The afro hair care dictionary: Know your terms

Jeanette | 22 April 2016

Consider yourself a natural hair expert? Why not put your knowledge to the test!

Get ready to wave goodbye to confusion over terms like ‘transitioning’ and ‘pre-poos’. Because we’ve compiled everything you need to know about black hair, all in one place. Ladies, behold the hair dictionary: our easy and practical guide to afro hair care, all broken down into simple ABCs. And, in case you’re wondering, these tips have been hand-picked by our natural hair expert, Jeanette.

The afro hair care dictionary


A is for… A.C.V.

That’s apple cider vinegar – in reference to the DIY rinse favoured by naturalistas, used to cleanse the scalp and hair of product build-up. Just mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts filtered water, et voilà! An instant and effective clarifying rinse.

B is for… Big chop

This sounds a lot scarier than it really is, but don’t worry, it’s nothing sinister! The big chop refers to when you cut all your chemically-processed hair off, leaving only your natural hair behind.

C is for… Co-wash

A method that involves only using conditioner to wash your hair, hence the term co-wash. The idea is that it helps to protect fragile afro tresses with its moisturising properties, which should result in more manageable tresses that are less prone to breakages, too.

D is for… Dusting

Before you get confused, let us clarify: no, this isn’t the household kind! In fact, it’s a hair-cutting technique that allows you to get rid of damaged ends. But what’s the difference between a trim and a dust? Dusting normally involves cutting much less hair (about a quarter of an inch) from the bottom of the strands and/or twisting the hair and carefully chopping off any split ends that stick out. “Search and destroy” is another commonly used term for this method – due to the meticulous “hunting and cutting” of the split ends!

F is for… Fairy knots

F is for… Fairy knots

Knots and tangles are the bane of afro hair; the worst of them all being fairy knots (A.K.A pixie knots). These bad boys look like tiny balls in the middle and at the ends of your hair, only they’re actually single-strand knots. But why are they so bad? Because they can catch and snag other hairs, causing more tangles that might, indirectly, damage your tresses. The best way to get rid of fairy knots is to trim them off. And remember to keep your mane well-moisturised, so it’s less likely to tangle in the first place.

G is for… Greenhouse effect

Forget climate change for a second; this is actually an afro hair care method used to intensify conditioners and hair treatments for afro hair. Products are applied to the hair, and instead of using artificial heat to increase its effects, a plastic cap is worn to trap body heat, which will help open up the pores and hair cuticles. The idea is that natural heat should help products penetrate the strands more effectively.

H is for… Hand-in-hair

It might sound a little odd to those who aren’t familiar, but this is a nickname given to the habit of constantly touching your ‘fro. From running your fingers through your hair and twirling strands, to excessive styling, you name it, it’s all considered “hand-in-hair” and counts as continuous manipulation, which can cause serious damage to fragile afro hair.

K is for… Kinky

Let us stop you right there before your minds run wild. When we mention the term kinky, we’re talking about a specific hair type – and it refers to tightly coiled hair with little or very minimal curl pattern.

K is for… Kinky!

L is for… LOC or LCO or LOCO

These acronyms are two different methods of product application. The letters reference the order in which you use liquid (that can be water, a water-based product or a leave-in), oil and cream. As to which order is best? The camps are truly split, but we suggest trying out both and monitoring which one your hair responds positively to.

M is for… Manipulation

An umbrella term for twirling, touching, styling, pulling, combing and brushing. As innocent as they may seem, these are all forms of manipulation that can cause damage to your locks. Which is why low manipulation ’dos (A.K.A protective hairstyles) are favoured by most naturalistas. The moral of the story? Be wary of over-handling fragile afro hair, especially the ends, because this is one of the most common causes of breakage.

N is for… Naturalversary

This marks the day on which a person made the decision to go natural. Basically an anniversary for your natural hair journey. Cute, right?

P is for… Pre-shampoo

P is for… Pre-poo

We know, it sounds strange, but pre-poo is actually an abbreviation for pre-shampoo, or, in other words, a preparation stage to get your hair ready for shampooing. Not only does it benefit ever-thirsty black hair, but it works a treat on very delicate or damaged tresses, too. When applied before shampooing, oils and conditioners can help coat and add extra moisture to the strands, readying hair for the washing process, which, in turn, means less chances of tangles and, therefore, fewer breakages.

R is for… Relaxer

For most people this conjures the image of being laidback and mellow, but in reference to black hair it means quite the opposite. Relaxers are applied to the hair to chemically alter the the curl pattern, making your hair straighter and easier to manage. Want to know more about it? Click here to read our article on hair straightening.

S if for… Sealing

The ends or tips are the oldest part of our locks, so it’s no surprise they need the most protection. Sealing is a way of trying to protect this very delicate part of our hair, the aim being to lock in moisture post wash. This can be done by applying oils and creams to slow the water evaporation process, which is where L.O.C and L.C.O – two of the most popular methods – come in.

T is for… Transitioning

Sounds fantastically magical doesn’t it? Alas, it’s word used within the natural hair community to describe the period of change from relaxed or chemically-altered hair to natural hair. Other options include going for the big chop and rocking a super cool teeny, weenie afro.

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