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The Curly Hair Dictionary: Words Every Curly Girl Needs to Know

December 6, 2021


Verna Meachum

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Last Updated on October 13, 2022 by Verna Meachum

Looking for a comprehensive guide to curly hair terminology? You’ve come to the right place! This Curly Hair Dictionary is packed with all the lingo you need to know as a curly girl; literally words every curly girl needs to know. From “A-list” to “Z-curls,” we’ve got you covered.

So flip through this dictionary and learn about all the different terms related to curly hair. With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be able to talk like a pro when it comes to your curls!

Curly Hair Glossary:


Acidic shampoo: Shampoo that has an acidic pH and is designed to cleanse the scalp and remove product build-up.

Alkaline shampoo: Shampoo that has an alkaline pH and is designed to be used as a clarifying shampoo.

Accordion Technique: Wash n’ Go styling technique that produces well-formed, 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.

ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) Rinse: Acidic liquid that, when diluted with water and used as a rinse after shampooing and conditioning hair, helps to restore/maintain the hair’s natural pH balance.

Air Dry: To dry one’s hair without the assistance of a heat tool.

Ayurvedic Regimen: A regimen that is minimally processed and uses all natural ingredients, including herbal mixtures and natural oils to promote hair growth.


Baggy Method: A moisturizing method that involves covering the hair with a shower cap, plastic wrap (i.e Saran Wrap), plastic bag, scarf, or other breathable fabric, which allows the covering to trap heat produced by the body to achieve maximum hydration to the hair.

Banding: A styling process to stretch the hair without heat. It entails wrapping sections of your hair with small bands, elastics, ties. The idea is that your hair will seem like it has been blown out without the use of a blow dryer..

Bantu Knots: A technique for styling the hair in which small to medium sections of hair is tightly wrapped around the head in a knot-like fashion.

Bayalage: An ombre technique that lightens the top layer of hair while leaving the bottom layer dark.

Big Chop: The act of cutting off all of one’s hair, typically when it is damaged or in poor condition.

Bonnet: A type of hair covering that is shaped like a shower cap and fits snugly over the head to protect curls while sleeping.

Breakage: Any damage done to the hair/strands and or cuticle layer and or possibly the cortex.

Bronde: Hair color that is a combination of brown and blonde tones.

Buff: It’s a long, wide tube of stretchy fabric that’s meant to securely protect your curls while you sleep.

Build-up – Product build-up is the accumulation of residues from hair care products that have not been thoroughly rinsed from the hair. These residues can cause the hair to have an undesirable in appearance, feel stiff or dry, and can actually prevent hair from growing.

Butter: A type of hair conditioning treatment that is made from natural ingredients, such as Cupuacu, Mango, Muru Muru, Sal, Shea, Tucuma, Ucuuba, etc.

Curly hair dictionary - image of curly girl


Curl cast: A sensation of stiffness in your curls that usually occurs after using a gel. This helps curls retain their natural form until the hair is dry.

Canopy: It is the very top layer of hair.

Chelating Shampoo: A type of shampoo that contains chelating agents which are designed to remove mineral build-up from the hair.

Clarify: The act of removing product build-up and other impurities from the hair.

Cleansing Conditioner: A type of cleanser that is designed to cleanse the scalp and hair while conditioning at the same time.

Clumping: The act of hair strands sticking together to form cohesive coils or curls.

Copper Tone: A reddish-brown color achieved through dyeing, usually applied to hair that has been lightened to a pale blonde or bleached color.

Conditioner: A hair care product that is used to condition the hair, rebuilds and strengthens the hair shaft, and helps to prevent breakage.

Co-Wash: A type of cleansing conditioner that is used to wash the hair while simultaneously moisturizing it. It’s intended to be used in place of your shampoo, (cleanse the hair) and conditioner (keep hair more nourished and hydrated).

Curl Enhancer: A product in the form of a cream, mousse, etc. that is designed to create soft, defined curls.

Crown: The crown is the highest point of your scalp, toward the rear of your head. It’s also known as the vertex.

Crunch: The cast is a residue that certain products may leave on your curls after they’ve been completely dry.

Curly Cocktail: A mixture of conditioners, oils, and other hair ingredients that you can make yourself to use on your curls.

Curly Girl Method: Also known as the CG Method. According to Wikipedia, The Curly Girl Method is an approach to hair care designed by author Lorraine Massey for natural hair (coils, waves, and curls) that has not been chemically relaxed. This method discourages the daily use of sulfate shampoo, as it is too harsh for curly hair. Among other things, it calls for the use of a cleansing conditioner in place of shampoo (also called “conditioner washing” or “co-washing”), no silicones (used in many commercial conditioners and styling products), the use of a diffuser when blowdrying, and no combs, brushes, or terrycloth towels.


Deep Condition: A conditioner treatment formulated with key conditioning agents that is applied to the hair and left in for an extended period of time, typically 30 minutes or more. Sometimes heat and a plastic cap are used to encourage penetration of the product into the hair strands.

Density: It refers to the number of hairs that grow per square inch on your scalp. 

Detangle: The act of separating tangles and knots from the hair without damaging or breaking the strands.

Detangler: A type of hair product that is used to make tangles and knots easier to comb out.

Deva Cut: A haircut specifically designed for curly hair that is cut dry and using only scissors.

DIY Conditioner: Conditioner made with ingredients that are found in most kitchens.

Dry Shampoo: A type of shampoo that is designed to be used on dry hair to refresh and revitalize the scalp and hair.

Dusting: Hair dusting is based on an old technique that involved twisting sections of hair and burning off dead ends with a candle. It is a trimming technique where one cuts the ends of the hair without having to sacrificing the length.


Elongation: Products or styling procedures are used to loosen the curl pattern, creating length in hair.

Emollient: A type of ingredient that is used to improve hair manageability and moisturize the hair. They help to support the hair’s lipid-rich outer layer.

Essential Oil: A volatile oil that contains the essence of a plant’s smell, typically extracted from the bark, flower, fruit, or leaf.


Fatty Alcohol: A type of alcohol that is derived from natural fats and oils. They are used as emollients in hair products. Common fatty alcohols; behenyl, cetearyl, cetyl, isocetyl, isostearyl, lauryl, myristyl, stearyl, c30-50, lanolin, etc.

Flat Twists: A type of twisting style where the hair is divided into two sections and each section is twisted in opposite directions.

Fine Texture: Refers to the diameter of the individual hair strands. Fine-textured hair is usually thin and delicate.

Finger Coiling: A styling method where the hair is coiled around the fingers to create defined ringlets.

Fluff: A technique used to add volume and fullness to the hair.

Fringe: The hair that falls over your forehead.

Frizz: Uncontrollable, wispy, flyaway hair strands that are usually the result of dryness or lack of moisture.


Gel: A type of hair product that is used to add hold and style definition.

Gelatin Treatment: A treatment that uses gelatin to add strength, body, and shine to the hair.

Glycerin: A colorless, viscous liquid that is derived from fats and oils. It is used as an emollient in many hair products.

Curly hair products


Halo Frizz: Frizz that is concentrated at the crown of the head.

Hair Oil: A type of hair product that is used to add shine and softness to the hair. It helps to lubricate the hair.

Hair Type: A classification of curly hair based on the diameter and/or texture.

Hard Water: Water that contains a high mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium.

Hair Webbing: Hair webbing occurs when the hair doesn’t have enough moisture for the hair’s cuticle to lay flat, thus causing individual strands to begin attaching and web around each other, much like a spider web.

Heat Damage: Damage that is caused to the hair as a result of using heat styling tools, such as a blowdryer, curling iron, or flat iron.

Holy Grail: Aka HG. A term that refers to a product or technique that is believed to solve all of one’s curly hair problems.

Humectant: A type of ingredient that is used to attract and retain moisture. They are often found in hair products designed to add shine, body, and softness.

Hydration: The act of adding moisture to the hair.

Hygral Fatigue: Occurs when the hair swells from repeated and excessive swelling and deswelling of the hair cuticle when it takes on water. It is often associated with porosity issues. The process of hair expansion in wet conditions and contraction under dry conditions is both stressful and damaging to the hair fiber over time.


Keratin Treatment: A chemical straightening procedure that aims to reduce frizz and curl in curly hair, this process alters the structure of the hair so it can be styled easier.


Leave-In Conditioner: Conditioner that is formulated to be applied after shampooing but before drying or styling.

Locs: Sections of hair that have been twisted and matted together to create a rope-like texture.

LOC Method: A hair care routine that consists of using a liquid, oil, and cream to moisturize the hair.

Low Poo: A type of cleanser that is low lather.

Curly hair cleansers
Photo credit: Charisse Kenion


Micro Plop: A term that is similar to plopping, but a different technique. This technique squeezes out any excess water and hair products that have been used with a microfiber towel or t-shirt.

Moisturize: The act of adding hydration to the hair.

Morrocan Oil: A popular hair product that is used to maintain curls, fight frizz, and create shine.


No Poo: It literally means no shampoo. It’s a hair cleaning technique that does not require the use of regular shampoo.


Oil Rinsing: A hair care technique that involves rinsing the hair with oil to help seal in moisture, add shine, and increase softness to hair.

Ombre: Hair color that gradually goes from lighter to darker over the course of the hair shaft.


Pixie Cut: A cropped hairstyle that is short on the sides and longer on the top.

Paraben: A type of chemical preservative added to hair products.

Plopping: A technique used to enhance your wet curls and cut down on frizz while they dry. T-shirts or microfiber towels are used to wrap wet hair in order to absorb excess water.

Phthalates: A group of chemicals that are often called plasticizers. They make plastics soft and flexible. Some shampoos include phthalates as gelling agents. They may also be found in mousses, hairsprays, and conditioners. They also aid in the lubrication and softening of other materials, as well as their enhanced spreadability, absorption, and fragrance longevity.

Pineapple: A styling technique that involves forming a large, loose ponytail on top of your head. The method sorts your hair in such a way as to minimize frizz, flattened curls, and knots while you sleep.

Polyquaternium (Polyquat): A type of polymer that is often used as a conditioning agent in hair products. It helps to improve detangling, condition the hair, reduce static, and add shine.

Porosity: In simple terms, the ability of the hair to absorb and retain moisture.

Praying Hands: A way of applying styling products that involve gliding your hands across the hair on both sides in a prayer position.

Pre-Poo Oil Treatment: A hair treatment that is applied before shampooing to help protect the hair from harsh chemicals in shampoo and to add hydration.

Propylene Glycol: An organic compound that is often used as a humectant. It helps the hair retain moisture. It also reduces flaking, build-up, and damage. Many shampoos and conditioners contain this ingredient.

Protective Style: A hairstyle that is worn for an extended period of time in order to protect the hair from daily manipulation and environmental stressors.

Protein Treatment: A hair treatment that temporarily strengthens and repairs hair by adding protein to the hair.

Pulse: An approach of applying products by tightly scrunching near the roots at the top.

PVP: A type of polymer that is often used as a film-forming agent in hair products. It helps to add volume, body, and shine.

Photo credit: wilfried Vowoto


Rake: The process of using your fingers to apply products to your hair.

Rake and Shake: A styling method that first rakes products into hair from the roots to the ends, then stops and holds the ends in your hand before shaking them together.

Refresh: The act of restyling hair the next day or days later.

Rice Water Rinse: A hair care technique that involves applying rice water to your hair, which adds shine, softness, and improves the elasticity of hair.


Satin/Silk Pillowcase: A pillowcase made from satin/silk that is said to help preserve your hairstyle while you sleep.

Scalp Massage: A hair care technique that involves massaging the scalp to increase blood flow and promote hair growth.

Rinse-Out Conditioner: Conditioner that is designed to be rinsed out after it has been applied to the hair.

Roping: The act of pushing product into the hair, as if you were pressing a rope down repeatedly in a downward motion.

Root Clipping: To act of using hair clips to lift the roots for more volume.

Second-Day Hair: On day two, your curls are different than they were on the day they were washed. It’s a phrase generally used to describe when your hair has reached perfection as a curly style. Second-day hair has a combination of product and natural components that give it a better feel and appearance.

Scrunching: To scrunch is to squeeze the hair gently up from the ends toward the roots in order to create curl definition and rid of gel crunch.

Shrinkage: The act of curls shrinking when they are wet or damp. It is the length gap once hair has dried. The tighter the curl, the greater amount of shrinkage you will experience.

Silicone: A compound that is used in hair products to smooth the hair cuticle.

Silicone-Free: A product that does not contain any silicone compounds.

Slip: It is best described as the degree to which a product makes the hair feel.

Smasters: A technique of applying a product that involves putting some on during the drying stage.

SOTC (Scrunch Out The Crunch): The act of releasing the cast and softening hair, by scrunching hair when it has dried into a crunchy cast. Sometimes oil is used to help with this.

Squish to Condish: Aka STC. It is the act of squishing water and conditioner into the hair.

Styling Cream: A type of curl cream that is applied to wet or damp hair to create soft waves and curls.

Styling Gel: A type of product that is applied to wet or damp hair, then molded into the desired style.

Sulfate: A type of chemical ingredient that is used in shampoos to produce lather.

Squish: Squeezing the hair upwards while it is coated with a product.


Transition: It’s a process of someone with naturally wavy, curly, or coily hair moving away from straightening products to embrace their natural texture. Not all who transition to their natural curly have straightened their hair previously.


Volumizing: The process of adding volume and body to limp, thin hair.


Wet Set: A type of hairstyle that is achieved by setting the hair while it is still wet using rollers, curlers, etc.

Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

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