Taking a new terminology course? Relocating to a different region? Just arriving on Mars? None of the above? Oh I see… You’ve just had your first conversation with a seasoned naturalista, or better yet, ran across a blog like this and had to double-check that your browser was set to the right language! Well have no fear, and take that Natural Hair for Dummies book out of your Amazon cart! Below I’ve assembled some of the most common and relevant lingo heard in the natural hair community – so check it out and flaunt that Black Curl Power!
** Note that terms are not in alphabetical order. They are arranged in order of popularity and succession aka which questions I am asked about first and most often.
Natural: Hair that has not been chemically-altered by a straightening treatment such as a relaxer or texturizer.
Relaxer: A chemical treatment that alters the natural hair texture by reducing the curl pattern to achieve permanently straight hair.
Lye: A strong alkaline solution (as of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) – Used as a key ingredient in professional/salon relaxers, typically substituted for a milder ingredient in at-home relaxers (no-lye relaxers).
Texturizer: A milder form of a relaxer that loosens the curl pattern while maintaining some of the natural texture.
New Growth: The amount of natural unprocessed hair that grows from the scalp in contrast to the chemically-altered texture.
Line of Demarcation: The point where the chemically-processed and natural hair textures meet; The most fragile part of the hair.
Big Chop: The process of cutting off chemically processed (i.e. relaxed or color-treated) ends to achieve a fully natural state.
Transition: The process of gradually growing out chemically-processed ends to achieve a natural state rather than big chopping.
Shrinkage: A phenomenon that makes natural hair of a given length appear much shorter when wet and/or styled to maintain the natural curl pattern. Typically, the tighter the curl, the higher the shrinkage. Check out this BuzzFeed post for pictures that perfectly explain what shrinkage looks like!
Stretching: Styles or manipulation used to combat shrinkage such as roller sets or braiding.
Wash and go: Low manipulation hairstyle in which usually only a conditioner or gel is applied to freshly washed hair to define curls and then left to dry to achieve final style.
Pre-Poo: Applying a mixture of natural oils or deep conditioner at least 30 minutes before you shampoo to improve manageability and softness.
Co-Wash: To wash the hair with conditioner, rather than shampoo.
Slip: Short for slipperiness of a hair product; a sought-out quality for naturals. A product that has good slip means that its consistency spreads through the hair well and allows for easy detangling.
Porosity: The ability to which the hair can absorb and retain moisture. Product use and application may vary to better serve porosity level.
LOC: Short for the Liquid Oil Cream Method; One of two popular techniques within the natural hair community for moisturizing hair. Better for high porosity.
LCO: Short for the Liquid Cream Oil Method; One of two popular techniques within the natural hair community for moisturizing hair. Better for low porosity hair.
Sealing: To apply an oil or butter to the ends of the hair after moisturizing with a cream or conditioner to seal in moisture and minimize breakage.
Pineappleing: Putting hair in a high loose ponytail on top of the head (typically when sleeping) to preserve hairstyle and maintain curls.
Protective Styles: Any style that hides and protects the ends from damage. This includes overexposure to the elements, friction and environmental pollution.
3abc/4a/4b/4c (Hair Typing): The act of identifying your curl pattern so that you can better understand your hair and communicate with others of a similar texture. Based off a widely accepted system categorizing hair textures typically found within the natural community.
You can learn more about basics of hair typing here:
Hair Length Abbreviations: Often used to document and describe hair growth
- TWA – Teeny Weeny Afro
- CL – Chin Length
- SL – Shoulder Length
- APL – Arm Pit Length
- BSL – Bra Strap Length
- MBL – Mid – Back Length
- WSL – Waist Length
- TBL – Tailbone Length