If you've ever landed on a curly hair article or forum then you will have quickly realized that this community speaks its own language, some of which was started here in our CurlTalk forum. If you're new to caring for your curls then the terms can feel overwhelming, so we created this comprehensive curly hair glossary as a tool you can use to look up commonly used ingredients, techniques, and abbreviations.
2nd Day Hair
Hair that looks good enough to wear the day after wash day. It may only require misting with water or a little product to revive and refresh the style. Find out how these women achieve 2nd day hair.
Wash n' Go styling technique that produces well-formed, highly-defined coils/curls. While soaking wet, a styling curl cream or curl gel is applied to cleansed and conditioned hair. As the head is tilted in various angles, the hair (now weighted with water and styling product), is lowered into an open palm and gently pressed to the scalp repeatedly.
Aloe Vera Gel
The mucilaginous material obtained from the aloe vera plant. The benefits of the gel to your hair include improved detangling, increased moisture, scalp healing, remediation of dandruff, restoration of pH levels, decreased frizz, enhanced cellular regeneration, anti-inflammatory action for the scalp and stimulation of hair growth.
Products with aloe vera gel
- Honey Hemp ConditionerSpiral Spritz Natural Styling Serum
- ORS Curls Unleashed Aloe Vera & Honey Curl Boosting Jelly
Apple Cider Vinegar
When apple cider vinegar is diluted with water it can be used to restore the pH balance of the hair. Apple cider vinegar can work to close the hair's cuticle, make it smooth with less frizz, and give you increased shine. For your ACV rinse, mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 2 cups of water.
- How to do a Vinegar Rinse for Removing Dandruff
- Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar with Sister Scientist
- Do You Use Apple Cider Vinegar for your High Porosity Natural Hair?
Products with ACV
- Cantu Refresh Apple Cider Vinegar Dry Co-Wash
- Cantu Refresh Apple Cider Vinegar Root Rinse
- SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Shampoo
Armpit Length (AL)
Armpit length is a common term used to describe hair that reaches the armpit from the back when stretched for a lengthcheck.
This regimen uses all natural Indian products to grow healthy, thick, long hair. Some of the products include but are not limited to the following: amla oil or powder, henna, neem, Vatika, brahmi, shikakai, and marshmallow root.
The baggy method includes applying moisturizer and then covering your hair with a plastic bag to trap the body heat for expedited product absorption into the hair’s cuticle.
- Get the Softest Natural Hair, with a Ziploc?
- No, the Greenhouse Effect is Not the Same as the Baggy Method - Here's Why
- Watch this Baggy Method Tutorial for Moisture & Length
Banding is a styling technique used to inhibit hair shrinkage and show more of the hair's actual length. Gathering the hair into one ponytail or several smaller ones, covered elastic bands are affixed snugly from the scalp area, one after the other, all the way down to the ends, of the hair. Bands are left in for a period of time or until the hair is dry (if banded while damp or wet).
A hairstyle created by carefully and precisely parting hair in small-to-medium sections, and then twisting the sections in one direction until they wrap into neat knots.
This is when you decide to go natural and cut off all your relaxed hair. To big chop includes cutting the relaxed and significantly heat-damaged portions of the hair.
A blowout means styling your hair straight with a round brush as you blow it dry.
Bra Strap Length (BSL)
Bra strap length is when the ends of your hair can reach the back of your bra strap upon extension.
Breakage is when the hair breaks due to manipulation and/or excessive dryness. Not to be confused with shedding, the evidence of breakage is when the end of the hair strand does not contain a bulb the way a naturally shed hair would. Breakage can be reduced by limiting manipulation with heat tools, styling, washing, chemical processing, and increasing your moisturizing frequency.
- You Need This: Top 2 Ingredients That Stop Curly Hair Breakage
- Is Hair Breakage Inevitable?
- How I Detangle Without Causing Breakage
- ORS HAIRepair Anti-Breakage Creme
- SheaMoisture Yucca & Plantain Anti-Breakage Strengthening Shampoo
- SheaMoisture Yucca & Plantain Anti-Breakage Strengthening Masque
Butter is a solid form of oil that are primarily used to seal the moisture in the hair after applying a moisturizer. Some butters that curlies use for their hair include shea butter, mango butter, cupuacu butter, cocoa butter, and avocado butter.
- What You Need to Know About Hair Butter and Oils
- Is that Oil a Moisturizer or a Sealer? You Should Know the Difference
- The 10 Most Popular Oils for Curly Hair
Castor oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties of ricinoleic acid, which can help prevent scalp infections that can cause hair loss. It is humectant that contains fatty acids to nourish the hair and prevent dry scalp. The best time to use castor oil is in the winter season or colder weather, because it is the thickest of the oils.
- I'm a Cosmetic Chemist. Biotin & Castor Oil Don't Thicken Your Hair
- 4 Reasons Castor Oil is Basically Magic
- How to Use Castor Oil for Natural Hair Growth
Products with castor oil
- Coffee-Coco Curl Creme
- Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil
- SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Conditioner
Clarifying thoroughly removes buildup of excess sebum, environmental elements, chlorine, and products from the hair. This can be done using treatments like clarifying shampoos and bentonite clay mixes
- Elucence Volume Clarifying Shampoo
- Giovanni Tea Tree Shampoo
- Kinky-Curly Come Clean Moisturizing Shampoo
Cleansing conditioners are also known as co-wash conditioners. These products are formulated to lightly cleanse and moisturize the hair in between clarifying. They are moisturizing like conditioners, but contain surfactants that remove dirt and oil from the hair.
- As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner
- Curl Junkie Daily Fix Cleansing Conditioner
- Camille Rose Naturals Caramel CoWash Cleansing Conditioner
Clumping happens when the strands of hair gather to form bigger, chunkier curls.
To co-wash is to use a conditioner to lightly cleanse and moisturize the hair in between clarifying. The term is short for "conditioner wash." Co-washes are used by curly-haired women who choose not to use shampoo as part of the Curly Girl Method or the No Poo Method.
- Co-Washing: Is Your Conditioner Good Enough?
- 5 Problems Everyone Has with Co-washing (and How to Fix Them)
- What are the Differences Between Cleansing, Deep, and Daily Conditioners?
- As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner
- Carol's Daughter Hair Milk Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner
- Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash
An ingredient derived from coconuts with a molecular structure that make it easier to penetrate the hair shaft. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties and is rich in vitamins and minerals.
Learn more about coconut oil
- These 2 Ingredients Stop Frizz In Its Tracks
- Low on Style Time? Refresh Second Day Curls with Coconut Oil and Vitamin E
- 10 Coconut Oil Hair Products Every Type 3 Curly Needs, NOW
Products with Coconut Oil
- SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
- DevaCurl Supercream Coconut Curl Styler
- Briogeo Rosarco Oil
The crown is the center region of the scalp atop of the head. It tends to be sensitive, especially for those who are tender headed.
Crunch is the hard, crunchy feeling left by some gels when they dry, which can sometimes be scrunched out.
Curly Girl Method
The Curly Girl Method, created by curly hair expert Lorraine Massey, includes discontinuing the use of shampoo, products with silicones, brushes, combs, and towels.
- How to Follow the Curly Girl Method
- 15 Curly Girl Method Approved Products
- 3 Different Ways to Follow the Curly Girl Method
Deep conditioners are thick products formulated with ingredients that penetrate the hair shaft, nourish between the cuticles, within the cuticle layers, and/or within the cortex. They generally require longer treatment time of anywhere between 10-30 minutes based on the instructions.
Density is how closely individual strands of hair are packed together on your scalp and ranges from low to high.
- Hair Density
- Why Hair Porosity & Density Matter
- 3 Ways to Figure Out Your Hair Density, Once And For All
A diffuser is a blow-dryer attachment used to disperse airflow over a larger area so as not to disturb the hair's curl pattern.
Dusting is slight trimming of the hair done in between full trims.
- How to Dust Your Own Curls at Home in 4 Easy Steps
- The Secret to Getting a Trim That's NOT Too Short
The process of loosening the curl pattern with products or styling techniques.
Emollients are usually hydrophobic oils that form films on the surface of the hair, where they often act as anti-humectants or sealers. They are lubricants that make detangling easier by providing increased slip (decreased drag) between adjacent hair strands.
- Question of the Day: What Is An Emollient?
- Aunt Jackie's Curls & Coils Don't Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel
Essential oils are potent liquids derived from flowers and plants. They are known for their healing properties and aromatic scents that have therapeutic benefits for the hair and scalp. Some essential oils for hair are tea tree, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, myrrh, basil, sage, and peppermint oil. These oils tend to be extremely potent so it is encouraged to dilute them with carrier oils.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted through cold pressing, and is one of the four oils that penetrates the hair shaft. Many curlies use this to pre-poo, deep conditioner, oil rinse, and seal.
- Video: How to Deep Condition Your Dry Hair With Olive Oil
- The Benefits of Olive Oil for Hair
- 5 Best Oils for Coily, Type 4 Hair
Fatty alcohols are derived from natural sources and often used as an emollient in skin and hair care products. They give a smooth, soft feeling to the hair shaft by helping the cuticle to lie flat on the surface of the hair. Some fatty alcohols include lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol.
Fine hair has a very small diameter and is very delicate and easy to damage.
A technique whereby the hair is two-strand twisted flat to the scalp, in cornrow fashion.
The use of fingers or a pick to add volume and shape to curly and coily hair.
Glycerin is a water-soluble conditioning alcohol that is an extremely effective moisturizer and humectant.
- < a href="/curlreading/ingredients/glycerin-the-ultimate-love-hate-relationship-with-natural-hair-hi/" rel="bookmark">Glycerin: The Ultimate Love-Hate Relationship with Natural Hair
- Should You Avoid Glyceryl Stearate
Hair typing is a system that classifies hair texture based on curl pattern, density, width, and porosity, which helps to determine how she will care and style her hair. Loose-wavy hair is type 2, curly hair is type 3 and coily hair is type 4. NaturallyCurly created the sub classifications from a-c, based upon the diameter of the wave, curl or coil. Take the quiz to learn more about your hair type.
Henna is an herbaceous shrub used to condition and safely color the hair. It is commonly used in India for cultural customs and for conditioning the hair. It is important to purchase pure henna that does not contain metallics and chemicals like PPD, which can cause adverse reactions to the hair and skin.
- Choosing Between Henna & Cassia? Here's What You Need to Know
- How to Use Henna for Healthier Hair
- How to Remove Henna Dye from Your Hair
Holy Grail is a title given to the tried-and-true products that can be relied on to deliver consistently amazing results.
This is an ingredient used in moisturizing products to draw moisture from the air to retain it for your hair. Some of the most commonly used humectants are honey, aloe vera, and glycerin.
- These Are the Common Humectants Found in Your Hair Products
- The 411 On Dew Points & Humectants
- Should You Be Anti Anti-Humectants?
Jojoba oil is a non-greasy, moisturizing hair oil that is the most similar to the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands in your scalp.
- Got Dry, Dull Curls? Let Cantu Butter You Up with Shea Butter, Jojoba Oil, and Almond Oil!
- 8 Benefits of Jojoba Oil for Hair & Skin
- EDEN BodyWorks Jojoba Monoi Revitalizing Conditioner
- Aubrey Organics 100% Organic Jojoba Oil
- Design Essentials Natural Daily Moisturizing Lotion
A leave-in conditioner is a lightweight, watery product that is formulated to add moisturizing properties to the hair without the buildup of a regular conditioner. It derives its name from the fact that this conditioner is not rinsed out.
- SoCozy Cinch Detangler + Leave-In Conditioner
- Soultanicals Fluff-A-Licious Curl Nutricious
- SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Extra-Moisture Detangler
A hairstyle whereby small sections of hair are twisted and over time, the strands become permanently secured. This is one type of protective style.
The LOC method stands for applying product in the following order: liquid or leave-in conditioner, oil, and cream. Most naturals will either use water or a moisturizer, an oil, and a cream or butter. This ensures long-lasting, moisturized hair in between wash days. The technique was introduced by Founder of Alikay Naturals Rochelle Graham.
- LOC Method: The Routine EVERY Curly Should Know
- 5 Questions Everyone Has About the LOC Method
- WATCH: How to Do the LOC Method
- The Ultimate LOC Method Shopping List
Hair with medium width consists of strands that are strong and elastic, and neither too thin nor too thick.
A moisturizer product that includes humectants, which are extremely hydrophilic molecules that use hydrogen bonding to attract and hold water molecules from the environment. Moisturizing ingredients include glycerin, propylene glycol, panthenol, honey, agave, and aloe vera.
- Why You Need a Moisture Foundation for Your Hair!
- Moisture or Hydration: What is the difference?
- You need these 3 moisturizing ingredients for long-lasting protective styles
- Alikay Naturals Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer
- As I Am DoubleButter Cream Rich Daily Moisturizer
- CURLS Coconut Sublime Moisturizing Conditioner
The anniversary of the day one decided to "go natural" and to refrain from applying chemical straighteners (relaxers) to the hair.
No-poo method includes removing shampoo, products formulated with water-insoluble silicones, and products that require sulfates for proper cleansing from your regimen.
- 4 Ways To Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo
- All About the No Poo Method
- How to do the Curly Girl Method on a Budget (With 4 Products)
To rinse your hair with an oil after cleansing and before conditioning. To oil rinse you add your favorite oil to wet strands and leave on for about 5 minutes. This step helps to detangle and seal in extra moisture for the hair.
- Oil Rinsing vs. Hot Oil Treatments: No They're Not the Same
- Oil Rinsing for Beginners (It's Easier Than You Think)
Parabens are preservatives commonly used in cosmetic products. They have been associated with cancer, but researched linking them to causing cancer has been inconclusive.
- 15 Paraben-Free Products For Type 4 Hair
- Top 15 Paraben-Free Products
- Why Do People Avoid Parabens? The Answer, According to a Scientist
- Camille Rose Naturals Coconut Water Penetrating Hair Treatment
- Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Sulfate-Free Shampoo
- Aunt Jackie's Curls & Coils Don't Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel
Phthalates are plasticizer (dispersant) ingredients in products that reduce brittleness/cracking/stiffness in hair and skin products like hair spray, soaps, and shampoos, allowing them to form a flexible film. The most common phthalates used are dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), and diethylphthalate (DEP).
To gently gathering the hair atop the crown with a hair tie to preserve curls for second day hair.
This method includes wrapping wet hair in t-shirt or microfiber towel in order to quickly to gently absorb excessive water that would drip otherwise.
Learn more about plopping
- The Curly Girl's Guide to Plopping Your Hair
- 3 Curl Defining Techniques for Curls & Waves
- The New Plopping Towel I'm Loving Right Now
Polyquaternium polymers are ingredients commonly found in styling products. Polyquats (polyquaternium) are polymers frequently used in hair care products to provide conditioning benefits to the hair.
- This Polyquat is Like a Shield Against Frizz - Even When it’s Humid
- How Polyquats Work as Conditioning Agents
Porosity is how easily your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture and chemicals. There are varying degrees of porosity that we commonly use: high porosity, medium porosity, and low porosity.
- Know Your Hair Porosity for Healthier, Stronger Curls
- Everything You Need to Know About Hair Porosity
This includes applying an oil or conditioner prior to shampooing to help the hair maintain necessary moisture during the drying shampoo process.
- Use This Jamaican Oil as a Hair Growth Pre-Poo
- Should I Use a Hair Mask or Pre-poo?
- DIY Conditioning Pre-Poo for Hair Growth
This is a humectant found in many personal care products including shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in conditioners, and styling products. It is known to be a very effective humectant.
- The Truth About Propylene Glycol, According to a Chemist
- The Signs You Have a Propylene Glycol Allergy
This is a type of style that does not expose the ends of the hair and is typically left un-manipulated for 2-4 weeks. Protective styling is primarily used to retain length.
- 7 Protective Styles Perfect for the Beach
- The Best Way to Care For Your Protective Style While on Vacation
- How to Maintain Your Braids this Summer
A protein treatment deposits protein structures on the hair's cuticle in order to replace the protein that was lost through manipulation, chemical processing, and aging. Everyone's protein sensitivity is different, but usually it is advised to incorporate this into your regimen only once a month. Some proteins include hydrolyzed wheat, hydrolyzed keratin, and hydrolyzed quinoa.
- The Must-See Guide to the Best Protein Treatment for Your Hair
- 3 Telltale Signs It's Time for a Protein Treatment
- Repairing Hair Damage: Olaplex vs. Protein Treatments
Protein treatment products
- HASK Keratin Protein Smoothing Conditioner
- ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment & Balanced Moisturizer
- Curly Hair Solutions Pure Silk Protein Deep Moisturizing Treatment
PVP is a water-soluble polymer found in most gels. It is an excellent film-former and relatively inexpensive. The water solubility is extremely attractive to companies who wish to sell products to consumers who do not use shampoo or who use very mild shampoos, as it makes the gel easy to rinse.
To scrunch is to gently squeeze the hair upward from ends toward roots to encourage curl definition and remove gel crunch (aka