The A-Z of Hair Terms

The A-Z of Hair Terms

The hair terms are in alphabetical order.

ACV
ACV stands for Apple Cider Vinegar, which you can buy in stores. It closes the cuticles and makes the hair smoother. The ACV must be added to water by a ratio of approx 1:3 (ACV:water), but experiment to see what suits your hair needs.

Afro
Most afro-textured/kinky hair does not grow downwards like straight, wavy or curly hair does, it grows up and out. This upwards and outwards growth leads to an afro, which looks like a black/dark brown halo surrounding the wearer’s head.

Arm pit length
When the hair reaches the arm pit when straight or straightened. With tighter hair types, pulling the hair down will show where it falls to.

BAA
BAA stands for Big Ass Afro. After the TWA stage, afro-textured hair continues to grow until it reaches the BAA stage.

Bad hair
A racist term meant to denote that afro-textured hair is bad and straight hair is good. It originates from the transatlantic slave era, and should have stayed there. On this website, ‘good hair’ is healthy hair.

BC
BC stands for Big Chop. This describes cutting off the hair in one go instead of transitioning for months or years. This term is mostly used by naturals no longer relaxing their hair.

Black hair
An incorrect term used to denote afro-textured hair. All races can have afro-textured hair, but it is most commonly found on black and biracial people’s heads.

Biracial hair
An incorrect term used to denote hair that consists of large curls, coils and/or ringlets. This hair type can occur on the heads of all races.

Bra strap length
When the hair reaches the bra strap when straight or straightened. With tighter hair types, pulling the hair down will show where it falls to.

Braids
This is where hair has been woven together like skinny ropes. It is also referred to as plaits. The hair is divided into at least three strands to be braided, unlike twists which require two strands.

Cornrows/canerows
These are similar to braids and plaits, but with cornrows the braids are attached to the rest of the hair. This means there are no braids flowing or swinging.

Ear length
When the hair reaches the ear when straight or straightened. With tighter hair types, pulling the hair down will show where it falls to.

Flat irons
A hair styling device with two metal plates meant to clamp down on hair to straighten it. Flat irons are replacing hot combs.




Good hair
A racist term meant to denote that afro-textured hair is bad and straight hair is good. It originates from the transatlantic slave era, and should have stayed there. On this website, ‘good hair’ is healthy hair.

Hot combs
Combs that have plastic handles and metal teeth. The teeth are heated on a stove before being passed through hair strands, which leads to straightened hair. Hot combs are not as popular now with modern technology like flat irons available.

Kinky
Another term for afro-textured hair.

Nappy
A term for afro-textured hair. It originated from the transatlantic slave trade era. Some natural heads have started ‘claiming back’ the term for modern day use while others still find it offensive.

Natural hair
Hair that has not been changed by chemicals or hair dye. On this website it refers to afro-textured and curly hair.

Neutraliser
A special shampoo created to stop chemicals breaking down the hair bonds. If a neutraliser is not used, hair loss and extremely painful chemical burns are VERY likely to occur.

No-poo
This means that no shampoo is used. It is substituted with alternatives, like conditioners, because they are not as drying to the hair.

Over-processing
When hair chemicals are left to work on hair for so long that the hair is damaged. This can led to painful sores and/or bald patches.

Perm
Chemical meant to curl hair. Often confused with relaxers, but they are different because they straighten hair.

Plaits
This is where hair has been woven together like skinny ropes. It is also referred to as braids. The hair is divided into at least three strands to be plaited, unlike twists which require two strands.

Relaxer
Chemical meant to straighten hair. Often confused with perms, but they are different because they curl hair.

Shoulder length
When the hair reaches the shoulder when straight or straightened. With tighter hair types, pulling the hair down will show where it falls to.

Shrinkage
Wavy, curly and afro-textured hair does not fall straight down, so it appears shorter than straight hair. Shrinkage also makes hair appear to grow slowly, even though it is most likely growing just as fast as straighter hair types. Afro-textured hair tends to have the most shrinkage. Wavy and curly hair’s shrinkage seems to decrease as the hair gets longer and heavier.

To see shrinkage, look at the coil in a pen. See how much longer the coil is when you stretch it out. Also note that stretching it out, as do chemicals and straighteners, can prevent the hair from returning to its natural state for good.

Shrinkage is often referred to with a percentage. For example, if my hair is 10 inches long but shrinkage makes it appear 2.5 inches long, I have 75% shrinkage. Measure your hair to determine yours.

Stretch
Some people prolong/’stretch’ the period between chemical processes for as long as possible. Many women with waist-length hair follow this strategy to prevent hair loss caused by over-processing.




Texlaxer
When protein is added to relaxers in order to loosen wavy, curly or afro-textured hair without making it straight. It is not the same as a texturiser.

Texturiser
Loosens wavy, curly or afro-textured hair without making it straight. It is not the same as a texlaxer.

Transition
Changing from one hair type to another via chemicals or cutting off hair. This term is mostly used to describe going from relaxed to natural/afro-textured hair.

TWA
TWA stands for Teeny Weeny Afro. When naturals first start growing out their hair, it is short and TWA stands for this short hair stage.

Twists
This is where hair has been divided into two strands that are wrapped around each other. This is different from plaits/braids, which require the hair to be separated into three strands.

Under-processing
This happens when chemicals have not been left to work on the hair for long enough. The person is usually left unsatisfied with the results. For example, a woman washing out a relaxer too soon will be left with hair that is still afro-textured, curly or wavy.

Unmanageable
A term often used to describe hair that is not straight. This term usually results when the person is trying to treat wavy, curly or afro-textured hair the way straight hair should be handled.

Waist length
When the hair reaches the waist (beween the belly button and bottom) when straight or straightened. With tighter hair types, pulling the hair down will show where it falls to.

White people’s hair
An incorrect term used to describe straight hair, which is commonly found on white, Asian and biracial people’s heads. Some black people also have straight hair.

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