junkie. Someone who buys too many hair care products. They have more than enough products already, but will still buy more.
A treatment applied to your hair prior to shampooing. It usually consists of oils and/or conditioners applied the night before the shampoo or immediately prior, with a heat source to help penetrate. This is usually performed to help the hair maintain necessary moisture during the drying shampoo process.
A style that requires little manipulation, protects the ends of the hair by keeping them tucked away and allows regular moisturizing. Common protective styles are twists, coils, flat twists, braids, and roll, tuck and pin styles.
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.
The act of sealing moisture in the hair, specifically the ends. For sealing to be effective, you should first wet your hair, then add a water-based leave-in conditioner and then seal with an oil, followed by a moisturizer to soften your hair strand.
This is used to describe how slippery a conditioner or detangling product is. The more slip it has, the more effectively it will coat the hair to aid in detangling.
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 releasing the hair back to an afro.
Twist-n-Curl. A styling technique where the hair is styled in two-strand twists and rollers are put on the ends.
The period of time since one’s last chemical relaxer.
Teeny Weeny Afro. Natural hair that is very short.
A styling technique where hair is styled in two-strand twists then later released. 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.
Washing your hair and letting it air dry. This is also knowns as WNG, and W&G.