Hair GLOSSary: 12 Hair Terms every Natural Should Know
Earlier this year a sister friend of mine was visiting from the United States and one day while we were talking about hair she decided to pull out her laptop and show me pictures of how her hair looked like before she went natural, when she used to wear what she called a ‘perm’ -. I was so shocked.
I thought to myself: “In 2016, there are still people using that stinky perm lotion gel we abandoned decades ago? People from America, of all places?” But then when the pictures popped up, I saw someone with relaxed hair.
So it was that day that I learnt that the curly/bouncy hairstyle achieved with the notoriously pungent gel is very different from what our sisters across the Atlantic call a perm. To them ‘perm’ is short for permanent relaxer, what we simply refer to as a ‘relax’.
So what is the point of this short story? It is the lesson that words and their meanings are imperative to proper understanding and it is on that note that we should familiarize ourselves with some good-to-know natural hair terms. Some of which I certainly didn’t know before becoming natural that might sound foreign to you too.
Texture is the width or circumference of your hair strands. You can have a coarse, medium or fine texture. I know…it’s not exactly what you were thinking, right?!
Just like when used it science, where density is defined as the amount per unit size, you can think of it the same way with your hair. Your hair density is the ‘crowdedness’ of your hair strands. Those who have low density have hair that is not very ‘crowded’ i.e. it isn’t closely packed together and those with high density, well, they are the ones you yourself might have once referred to as having ‘thick’ or ‘bushy’ hair.
Curl pattern is, as the name suggests is the natural curl pattern your hair makes when it’s untreated. Some have wavy, some curly and others coily pattern types and some people’s hair doesn’t have a distinguishable pattern at all.
Now elasticity is the one thing that I love about natural hair because I believe it is what contributes the most to its versatility. The more your hair can stretch, the more elastic it is. The less the stretching capability, the less elastic it is. Elasticity also goes hand in hand with pliability. The more elastic your hair is, the more pliable it is, meaning the easier it is to manipulate. And vice versa of course.
Hair typing refers to the alphanumeric system of hair categorization according to curl patterns. It was developed by Mr. Andre Walker and originally consisted of hair types 1A to 4B. Feeling that it was not catering for all hair types, 4C was later added by the world of internet bloggers to cater for hair with an undefined curl pattern.
Detangling is the process of taking out knots that have formed between your hair strands. When done with your hands we call it finger-detangling. When done with a comb we call it combing and when done with a brush we call it…you guessed it, brushing. The latter two I’m sure you knew, it is the finger detangling that we tend to focus more on as naturals.
Porosity, some consider, as the most important thing to learn about your hair. Porosity, from the word porous, is your hair’s ability to intake and retain moisture. So just like the pores on your skin, if the ‘pores’ (proper name for hair is cuticles) on your hair are very open, you have high porosity. If they are tightly shut you have low porosity.
Leave-in conditioning is the frequent application of a moisturizer to condition your hair.
Deep conditioning is the periodic application of a moisturizing or repairing conditioning treatment to boost moisture or increase strength.
Co-washing is the washing of hair with a conditioner instead of a shampoo to mitigate dryness.
- Protective styling
As you can guess protective styles are styles that protect, but protect what exactly? A true protective style should protect the three most important and fragile parts of your hair, those being your roots, scalp and tips/ends.
Your hair regimen is the schedule you will have to establish, if you don’t have one already, in order to maintain the health of your hair and achieve the hair goals you have set for yourself. Before we returned to natural, most of us had a regimen that consisted of one thing: going to the hair salon. But because there aren’t many hair salons in our country that master natural hair care (with the exception of dreadlocks) when returning to natural, it often means playing a more active role in the upkeep of your own hair.
So just as I won’t be confused the next time I hear someone calling a ‘relax’ a ‘perm’ so I hope you won’t be confused either as we learn more about these topics. You won’t want to miss our upcoming series as we explore the practical details of some of these terms to inform your hair care decisions and help you establish a custom regimen that caters for your hair’s unique composition and its specific needs.
Are some of theses terms new to you too? Let us know in the comments below.