The Curly Hair Dictionary

Co-wash, pre-poo, pineappleing — the world of curly hair care can be a confusing one for even the most advanced student of spirals. For those that decide to embrace their natural texture after years of fighting it with chemical processes and products, it can be a bit confusing trying to learn the natural-hair speak. Heck, there a quite a few words within the community that even those long-standing naturals have to Google from time to time.
The natural-hair grassroots movement took hold in the late '90s and grew up during the dot com boom. The same way that LOL made its way into the texts of millennials across the globe, so too did no-poo, APL, 4B, and wash-n-go make their way into chat rooms and discussion boards across the Internet.
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Today, that movement is finally starting to go mainstream. To help clear up the confusion for any newbies (and those seasoned pros who need a refresher course), we've compiled this Curly Hair Dictionary. It features all the need-to-know styles, treatments, techniques, and acronyms every naturally curly lady needs to master. Read on for a master class in all things curls.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
No-poo is either the process by which you wash your hair without using traditional shampoo, or a product that is for washing your hair but contains no traditional shampoo.

Traditional shampoo contains a lot of sulfates that dry out the hair and strip the scalp of natural oils. For those with curly hair, this can cause frizz and breakage.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
This is part of the alpha-numerical hair-typing system that measures the texture of your hair and provides specific recommendations for products, styles, and maintenance methods.

While the hair-typing system is controversial, many curly and natural hair brands use the system to create products for specific curl types. The hair system does not generally include hair porosity. Knowing what hair type you are can be beneficial when searching for products that may work best for your hair.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Co-wash stands for conditioner wash, which is an alternative method of washing your hair where no shampoo is used. A co-wash can also be a curly hair product.

Co-wash contains no sulfates and instead hydrates the hair the same way a conditioner would. Using a method called 'noodling,' co-washes can effectively wash the hair of dirt without stripping it of moisture or the natural oils found on the scalp.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
The big chop is the name for when a woman cuts off the vast majority of her hair, particularly damaged hair from a lifetime of straightening.

A big chop is a big moment in a transitioner's road to natural hair. It is highly celebrated in the natural-hair community and tons of support is given to the people who do this. Women who BC often blog or record the progress of their hair and ask the community for suggestions on the route to learning about their natural hair texture (a texture many of these women have never before seen).
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
TWA is a length-check milestone that often begins with a BC and goes as follows: TWA (teeny, weeny afro); BSL (bra-strap length); CBL (collar-bone length); APL (arm-pit length); MBL (mid-back length); BAA (big ass afro).

Often, length checks are used as a means to measure healthy hair growth within the natural-hair community. In addition, products react to hair weight differently depending on length. These measurements serve as a point of reference for reviewers in the community.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A wash-n-go is a type of curly or natural hairstyle that consists of washing the hair, adding an array of products and then leaving the house for the day.

It is one of the easier natural hairstyles to accomplish and many newbies to the natural-hair community seek to master it first. Many natural-hair gurus are experts at the wash-n-go and cite it as a daily style. Products added to the hair between washing and going vary from person to person.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
ACV stands for apple cider vinegar. This product is used in many natural hair treatments, products and methods. The natural hair community often calls products, ingredients or methods by their acronym. AVJ (aloe vera juice), EO (essential oil), EVCO (extra virgin coconut oil), and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) are also popular acronyms.

Naturally curly hair needs more moisture than straighter hair because the oils on the scalp have a harder time coating the strands when they are textured (imagine a liquid finding its way down a corkscrew versus a pencil). Because of this, women with curly hair apply oils, as well as treatments to help provide moisture to hair, prevent frizz, and ward off breakage.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A nighttime hairstyle that helps to reduce frizz and promote second-day hair.

Curly hair benefits from not being washed daily. This gives the oils on the scalp time to coat the strands. Sleeping can pull moisture out of hair (if you sleep on a cotton pillowcase) and can cause frizz by snagging and manipulation. Pineappling helps to keep hair defined to allow for a second-day hairstyle by getting it up and out of the way while you sleep. We have a handy step-by-step guide to pineappling here, for those of you who want more specifics on how to master this technique.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Second-day hair refers to the amount of time since the hair has been washed and styled, generally not exceeding four days. Curly hair benefits from not being washed daily. Holding off on wash day gives the oils on the scalp time to coat the strands, reducing frizz and helping to strengthen hair.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A type of technique for applying products to the hair in which you flip your hair over and scrunch product in from the tip to the root, moving up and down like you would out and in with an accordion. It generally encourages the curl pattern for those with looser curls.

Applying product to curly hair needs to encourage the curl without pulling on the hair (which is generally weaker when wet). The accordion technique promotes volume and definition.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Carrier oils are the base oils used in oil-based hair treatments most often made at home. Carrier oils dilute pure essential oils that might irritate or burn the scalp on their own. Typical carrier oils include olive, grapeseed, and vitamin E oil.

With little product options for the natural-hair community until just recently, many women took to creating their own products, many of those being hydrating oil treatments that were healthy, cheap, and easy to make.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
The Curly Girl Method is a curly hair care method created by Lorraine Massey. The method consists of no-poo, co-washing and many other natural hair community staple regimens and treatments.

At the beginning of the movement, there were few places to turn for good advice for curly hair maintenance. Lorraine Massey, having been ridiculed as a child for her curly hair, found a way to make the style work — and it turns out that method works for a lot of people. Today, she heads Devachan salon, one of the country's leading curly hair specialized salons.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Cones refer to silicones found in conditioners, gels, and other products that claim to hydrate or control frizz. Silicones on their own are not necessarily bad, though the topic is hotly debated.

The issue here is about cleanliness. If you are not shampooing with a traditional shampoo that will remove the build-up of non-water-soluble silicones, then you will have a lot of build up on your hair, causing grease, lack of definition, lack of volume and frizz. In general, women who follow the CG Method do not use silicones at all.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Pre-poo involves a pre-shampoo hydrating treatment like a deep conditioner or oil hair mask. This preps the hair for the manipulation that occurs during the process of washing and setting the hair. See also: CWC (condition, wash, condition) where you use a conditioner before your shampoo, as well as after to help hair maintain hydration.

Over manipulation can cause frizz and breakage with curly hair. On wash days, manipulation is generally at its height. Pre-poo and extra conditioner (particularly those with enough 'slip') help to reduce unnecessary breakage.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A deep treatment or a deep conditioner that is applied to the hair to provide additional hydration. This can be a combination of a branded deep conditioner or one that someone makes themselves.

Curly hair needs additional moisture and weekly or monthly deep treatments or deep conditioning helps to provide extra moisture that increases definition and decreases breakage.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A product that a curly hair woman uses on a regular basis that she often swears by. These can be ones that she buys or that she makes. Over time, these often change and there is no one Holy Grail product within the community at any given time. What works for some, doesn't work for others.

Much time and dedication has been put into understanding curly hair to increase days without much frizz. Finding a product that you love and that works well and often generally feels like you have succeed at the quest to find the Holy Grail.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A non-medical syndrome that occurs when a person is seemingly addicted to running their hands through their hair or simply touching it. Over manipulation causes breakage and increases frizz. The natural-hair community has thus deemed the habit of touching your hair often as something that is to be avoided if and when possible.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
The yearly celebration of a woman's decision to go natural. This usually refers to the day they big chopped but can fall anywhere within the time frame that they first made the decision to follow a natural-hair regimen.

Deciding to go natural is a big decision, and it takes a lot of dedication. It involves learning new hairstyles, hair products, and often even learning how to make some of them yourself. The road isn't easy to becoming natural and not everyone decides that it is for them. For those that make it, there is usually a social celebration around the event on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the like.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
A protective hairstyle is a style that aims to protect the hair from outside elements. Generally the ends of the hair are protected to stop split ends from occurring. Protective styles help to ward off breakage. Twists and braids are very popular forms of protective styles.

Protective styles minimize manipulation and protect against excessive breakage. If done properly (i.e. they shouldn't be too tight), protective styles help to encourage healthy hair growth, especially if you aren't used to or don't have the time to style your hair out daily.
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Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
The time frame known as transitioning is before a woman has big chopped and after she has made the decision to go natural. This is usually defined by a period of time in which you grow out your natural hair enough to cut off the processed hair beneath.

Those going through the transitioning phase are generally the newest to the natural-hair community. There are tons of articles, YouTube videos, and more about this particular topic in which new hairstyles are broken down, the importance of oils is explained, and more. Often, women transitioning will big chop and go through the TWA phase and so on. However, many women are also transitioning for years, cutting off their processed hair after their natural hair has fully grown out. Therefore, transitioning can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.
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