Curly Hair Glossary – A List of Curly Terms Everyone Should Know

Curly Hair Glossary

When I first decided to embrace my curly hair and transition to my natural hair, I read everything I could on what products to buy, what methods to practice, different techniques on product application and a million more. I kept coming across terms I had never heard before and repeatedly had to look up, so I thought I’d put it together in a nice alphabetized glossary for any newbies that are transitioning to natural! This will continue to get updated as I continue to learn ?

Accordion Technique– while soaking wet, apply your desired styling cream or gel. With the head tilted at different angles, use a cupped palm to press hair towards scalp so as to emphasize the natural curl pattern.

Cleansing Conditioner– also known as “co-wash” conditioners, these products are daily conditioners that have small amounts of cleanser additives. Almost all conditioners have a small amount of cleanser in them, which made me feel better about the fact that almost every girl I know blows through conditioner faster than shampoo haha. Using these in-between shampoo cycles helps the hair retain moisture while keeping product build-up from happening.

Co-Washing– a contraction for “conditioner washing” is just what it sounds like, using your conditioner to cleanse your hair instead of shampooing regularly which can strip your hair of necessary hydration, oils, and proteins. Since hydration is the key to a luscious head of curls, it is important for you to know what to look out for before starting this. Babble has a great article with a couple of tips on co-washing!

Clipping– a method used when drying curly hair that helps promote volume at the root and provides better airflow so hair can dry faster. Here’s a great video from CurlSpecialist on how to properly clip.

Curly Girl Method or “CGM”– created by Lorraine Massey, it has you “Say no to shampoo, unplug the dryer, and find your inner curl!” It’s a process that requires patience and an investment in the health of your hair; everybody’s hair is different so CGM doesn’t work for everyone, and some people like it in theory but need to adjust parts of it to suit their hair or lifestyle. Here is a great overview of CGM.

Deep Condition– should be done once a week if possible, utilizing a product formulated to penetrate the hair shaft so it can provide nutrients to the cuticle. Ideally left on for 30+ minutes, lather your entire head, pull your hair into a loose bun or leave it loose in a bonnet or shower cap. I have found the best results occur when a moderate amount of heat is applied in order to open the cuticles further, so I use a thermal care heat cap, but I’ve also seen women who blow dry or just let it sit.

Finger Coil– a method of training your curl pattern by wrapping it around your finger, pushing the coil towards your scalp, before releasing it back down. This is great for people transitioning who want a way to fix stubborn curls and to enhance definition.

Fluffing– using fingers or a pick to add volume or shape to curly hair.

Leave-In Conditioner– a product, whose first and main ingredient should be water, that adds moisture and some protectant to the hair without weighing it down in product buildup. You add it after you’ve cleansed your hair, but it does not get rinsed out, hence the title.

L.O.C.– a method for product application in a specific order: leave-in conditioner, oil, and cream. You’ll see other methods (L.C.O or L.O.C.S. with the “S” standing for “sealant”).

Pineapple– usually done before bed, it’s super simple, all you do is gather your hair on top of your head and secure lightly with a scrunchy or clip in order to preserve curls for second-day hair.

Pre-Poo– when you do get the point in your routine where you have to use shampoo (ideally once every 2 weeks or more), some people find success in applying oils to the hair prior to shampooing in order to help retain necessary moisture and nutrients.

Plopping– when your hair is soaking wet, this method includes hanging your head upside down and using a microfiber towel or t-shirt to gently scrunch hair towards scalp to remove excess water without breaking the curl pattern. This can also be done with the product in your hands, scrunching toward your scalp, to maintain the structure of the curl. Take it a step further and wrap it on top of their head to dry, some people do this overnight, others do it in the morning and top it off with a diffuser or let it finish air-drying.

Porosity– this is really important for a person to know about their hair because it determines how well your hair can absorb and hold moisture. Naturally Curly has a few great articles breaking down the differences between low/medium/high porosity, as well as a couple tests to determine how porous your own hair is.

Protective Style – A protective style is any follicle configuration that keeps your ends safely tucked away, which helps keep everything moisturized. On top of all that, the looks also promote hair growth since you’re not pulling and causing shedding. Protective styles include but are not limited to twists, braids, updos, and wigs.

Slip – a term usually used when referencing conditioners that coat the hair and reduce friction when detangling.

Sulfates– if you’re following the CGM or the no-poo movement then you already know about sulfate-free shampoo. Sodium lauryl sulfate, the key ingredient in most traditional shampoos, makes for an effective cleanser but it’s usually too harsh for most curls. A lot of curl queens say that not using sulfate-free products is what leads to an excess of dry and frizzy hair. The hardest adjustment for me was that most sulfate-free shampoos don’t produce the bubbly lather that we are all used to from shampoos. Instead, they replace the detergent ingredients with water and natural oils, so you’re left with shinier bouncier curls.

Wash N’ Go– when you wear your hair in its natural curl pattern, still using any styling products you want, but without manipulating the style with tools, braids or stretching.

Check out some other Curly Girl posts I’ve got here & here!


About Essentially Erynne

• 📍Seattle • 📝 Writer • ➿ 3A/3B Curly Girl • 🦅 Ravenclaw • 🏃🏽‍♀️ #therunningmuggle

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