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Get up to speed on some of the terminology used to describe natural hair. Here are some frequently used words that you’ll probably hear or read as you delve deeper into the world of kinky, curly hair. Some words have different meanings, depending on the regions where they are used or personal preferences. Read on for our take on natural hair vocabulary words.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

B

Banding – A method that allows for the stretching of natural curls and kinks. Natural hair is sectioned, twisted, braided or left loose. Ponytail holders are then placed along the length of each section and left in for a few hours or overnight. The end result is hair that is elongated or stretched to maximize hair length.

Bantu Knots – Coiling sections of the hair into a tight ball or “knot”. Many naturals prefer bantu knots over twist outs or braid outs to create curls. The style can also be worn knotted.

Big Chop – A big chop is the act of cutting a significant portion of the hair. Usually the hair is cut down to the new growth. People who have relaxed hair or damaged hair might choose do a big chop, or drastically cut their hair to remove the relaxer or the damaged parts.  Also referred to as the “BC”.

Braids – Typically braids can include cornrows or plaits of all sizes. Braids are formed with three strands of hair, which are intertwined in a specific pattern.

Braid-out –  A braid-out is a style in which plaits or cornrows are removed from the hair, leaving behind a crimped pattern.

C

Cornrows – When hair is braided in such a way that the braids are attached to the scalp, the style is called cornrows. They are sometimes, but not always, vertical.

Co-washing – Washing the hair using conditioner instead of shampoo.  Co-washing is recommended as a way of retaining moisture in the hair. Hair is washed and rinsed in the same way one would use shampoo.

Curl Pattern – The shape or “pattern’ of your natural hair.  Curl patterns vary.  Some hair is tightly coiled  with a “z” shape pattern.  Some patterns are similar to small, tightly coiled spirals, while other patterns range from loose spirals to waves.  Stylist Andre Walker developed a system that defines each curl pattern. Learn about curl patterns including help with identifying your pattern here.

D

Dreadlocks – A method by which hair in its natural state is twisted and allowed to matte together, creating a tightly woven, often rope-like hairstyle.

F

Fairy Knots, (Single Strand Knots) – Tiny little balls of tightly tangled hair that appear at the ends, (or sometimes in the middle) of hair strands.

Flat twists – These twists are attached to the head. They are similar to cornrows, but they are formed with two strands of hair instead of three.

H

Hair Stretching – Method that allows you to add length to natural hair by releasing some of the natural coils. Braids, plaits, twists, even a blow dryer on low heat aimed at the hair roots can be used to stretch kinky curly hair. There are also products that can be used to elongate the curl pattern for those who want more length.

L

LOC Method: The LOC method is a way to infuse moisture and alleviate dryness.  LOC is an acronym for L: Liquid, O: Oil, C: Cream.  The method requires starting with wet hair, (applying water or the liquid).  Apply an oil and then a cream to the hair.  You can either style as usual or put a plastic cap on for a period of time, then rinse.

Locs – Short for Dreadlocks

N

No Poo – The term “no poo” means ” to not shampoo”; basically using hair cleansing products that don’t contain sulfates. Many naturals choose to co-wash, (use conditioner) to was their tresses.

S

Sealing Hair –  May also be referred to  as “sealing the ends”.  Sealing is the process of locking in moisture by applying an oil to wet hair.  Natural hair is very prone to dryness.  A very effective way to maintain moisture and combat dryness is to “seal in the moisture” obtained by the hair being wet by also applying an oil on top of the wet and conditioned hair to lock in moisture.  Popular oils include Coconut, Jojoba, Almond, Argan, and Castor Oil.

Shingling – Applying conditioner, oil, or curl defining cremes or gels to freshly washed natural hair, then using your fingers, comb, or a brush to gently stretch and define the curl pattern of natural hair while the hair is still wet.  There are different schools of thought as to whether you should use your fingers only, or a comb or brush. Some people swear by Denman brushes as a way to bring out maximum curl definition in natural hair, while others prefer using a wide tooth comb or just their fingers.

Single Strand Knots – (See Fairy Knots)

Sisterlocks – Thin dreadlocks that are installed using a unique process. The name of this style has been trademarked by Joanne Cornwell. People who opt for Sisterlocks, visit stylists who are specifically trained to complete and maintain the style. After several months, individuals can learn how to maintain the locks themselves, but because they are so small, it takes a lot of patience for a novice to tighten them.

Slip or Slippage – Slip also known as slippage is the level of conditioning in a product that allows for hair to be easily detangled. A product with slip helps to detangle hair and ease knots for easier comb thru when wet.

Sulfates – The detergent used in many traditional shampoos that create lather. Because of the delicate nature of kinky and curly hair, shampoos with sulfates are too harsh and can cause drying and breakage. Many naturals prefer the “no poo” method of cleansing their hair.

T

Transitioning – Also referenced as “Transitioning from relaxer”.  The process of growing one’s natural hair while still having relaxed ends.  Many women don’t want to go the route of the “Big Chop” for personal preference reasons and prefer to continue to grow their hair natural without cutting off too much hair overall.  Many use “Transitioning Hairstyles” during this period until they are ready to cut off the relaxed ends.

Transitioning Hairstyles – Styles that all you to blend the relaxed ends with the growing natural hair so that the line of demarcation between the relaxed and natural hair is not as noticeable.  Many women wear braid-outs or twist-outs during this period, while others use perm rods or flex rods to set their hair.  Still others may decide to braid their hair during the transition.

Twists – Twists are formed with two strands of hair instead of three strands. The two strands of hair are wrapped around each other, twisted together to the ends of the hair.

Twist-Out – A style created from twists is called a twist out. The hair is usually twisted while damp or after it is sprayed with a setting lotion. Once the hair dries, the twists are removed and curls are formed from the twists.

W

Wash and Go – The process of washing, conditioning natural hair, and then letting it dry; without manipulating the hair in any way, (by braiding, twisting, or combing it).  Some women do use the shingling method with wash and go’s, (see “Shingling”)

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