Basics: hair terminology

When you decide to embark on a hair journey, you start to hear all sort of terms. For a lot of people, this might be overwhelming and confusing. I have decided to compile a list of popular hair terminology used in the ‘hair blogosphere’ to help you have a basic understanding of these hair terms.


Prepoo – This is a short form

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of the word, pre-shampoo conditioning. It is basically condtioning your hair prior to shampooing by using a conditioner or oils (e.g extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil for at least 20-30 minutes on your hair). Prepooing helps keep reduce excessive drying from your hair when you shampoo . It also helps to reduce damage caused by hygral fatigue. Hygral fatigue is damage that might occur in hair as a result of the expansion that occurs when hair is wet and the contraction that occurs as the hair dries. If you’re serious about hair care, you should consider doing a prepoo. There’s no harm in trying.

Carrier oils – Are known as base oils or vegetable oils and are used

  • on their own as hot oil treatments
  • to mix with conditioners
  • to dilute essential oils.

Examples include avocado oil, jojoba oil, extra virgin coconut oil, castor oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.

Essential oils: Are usually extracted from plants that can be used for medicinal and aromatherapy purposes. They are usually diluted with a carrier oil which help to increase the absorption of essential oils. Examples are peppermint oil, lavender oil, pimento oil, cedarwood oil, thyme oil, neem oil, etc

Deep conditioning –This is leaving a deep conditioner and/or oils on your hair for at least 20-30 minutes, usually with heat. You can use a heating cap, steamer or blow dryer as your heat source. Or you could warm the oil or conditioner lightly before applying to your hair. The heat helps the product to penetrate the hair cuticle. Regular deep conditioning results in healthy hair. You should deep condition at least once a week if you’re serious about hair care.

Co-washing – Washing your hair with a regular conditioner instead of shampoo to cleanse your hair and replace moisture in your hair without stripping it of its natural oils.

Leave-in Conditioner – After shampooing and conditioning your hair, it is important to apply a leave-in conditioner to your wet hair to restore moisture to your hair. Leave-in conditioners help to detangle and soften your hair. In addition, they keep your hair from being frizzy when it dries.

Moisturizing – This is applying a moisture-based product to dry hair WITHOUT washing it out. Black hair needs more moisture than other hair types so it’s important to do this hair care step regularly to prevent breakage and increase elasticity in the hair. You can moisturize once or twice a day OR every other day, depending on your moisture needs.

Sealing – This is using oil or a butter to lock in the moisture after moisturizing your hair. Sealing in your moisturizer helps keep your hair moisturized for a longer time. Examples of oils include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, safflower oil Shea butter, mango nut butter, etc.

Humectants – They are ingredients found in hair products that attract and retain moisture from the air. Typical examples include glycerin, propylene glycol, honey, sorbitol, etc.

Protective Styling – Wearing your hair in a style that keeps your ends off your back & protected from outside elements e.g. pony tails, buns etc.

Low Manipulation – These are styles that allow you to handle your hair less leading to less shedding and breakage. Examples are weave-ons, braids, twist-outs, braid-outs, etc.

Braid-Out – This is a form of styling your hair by braiding it while it is still damp. It can either be done by doing ‘cornrows’ or single plaits. The braids are dried and unraveled when completely dry. If you do it well or add a setting lotion or light gel to your hair while braiding your hair, you can keep this style for up to a week without redoing it.

Baggying – Putting on your moisturizer and then applying a plastic bag over the hair to trap the moisture in. You can do a full head baggy with a plastic shower cap or just the ends using a small sandwich bag. If you have dry damaged hair and/or dry ends, this might be good for you.

Greenhouse effect – This is basically putting some oil on your hair and covering your hair with a shower cap/plastic bag. This is also good for helping your hair absorb the oil better and some people believe it helps the hair grow faster.

Dusting – This is doing a very light trim on your hair by cutting only 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.

Line of Demarcation – is the point where the natural hair and relaxed hair meet. Since it is extremely delicate, you have to be very gentle when handling your hair when you stretch between relaxers.

Over-lapping – Applying relaxer to already relaxed hair in addition to the new growth. It can lead to damaged, over-processed hair. Stretching helps to prevent over-lapping.

Stretching – This is prolonging the time between relaxers applications. The minimum time between your relaxers should be at least 8 -12 wks.

Texturizing – This is loosening the curl pattern slightly and the hair doesn’t get straight at all.

Texlaxing/Relaxurizing – This is basically intentionally under-processing your hair by not letting the relaxer letting your hair not to get to the point of being straight. It helps make your hair easier to comb and also gives your hair some thickness.

Relaxing Bone Straight – This is allowing the relaxer to process the hair to its straightest possible state. This can leave your hair looking flat and lifeless.

Relaxing Just Straight– This is allowing the hair to a point that it is JUST straight but not bone straight.

Shedding – This occurs when you see strands of hair with white bulbs on the root. Hair goes through a natural shedding period, so if you’re taking care of your hair and it suddenly starts shedding a bit, don’t be alarmed. If you are worried, try using garlic or a black tea rinse to stop the shedding OR seeing a dermatologist.

Hair Breakage – These are broken pieces of hair without the white bulb. This can be caused by too much moisture or protein, over processing, etc.

Slip: When a comb glides effortlessly through the hair. Some conditioners might not give you slip even though they are moisturizing.

Hair Serums – Protect the hair from the damage from heat and sunlight by forming a thin protective layer on the hair strands. They make the hair ‘shinier’ and prevent tangling. They usually contain silicones.

– Leaving the relaxer on too long, resulting in a bone straight/limp appearance.

– Your hair still has waves, curls and kinks after a relaxer because the relaxer did not process/penetrate the hair enough. It can be intentional or by poor application techniques.

Hair length definitions

hair length picture

EL – Ear Length

NL – Neck Length

SL – Shoulder Length

APL – Arm Pit Length

BSL – Bra Strap Length

MBL – Mid back Length

WL – Waist Length

Hair Types

– 2a, 2b, 2c
Loose curls
– 3a, 3b, 3c
Thicker, coily curls. Tracee Ellis Ross and Alicia Keys are in hair type 3 category.
– 4a, 4b
Kinky, coily hair. 4b is the thickest hair type. Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu fall into this 4a/b category.

More acronyms/hair lingo

ACV Apple cider vinegar

ALS – Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

BC – Big Chop

BHM – Black Hair Media

BSS – Beauty Supply Store

Cones – Silicones

CW– Co-wash

DC – Deep Condition

HHG – Happy Hair Growing

EO – Essential Oil

EVCO – Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

JBCO – Jamaican Black Castor Oil

LHCF – Long Hair Care Forum

NG – New Growth

PJ – Product Junkie

SAA – Silk Amino Acid

SLS – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate

I hope this hair terminology explanation has been helpful. Take care.

© Copyright 2013 Dr Fomsky, All rights Reserved. Written For: Get your Sizzelle on!

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