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Since I started wading in the waters of natural hair, I have come across a bunch of terms that I knew absolutely nothing about until I started doing my research. The HEN Dictionary is also my way of keeping track and provide all of my fellow curly heads with essential information in the process. I’ll update the HEN Dictionary as I explore/learn more terms/techniques.


Quick Disclaimer: Some of this language is used for relaxed ladies as well so this is not necessarily for naturals only.



Moisturizing: Refers to the use of products that add moisture to the hair. Moisture is what keeps our hair soft. It can be as simple as spraying some water on your hair. There are numerous products that add moisture to hair including hair sprays, water (aqua) based hair products and conditioners. Oils do not add moisture to hair which brings me to the next term…


Sealing: This is the use of oils or butters to trap the moisture in your hair. Moisturizing is pointless if the hair then dries out. The oils and butters help prevent this. There are some oils that do moisturize (Coconut oil, Argan oil, Grape seed oil etc). The following oils and butters are normally used for sealing: shea butter, mango butter, Olive oil and Castor oil. The thicker oils are generally preferred for sealing. Because you are aiming to seal moisture in your hair it doesn’t make sense to seal dried un-moisturized hair. If you do that, you will end up preventing moisture from getting to your dry hair (Chemistry 101: oil and water don’t mix!). So always seal moisturized hair only. I seal my hair while it’s still damp. If I want to seal without washing, I use a spray bottle to add water to my hair first in addition to a moisturizing product.


Deep conditioning: This is when conditioner is left on your hair for more than 30 minutes; I usually deep condition for an hour at least while some people even deep condition over night. Some opt to steam the hair while conditioning to maximize the amount of moisture being absorbed by your hair.  For fro hair deep conditioning is a must, the nap will not be as soft without it.


Detangling: This is basically combing. Naturals don’t comb with the aim of styling but with the aim of getting tangles out of the hair, hence the difference in terms. In addition to this, combing is normally done from root to tip, detangling is done from tip to root. Detangling is only done while the hair is wet, drenched with conditioner or damp and covered in some sort of moisturizer, it depends on the persons preference. Detangling should not be done when the hair is dry, this causes breakage as natural hair is very fragile and also causes you unnecessary pain.

Pre-poo: A pre-poo (pre-shampoo treatment) is the process of soaking the hair in a moisturizing oil and/or conditioner before shampooing to minimize the amount of essential oils lost through shampooing. Oils mostly used are Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil etc. Some also make mixes with aloe juice, honey or coconut milk. There numerous recipes online to try.

 Clarifying: This is the use of a clarifying shampoo or an acidic agent (baking soda, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) to cleanse the hair of all the residue that builds up on your hair from hair products.

 Curl definition: This is the use of styling products (eg curl mousse, hair gel, oil and gel mix etc) to help the curls in your hair to have more definition, thus further enhancing your curls. This can happen suing certain products or through hair manipulation (twist outs, braid outs etc explained below). The curls can be big or small and of varying structures depending on the curl definition method used.


Twist out/Braid out: This is a type of style often worn by naturalistas. You twist the hair (two strand twists) or braid it (single thin, medium or thick sizes, it’s up to you) and then leave them over night. Then, before you start your day, you  unbraid/untwist and use your fingers to style hair or you can allow the twists to remain. This untwisted/unbraided style is referred to as a twist out/braid out.



Blow out: This is the use of a blow dryer to blow the afro out. It’s a stretching method as well.


The big chop or BC: This refers to the cutting of relaxed ends leaving behind your natural hair or new growth. It is the point at which you become fully natural. Some chose to transition (let the new growth grow out gradually till you are ready to cut off the relaxed ends) while others just go bald or cut it really short and let the natural hair grow out. I chose the gradual grow out method.


Hair regimen/routine: This is pretty straight forward but to be honest I didn’t have one till I went natural. Now without fail I shampoo (clarify once every two weeks), deep condition, moisturize, seal and twist once a week. In that order and always without fail. I may change the products but my regimen never changes. Having a regimen keeps my hair manageable, predictable and helps me track any changes that may take place due to particular products. Consistency is key.


Natural products: These are products that are either made with organic ingredients or hair products made from foods or products that have no artificial additives in them. Majority of them are often edible and have no mineral oil as a base (the main ingredient) in them (which is how you get the greasy effect). There are product lines that are natural and marketed for natural hair even though they are excellent for relaxed hair as well. However there are products that have water (aqua) as a base which would be considered ‘natural’.



Protective style: A protective style is any style that hides or protects the ends of your hair. The ends are the oldest part of your hair and are more than likely the main point of weakness for your hair. Your ends are where your hair breaks, is easily damaged by friction, weather or chemicals. Protective styles keep the ends protected and help prevent breakage or damage. Most braided styles are protective. For example: cornrows, braids with extensions, weaves etc. Buns and twists are protective as well.



Low manipulation style: These are hair styles that limit interaction with your hair. In essence this is a semi-protective style. e.g wash and go (as the name suggests you wash your hair, then go), twist out or braid out. Twist outs and braid outs fit in this category because they can last for a couple of days. With fro’s, the more you mess with them, the higher the chance of the hair breaking from constant manipulation.


Length retention: This is when you retain the hair that grows/length. If you have split ends for example, you will not be able to retain length because the hair is constantly breaking.  Research have explained that the average African American person with healthy hair grows about half an inch of hair per month which works out to about 6 inches a year. Genetics of course will vary how much a person grows a month. Some have hair that grows faster or slower. There are things that you can do to help your hair retain length (low manipulation styles, protective styles, keeping it moisturized, minimal use of heat etc).


  • Reply
    Ecila Scaife
    July 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you! this was so helpful! I had not heard of some of this stuff before!

    • Reply
      July 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      No prob girl!!! Thanks for following!!!

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