They are everywhere in the natural hair community – natural hair acronyms and terminologies. Your favorite natural hair bloggers and YouTubers use them and older naturals make inside jokes or conversations with them in the comment section but you have no clue what they’re talking about. This is a common situation many new naturals face and quite frankly, even long-time naturalistas don’t know or always remember them all. In this comprehensive and regularly updated natural hair glossary, we’ll look at the A-Z of natural hair, to help you get the most of hair tips and resources that use natural hair acronyms and terms.


Natural Hair Glossary: A-Z of Natural Hair


Table of Contents

Natural Hair Acronyms


used to describe curl patterns, based on a classification by Andre Walker, with 4c being hair with the smallest/tightest curl pattern and 3a being hair with the loosest curls on the curl scale.

This classification has, however, been a subject of intense debate in recent times. And due to its shortcomings in accommodating all curl variations, many naturalistas no longer use the classification. Substitutions for this classification include the use of “type 3” (larger curls) and “type 4” (smaller curls); or “curly” (loose curls), “coily” (smaller curls); and “kinky,” (yet smaller or tighter curls).

ACV – Apple Cider Vinegar

a mix of water and Apple Cider Vinegar, used as a hair rinse to close follicles and add luster to hair; also included in DIY treatments such as clay and Ayurveda masks

AD – Afro Detangler

a detangling brush or comb that makes detangling easy; sometimes also used to refer to detangling products

ALS – Awkward Length Stage / Awkward Length Phase

a stage in hair growth where one’s hair is past a TWA but still not long enough to form a medium-sized fro, or longer than ear-length but not up to shoulder-length

also Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate / Ammonium Laureth Sulfate –a lathering agent found in shampoos that causes drying and thus, advisably avoided by naturalistas seeking healthy hair

APL – Armpit Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches one’s armpit when stretched.

AVG – Aloe Vera Gel

a natural gel obtained from Aloe Vera leaves that has many beneficial properties including conditioning. It does not have as much hold as flaxseed gel but is an excellent detangler and might substitute artificial gels for a very lightweight styling option

AVJ – Aloe Vera Juice

used interchangeably with Aloe Vera Gel but is typically a mixture of the gel and some water

BAA – Big A** Afro

a term used to describe a very large afro that has been picked out

BC – Big Chop

a quick way to return natural, which involves cutting off all your relaxed or chemically-processed ends

BnC – Braid and Curl

low-manipulation style achieved from plaits or braids that have their ends curled with Flexi rods, rollers, or some other curl-formers

BSL – Bra-Strap Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches the level of one’s bra strap when stretched

BSS – Beauty Supply Store

as the name implies, a store where you can get beauty supplies, including natural hair products

CBL – Collarbone Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches one’s collarbones when stretched.

CG – Curly Girl (Method)

hair regimen for curly hair, developed by Lorraine Massey for healthy curls. It involves no shampooing, no heat, and the use of some intense moisturizing treatments.

CHC – Curly Hair Care

a regimen, of different variants, adopted by people with curly natural hair to take care of their curls

CL – Chin Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches one’s chin when a tress from the front is stretched.

CWC – Conditioner, Wash, Conditioner

moisture retention process that involves applying a conditioner on hair before using a shampoo to wash and then conditioning the hair after washing for intense moisture

DC – Deep Condition(er)

a process that involves leaving either a deep conditioner for an extended period (anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours) and often includes using a heat source for increased penetration

DIY – Do It Yourself

self- and homemade natural hair products that are done with readily available ingredients and resources. Examples are shampoos, conditioners (leave-ins and deep conditioners), gels, and even wigs and weaves.

DT – Deep Treatment

sometimes also used to refer to deep conditioning; a process that involves leaving either a moisturizing or protein (or a mixture of both) deep conditioner or other hair treatment for an extended period (anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours) and might include using indirect heat for increased penetration

EL – Ear Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches one’s ear when a tress on the side is stretched.

EO – Essential Oil

concentrated and aromatic oil derived from a plant, with its essence – flavor and scent – that offer various benefits to hair, including promoting growth. Examples are lavender, neem, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, etc.

EVCO – Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

a penetrating oil that conditions hair, boosts growth and adds shine to hair. It is used by many naturalistas as the “O” in their moisturizing techniques and added to several DIY products.

EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

a carrier oil that adds shine and seals in moisture, also used as a prepoo treatment

FSG – Flaxseed Gel

a DIY gel made from flax seeds and is famous for being lightweight, not leaving flakes or residue, and being moisturizing in contrast with many store-bought gels that dry hair out

GHE – Green House Effect

a method used to infuse intense moisture into the hair, which involves using a plastic bag and allowing one’s body heat to create a warm moist condition for the hair to absorb moisture. It is usually done overnight. This method is not to be confused with the baggy method. In the baggy method, conditioner is used, whereas only a water spritz and oils are used in the Green House process.

HBL – Hipbone Length

hair length; referring to hair that reaches one’s hips when stretched

HG – Holy Grail

any natural hair product that naturalistas vouch for as tested and true

HL – Hip Length

see Hipbone Length in (27) above

HHG – Happy Hair Growing

a term used to describe healthy natural hair that is flourishing

HHJ – Healthy Hair Journey

the entire process and period during which one grows and maintains healthy natural hair

HIH – Hand In Hair syndrome

the habit of frequently manipulating or touching one’s hair unconsciously, at the detriment of the health of the hair as it induces breakage

HOTD – Hair Of The Day

referring to hairstyle worn on a particular day; a hashtag used on social media to accompany photos of said hairstyle

JBCO – Jamaican Black Castor Oil

oil that is derived from Jamaican castor beans and is vouched by many naturalistas to immensely promote hair growth

KHC – Kinky Hair Care

any regimen, of different variants, adopted by people with kinky natural hair to take care of their kinks

LC – Length Check

the process of determining the length of one’s hair and track one’s hair growth, either by stretching it against one’s body, using a length check shirt or with a measuring tape

LC – Liquid, Cream

a hair moisturizing technique that involves layering a liquid (water, mist, or water-based conditioner) and cream, in that order.

LCEG – Liquid, Cream, Enhancer, Gel

a moisturizing technique used to achieve wash-n-go styles, involving the layering of a liquid, cream, curl enhancer, and/or gel.

LCO – Liquid, Cream, Oil

a moisturizing method that involves applying a liquid, cream, and oil, in that order.

LOC – Liquid, Oil, Cream

a moisturizing method that involves layering liquid, oil, and cream, in that order. The liquid could be water, a hydrating mist, or a water-based conditioner; while the cream could be butter, cream, pomade, or even a styling custard.

MBL – Mid-Back Length

hair length, referring to hair that reaches one’s back – between bra strap length and waist length – when stretched.

M&S – Moisturise and Seal

a process that promotes length-retention by preventing breakage, through applying moisture and sealing in the moisture with a sealing cream, butter, or oil to retain moisture

NG – New Growth

scab hair; natural hair at the roots of hair that has not been relaxed in a while

also, hair that grows under a protective style such as braids, twists, and cornrows that have been left in for a long period

PJ – Product Junkie

a person who buys hair products in excess, even when they already have something similar and do not need new ones

PS – Protective Style

any style that promotes length-retention by preventing breakage and harm from harsh elements. Examples are braids, twists, cornrows, weaves, wigs, and up-dos, among others.

PVP – Polyvinylpyrrolidone

a binding polymer derived from petroleum, which gives products hold and is found in most gels and hairsprays

RS – Rod/Roller Set

a low-manipulation style that involves using perm rods or rollers to achieve curls.

SE – Split End

tip of hair strands that have been split, either from ripping knots or from dryness, and which give the ends of the hair a scraggly appearance

SL -Shoulder Length

hair length, referring to hair that reaches one’s shoulders when stretched

SOTC – Scrunch Out The Crunch

the process of squeezing out the cast left by a gel during styling

SSK – Single Strand Knot

a knot formed with a hair strand tangles and ties itself, usually but not always, at the ends

S&D – Search and Destroy

a trimming method that involves “searching” for split ends under good lighting and cutting them off, rather than a thorough trimming of all ends

TBL – Tailbone Length

used interchangeably with waist-length, describing hair that reaches one’s tailbone (bottom of the spine) when stretched

TLC – Tender Loving Care

love, attention, and gentle treatment given to natural hair to make it thrive

TWA – Teeny Weeny Afro

natural hair that is only a few inches long; the low-cut afro that is often the result of a big chop

WHC – Wavy Hair Care

any regimen, of different variations, adopted by people with wavy natural hair to take care of their hair waves

WL – Waist Length

hair length, referring to hair that reaches one’s waist when stretched

WO – Water only

a regimen that includes using only water for washing or moisturizing

WOB – Water, Oil, Butter

a simple moisturizing technique that involves applying only water, an oil, and butter, in that order

WNG / W&G – Wash and Go

a low-manipulation style that is done on washed hair and achieved either by applying a gel or layering products, including a curl-enhancer, to define curls

A-Z of Natural Hair



beautifying items added to create or enhance a hairstyle. Examples are hairpins, headbands, scarves, etc.

“I got these cute accessories from the MyKitchenIsCoily shop; you should get some too.”

Accordion method

a curl-defining technique developed by Lorraine Massey in her book, Curly Girl, which involves scrunching or squeezing products into your hair like playing the accordion

“I achieved these curls through the accordion method.”


a natural hairstyle on coily, kinky, or curly hair, whether shrunken or stretched, that makes it look big and often takes either a round or heart-shape

“It is delightful to see many women rock their afro.”

Air dry

the process of letting air dry one’s hair, rather than using a dryer, diffuser, or any other drying tool

“During our no-heat hair challenge, we will air dry our hair.”


loss of hair often resulting from medical conditions but could also be a result of tight hairstyles that cause undue tension on the scalp, in which case it is referred to as traction alopecia

“Constantly putting my hair in tight ponytails cost me my edges and left me with alopecia.”


medicinal and highly potent herbs and oils used in achieving thick, healthy, and long hair. Ayurvedic herbs include Amla, bhringraj, methi, neem, ambunu, fenugreek, hibiscus, among many others and can be used in a number of ways such as in deep conditioning masks, oil infusions, tea rinses, etc.

“I’ve gained inches and thickness since I introduced Ayurveda into my regimen.”



referring to all harmful and detrimental ingredients in natural hair products, which dry out hair and strip it of its nutrients

“Be sure to watch out for baddies in the ingredient list of any product you wish to buy.”

Baggy / baggy job / baggying

a technique that involves sealing in moisture with a plastic cap overnight or for several hours. It boosts moisture absorption and retention, thus eliminating dryness and reducing breakage.

“By doing a baggy job once every week, I have retained so much length.”


a stretching technique that involves pulling the hair into one ponytail or sectioning them into several small ones and twining elastic bands along the length of the hair. This process, usually done on damp hair and overnight, helps to prevent shrinkage and show off more length.

“Banding is my go-to means of achieving a stretched-out fro.”

Bantu knots

also referred to as Zulu knots; a protective style in which hair is divided into sections, whether square, triangular, or diamond in shape, and then sections and rolled or twisted and wound around themselves individually to form knots.

“I have always loved the traditional look of Bantu knots on my hair.”

Bantu knot-out

a low-manipulation and curl-defining style resulting from taking down Bantu knots after they dry. The curls achieved from this style are stretched curls that take the size of the knots from which they came, thus smaller knots would produce smaller curls and larger knots, larger curls.

“When I want stretched curls without using hear, I choose Bantu knot-out.”


the process of drying hair with a blow dryer, often on low heat and may not necessarily result in extremely stretched out hair in blowouts

“Blow drying is a life-saver if you have high-density hair and do not have hours to wait for air-drying.”

Blow out

a styling technique used to stretch out natural coils, kinks, and curls by using a blow dryer and brushes or combs

“Getting a blow out done before installing my protective styles helps me achieve results with more length.”


protective style and stretching method made by dividing sections of hair into three strands of hair and interlacing them together

“Braids are a great option if you want a protective style that lasts longer.”


a low-manipulation and curl-defining style resulting from taking down braids after they dry. As in Bantu knot-out, the curls achieved from this style are stretched curls that take the size of the braids from which they came.

“She styles her braid-out in the prettiest of ways.”


a situation where strands snap or ‘break’ due to excess manipulation and tension, protein overload, or dryness; to be differentiated from shedding where the entire strand comes off the scalp and which is characterized by a white bulb on one end

“You experience more breakage when you wear your hair in tight braids than when you wear it in loose twists.”


a friend with whom one shares their hair journey. See more about who a natural hair buddy is and why you need one here.

“My sister is my hair buddy, we even share washdays.”


a head cap that is an alternative to a satin cap or scarf used for pineappling

“Because I have short curly hair, my buff is very handy for my nighttime routine.”


an accumulation of products on strands and scalp that hinders growth by clogging up follicles and clogs

“I can go as long as four weeks without buildup since I’m not heavy-handed with my products.”


a protective style in which hair is pulled back and held as one at either above one’s neck, on top or back of the head, or even on the sides and the ends tucked in by wrapping the ponytail around itself. Pins, barrettes, scrunchies, or hair ties can be used to secure the bun.

“I rarely leave my hair out. When it’s not in an installed protective style, it’s in a bun.”



a layer over hair that is created by frizz, controlled by conditioning or use of an anti-frizz gel

“You can see the canopy over my braids a week or two after installation.”

Carrier (oil)

base oil; used to dilute essential oils to promote penetration and prevent risks of burns or irritation of scalp or skin. Examples include Vitamin E, grapeseed, and olive oil, to mention some.

“Olive oil is the one carrier oil I never run out of.”


the stiffening coating over hair strands, which is created by styling gel, causing the curls to stay in place

“To undo wash-n-gos, start by breaking the gel cast with an oil or cream.”


to wash and cleanse hair and scalp in order to eliminate dirt and build-up from products or sebum, all of which could clog scalp pores and hair follicles, preventing growth

“There’s so much product buildup on my scalp, I really need to clarify.”

Clay wash

to use clay to detoxify hair of impurities. Any of the popular types of clay; Bentonite, Kaolin, or Rhassoul can be used to make a mask with water or ACV, applied to hair for a few minutes, and then rinsed out.

“I have replaced frequent shampooing with clay washes in my regimen.”


causing curls to stick together to form ‘clumps’ through techniques such as pulsing, praying method, and squishing

“I get really great results from clumping my curls to form larger ones.”

also a low-manipulation style advocated for by several natural hair influencers, including Asha (Naturally High) where twists are done with the roots braided and on takedown, the braided roots are left and the twined sections left ‘clumped’ rather than detangled. See more about how to do clumping and maintain clumps in the video below.

Coils /Coily

referring to natural hair with tight or small s-curls that wind up like a telephone wire or coil

“I love how my coils bounce.”

also, a natural hairstyle achieved with stylers and fingers or rat-tail combs to form defined coils

“I’ve had these coils since Tuesday; they’re still defined.”

Comb coils

a curl-defining technique that is especially popular among short-haired naturals. This low-manipulation style involves sectioning hair into small parts and then placing the end of a rat-tail comb at the base of the section (the root), turning it in a clockwise direction until a coil is formed. Stylers such as gels, curl custards, and butters are often used to achieve this style.

“Her favorite hairstyle is comb coils; she always has them on.”


silicones; water-insoluble ingredients that cause build-up on hair and scalp, weaken hair shaft, and hinder hair growth in the long run

“I make sure to stay away from products with -cones in them.”


a protective braiding style where the braids lie in rows on the scalp. Different patterns and designs can be achieved with cornrows, including the famous Fulani braids.

“Cornrows are my favorite! They make my scalp accessible.”


(conditioner-wash); using a conditioner, rather than shampoo for washing one’s hair. The aim is usually to prevent the stripping effect of using some shampoos. This method could be done at definite intervals, in between washes, or as the sole wash method for those on a no-poo regimen.

As per routine, I’d be co-washing my hair the last week of this month.

Creamy crack

relaxers; a term highlighting how some women revert to using relaxers and find it difficult to resist relaxing their hair while transitioning or in their natural hair journey.

“My hair would have been healthier and longer now but I fell into using the creamy crack twice.”


referring to natural hair with strands of either large or smaller S-shape that are smaller than waves but do not coil

“There is a lot of variation in the size of curls among women with curly natural hair.”

Curl Training

the technique and process of building “curl memory,” that is the ability of one’s curls to come out defined every time. Curl training usually involves doing a particular curl-defining style repeatedly for a long period, to help curls learn and master a defined pattern and make it easier to achieve such definition with subsequent styles.

“After curl training my hair with wash-n-gos for six months, it now takes less time and fewer products to achieve defined wash-n-go curls.”

See how Hadassah Agbaps (NappilyNigerianGirl) explains it here.


Demarcation line / Line of demarcation

found in hair that is in the transitioning phase; referring to the point where both natural and relaxed textures meet and where strands are most prone to breakage

“Transitioning naturals need to be gentle with their hair because the demarcation line is so fragile.”


referring to the population of strands of one’s hair, as opposed to texture, which is the size of individual strands. Density could be low (thin hair), medium, or high (thick hair)

“High-density naturals have a lot of hair to deal with and low-density naturals, but so much.”


cutting off about ¼ of an inch of one’s ends. Done at regular intervals, this process helps to manage split ends and give one’s hair a healthy appearance.

“Dusting regularly has helped me keep split ends at a minimum.”



hair located around the perimeter of your hairline, especially those at the front. Edges are usually fragile and most prone to breakage from tension from tight hairstyles.

“I’m on a three-month challenge to regrow my edges.”


hair’s ability to revert to its natural shape or curl pattern when stretched and let go off, without breaking

“The elasticity of healthy curls is one of my favorite things about it.”


ingredients, such as oils, different kinds of butter, fatty alcohols, etc., which repel water by creating a hydrophobic film on the surface of strands, thus sealing already absorbed moisture within the hair shaft. They make hair shiny and provide a glossy slip between strands.

“Emollients are essential ingredients in good sealants.”


referring to add-ons used to create protective styles, giving them extended length, volume, and sometimes longevity. Examples include braiding hair, faux locs, crochets, clip-ins, drawstring ponytails, wigs, sew-in weaves, etc.

“I’d be braiding my hair with extensions this weekend.”


Fairy knots

related to ‘single strand knots’ (SSKs); tiny balls or knots formed by tangled strands, often but not always at the ends

“Fairy knots make detangling such a chore.”

Finger coils

a curl-defining technique that involves sectioning hair into small parts and then placing the base of your index finger at the root of the section, winding the sectioned hair around your finger, and turning it in a clockwise direction until a coil is formed. Like comb coils, this low-manipulation style is often achieved with gels, curl custards or butter.

“Finger coils take a lot of time for me to do but they are so cute that they’re worth it.’

Flat twists

a protective style in which two-strand twists are done like cornrows, where the twists lay firm on the scalp

“Flat twists seem to be one of the most difficult styles for many naturals.”


a method that involves using one’s fingers to separate curls from twists-out, braids-out, Bantu knots-out, or roller sets with the aim of increasing hair volume

“I love big hair so I never wear my fro without fluffing it first.”


a Mohawk that is done on afro hair, with either an undercut or upward cornrows on the sides, or securing the sides with bobby pins

“It’s always a frohawk for an edgy look.”



gel; a styling product with a cast that provides hold in slick-back natural hairstyles and definition in curl-defining styles

“When I need to do a sleek low bun, I reach out for my gelee and it serves me well.”


a heavy sealant use to lock in moisture and soothe dry scalp, the use of which is highly controversial because petroleum or mineral oil is one of its ingredients

“I’ve been using grease as a sealant and it keeps my hair moisturized for days.”



also, Nappyversary, Nattyversary; referring to the anniversary date of one’s returning fully natural

“Today is my 5th Hairnniversary!”

Hair cuticle

overlapping layers of dead cells that form the outermost part of the hair shaft, which protects the shaft

“Warm water would lift your hair cuticles, so it’s effective for people with low porosity hair to use warm water spritz before moisturizing.”

Hair twin

a person whose hair has similar characteristics or appearance as another

“I love her hair; she’s my hair twin!”

Heat damage

a situation where curls have a constantly dry, thin, and lifeless appearance, resulting from frequently drying and styling hair with high heat. While minimal damage can be corrected with timely protein treatments, heat damaged hair is best cut off.

“The reason I no longer use direct heat on my hair is that I’ve had heat damage before and it wasn’t nice.”

Heat protectant

any serum, cream, or natural hair product applied to the hair before using heat, which combats the potentially damaging effects of high temperatures

“If you’re going to use heat, then use a heat protectant.”

Hot Head

a thermal cap used to add indirect heat for increased penetration of products during deep conditioning

“My hair always absorbs products better when I use a thermal cap.”


natural ingredients, such as honey, sorbitol, and glycerin, which draw moisture from the humid atmosphere into the hair shaft

“Using products with humectants during seasons with dry air is a terrible idea.”

Hygral fatigue

the weakening of curls caused by excess moisture and resulting in a lifeless and limp appearance of curls

“You can prevent hygral fatigue by balancing protein and moisture in your hair and avoiding over-conditioning.”



also, Type 4c or tight Type 4 hair; referring to hair with tightly-packed coils and has the most shrinkage rate out of all curl types

“My daughter’s hair is all kinks and she loves to see her tiny coils spring.”


nape hair; hair that is on the perimeter just above one’s neck, at the back of the head

“My kitchen is coily.”


Length Check

the process of checking one’s hair length, involving stretching, measuring one’s hair, and recording the results, either in writing or through pictures

“I do a length check every three months to track my progress.”

Length Retention

the process of reducing breakage in order to maintain the length of one’s hair as hair continues to grow. Adequate moisturizing and protective styles greatly aid length retention.

“Her hair was growing quite alright but her length retention game was poor so her hair stayed short for a really long time.”


a popular protective style created by natural hair influencer, Lilian Okibe where the hair is divided into small sections which are braided tightly at the roots, then very loosely down the length of the hair, and twisted at the ends. The finished style gives the appearance of old locs. See how to do it here.

“I joined the train and did LilianOkibeTemporaryLocs on my hair.”


a long-term protective style that involves coiling hair into rope-like strands and allowing strands to bond or twine around themselves to form individual locs

“I wouldn’t do permanent locs if I have to cut my hair to take them down.”

Low-manipulation style

any natural hairstyle that does not require excess manipulation to maintain but still requires a measure of regular styling, as opposed to protective styles that greatly reduce manipulation. Examples include twists-out, braids-out, Bantu knot-out, wash-n-go’s, etc.

“Wash-n-go’s are a very efficient low-manipulation style since I don’t have to do so much with my hair every morning.”


Medusa clipping

an alternative to pineappling, for naturals with short curls. It involves preserving curls overnight by using clips or pins to pin up the hair in sections

“Until I can pineapple my hair, I’ve got to stick with Medusa clipping.”



See ‘Hairnniversary’ above


a combination term from ‘natural’ and ‘sista’; a person who has natural hair, whether wavy, coily, kinky, or curly

“Every female in my house is a naturalista; it’s such a delight to see.”


part of the Curly Girl Method but also practiced by several outside the Curly Girl community; a regimen that excludes the use of shampoos, substituting it with conditioners or cleansing masks

“Since I began the no-poo regimen, I have always used a clay mask to cleanse my hair.”


Oil rinse

a post-shampoo process where one liberally applies a penetrating oil or oil mix and leaves it in for a few minutes (a conditioner may be added but this is optional) and then rinses it off. The process helps to promote moisture and offers the benefits of the oil used. Penetrating oils include avocado, argan, jojoba, coconut, and grapeseed oils, to mention some.

“Oil rinses are a big part of my wash routine.”



the process of using a comb to increase the volume of curls by lifting only the roots of the hair; also refers to the comb used for this process

“When I want the most volume, I pick my roots before fluffing my curls.”


a style often used as part of a night routine to preserve curls where the hair is kept in a loose high ponytail. It may also be worn during the day as a low-manipulation style

“I took down my pineapple a few minutes ago and it’s good to see that I still have my curls.”


a drying technique that involves wrapping one’s hair with a towel or cloth

“I don’t have a microfiber towel so I use an old t-shirt for plopping and it works.”


the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. Hair with low porosity takes time to absorb moisture and retains moisture for a longer period than hair with high porosity, which absorbs moisture quickly and loses moisture just as fast.

“My highly porous hair loves heavy sealants since they help to retain moisture longer.”

Praying hands

used to describe the position of hands for applying products, in which the product is spread between both palms and the palms are placed together – as though one is praying – with the section of hair sandwiched in between the palms, and then the product is tapped in as palms move along the length of the hair.

“To get your products in, apply with praying hands.”


a pre-wash process that involves coating the hair strands with oil or products to prevent stripping of nutrients while washing or an overload of moisture from water.

I find my hair to be more moisturized on washdays when I don’t skip pre-poo.

Protective Style

any hairstyle for natural hair that protects one’s hair from constant-manipulation, tangling, and harsh weather. They can be made with or without extensions and include braids, twists, cornrows, locs, faux locs, buns, wigs, etc.

“For the next four weeks, I’d be wearing my hair in these goddess braids as a protective style.”

Protein-moisture balance

a situation where hair has the adequate amount of protein and moisture that it needs to thrive, enabled by alternating products that offer each (for example, using a moisturizing conditioner for three washes and a protein deep treatment for the next). Since hair varies, there is no hard and fast rule and individuals must find the routine that leaves their curls bouncy, with little breakage, and well defined.

“Not deep conditioning overnight and using a protein treatment once every six weeks is how I maintain my hair’s protein-moisture balance.”

Protein treatment

a protein-based product used as a deep treatment to strengthen strands

“Doing a protein treatment once every month has helped me reduce breakage and shedding.”


a low-manipulation style where one’s hair is pulled together and a hair tie or band is placed at the base and then tightened and moved upwards to lift the hair.

“Puffs are one of the easiest natural hairstyles to achieve.”

Here’s an example of a puff on Jaelen’s colored hair.


styling technique where gel is gently pressed with both palms into sections of freshly-washed hair

“This look was definitely easy to achieve; all it took was a gel and some pulsing.”



a curl-defining technique that produces smaller clumps of curls and distributes products better. It involves using one’s fingers to comb or ‘rake’ through small sections of hair.

“Raking with my fingers is how I always achieve these small defined curls.”


to revive loose curls or protective styles by hydrating and adding moisture a few days after styling your hair

“Every three days after installing my twists, I add moisture to refresh them and reduce frizz.”


a detailed plan, consisting of practices and products, meant to promote and maintain the health of one’s hair

“I have used my current hair regimen for the last six months and have seen great progress in my hair length and health.”


Scab hair

new growth, often wiry and crinkly

“In the early stages of my transition, my scab hair made my hair look unkempt.”

Scalp treatment

natural hair product intended for scalp use, either to address a scalp condition such as dryness or dandruff or to prevent and manage itching during long-term protective styles

“When my scalp itching got worse, I knew it was time to take down my braids and get a scalp treatment.”


to gently squeeze products into sections of hair during styling, either with one fist or with both palms as in pulsing

“I heard the best results come with scrunching in the product for two to three minutes and in an upward direction.”


the natural oil that is produced by and coats the scalp and which is difficult to travel down the strands of coily, kinky, and curly natural hair. Depending on several factors, some produce more sebum than others.

“I find scalp massages a great way to activate my sebum and use the opportunity to spread it down my strands.”


the process of dividing one’s hair into smaller parts, either with one’s fingers or with a rat-tail comb, for styling, easy detangling, or better application of products

“I always section my hair into three parts for washing.”


Shea, Mango, and Cocoa butters; the three popular natural hair butters that are rich in nutrients and fatty acids, are great moisturizing sealants, and also help soften hair.

“There’s SheaManCo in my DIY butter mix.”


hair loss that occurs from the roots, which is not always a concern as hair sheds 50-100 strands every day on average. Excess shedding, however, may result from stress, mineral deficiency, pregnancy and childbirth causing hormonal changes, etc.

“I’ve been experiencing more shedding this past two months due to excess stress.”


a curl-defining technique often used to achieve wash-and-gos. The technique was developed in Miss Jessie’s salon and involves applying a leave-in conditioner and a gel from roots to end in sections. Then, the products are spread in a downward direction while stretching the hair and smoothing it out. The clumped curls are then separated and the process, repeated in another section.

“If you have the time, shingling is a great way to define your curls.”


reduction in visible length of hair, caused by tightening of curls and giving an appearance of shorter hair. Shrinkage usually occurs on hair that is wet, styled to enhance curls (as in wash-n-go’s), or let out in styles without banding (as in fros, twists, braids, etc).

“My mid-back-length hair can look like shoulder-length hair because of shrinkage.”


tiny dreadlocks achieved with a specialized tool, created and patented by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell, and often without held or waxes

“She has worn her sisterlocks for over a year now.”


of natural hair products, especially conditioners and detanglers, referring to the ease at which the product lets your hand, comb, or brush glide through your strands. Products with high or good slip make your hair easier to manage, while products with little or no skip do the reverse.

“As soon as I found out the conditioner had no slip, I knew I wasn’t going to make another purchase.”


water, tea, mist, or a lightweight water-based conditioner in a spray bottle used solely to hydrate hair or as a base for moisturizing

“In between moisturizing my hair, I keep my hair hydrated with my spritz made of my conditioner and some water.”

Stretched hair

natural hair that has been stretched; has had its curls elongated to combat shrinkage and it’s resultant tangling, and to show more length. Stretched hair can be achieved by banding, twisting, braiding, or through other stretching techniques either with or without heat.

“African threading gives me maximum stretch without my having to use heat.”

Sun damage

bleaching or discoloration of strands, caused by constant exposure to intense and harsh sunlight

“We have excess sunlight in these parts so I always use sunscreen or cover up my hair when staying out to avoid sun damage.”


Tea rinse

tea of any kind or herbs brewed or steeped in hot water and used as a hair rinse to stop shedding. The tea may be left in and rinsed with water after some minutes or left without rinsing.

“Green tea rinses have helped me combat excess shedding.”


to loosen curls by under-processing hair using a relaxer procedure

“I know it’s different from relaxing, but I’d never texlax my hair.”

Lade is one of the several women who maintain healthy-looking and long texlaxed hair.


a chemical treatment or processing cream that loosens curls and alters texture, differentiated from a relaxer which is intended to remove curls

“I stopped using texturizers, I’m returning to my healthy natural curls now.”


the process of returning natural that involves stopping the use of relaxers and letting one’s natural hair grow out. See more here.

“I didn’t think I could rock a low-cut so I decided to transition instead.”


from ‘twist’ and ‘braid’; a protective style in which hair is braided up to a few inches from the roots and then the remaining part, twisted

“With twaids, you can enjoy twists for a much longer period without fear of your roots locing.”


a low-manipulation style achieved from unraveling twists, whether a short while after installing the twists or after wearing the twists for a longer period.

“When my twists get frizzy, I simply unravel them and rock my twist-outs.”


a protective style of several variations – two-strand twists, three-strand twists, flat twists, loose twists, etc. – done with one’s natural hair or with extensions. The style is achieved by dividing a small section of one’s hair into two even parts, rolling each side and twining them by placing them on each other one after the other. This could be done towards the left (left twists) or the right (right twists) to achieve different appearances.

“Chunky two-strand twists are my favorite protective style, hands down.”



natural hair protective style that involves putting one’s hair up, often in roll, tuck, and pin styles

“Up-dos are perfect for natural hair weddings.”


Virgin hair

a term used to describe natural hair that has not been chemically treated, sometimes viewed offensive

“I was not sure how to respond when she asked if I had Virgin hair.”



a day set aside to wash and style natural hair

“Thursdays are my washdays; they’re my only free days.”

Water rinse

a no-product wash process that involves only running water and the use of the base of one’s fingers to lift dirt from scalp and hair. While this process eliminates dust, large particles, and other debris that are water-soluble, it may not be effective in completely removing heavy products or oils.

“I do a water rinse in between washes when it gets dusty in the dry season.”


a styling process that is similar to the wash-n-go method but requires fewer products. The process involves applying water and leave-in to achieve defined curls. Wet-n-Go curls, however, have less definition than those from ‘wash-n-go’s.

“After washing, I did a quick Wet-n-Go and wore my hair out to work.”