Do you know how to talk about your hair?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014



Naturalistas, yep, that’s you over there with the unprocessed kinky and coily hair. Have you recently gone natural or are you planning to and have no idea of how to describe your hair or its needs? We’ve got you covered with this handy glossary of terms that will help you to transition to (and maintain) your natural hair.

1. Process: You’ve heard this one many times but in case you’re doubting what all the relaxers, straighteners and perms were doing to your hair, it’s called processing. Say goodbye to thin limp hair, chemical burns and bald patches.

2. BC – Big Chop: This is your (sometimes) terrifying and exciting fresh new start. Depending on how long you’ve been growing out your natural hair and how long your processed hair is, you might have a drastic cut to make to get rid of damaged ends.

3. TWA – Teeny Weeny Afro: After your big chop, your hair is likely to be a short afro. It’s the perfect length to test new products that work for your new hair texture without too much maintenance.

4. Hair Type: This system determines the type of curl of your hair. It’s a number and letter classification that includes type 3 curly wavy to type 4 kinky coily and variations within those types. A 4A hair type would have a springier coil than a 4B type with a more tightly kinked coil. Hair typing is important to help you understand how to care for your hair, how your hair will respond to certain products and which styles are best for you.

5. Doobie: This is a nighttime protective style for your hair. Brush your hair, wrap it around your head and cover it with a scarf to keep it straight. It’s a great way of temporarily straightening your afro without applying any heat.

6. Sisterlocks: These are thinner, finer locs that are uniform and have been trademarked by Dr JoAnne Cornwall so only trained professionals can use the specialized technique.

7. Co-washing: Sometimes shampooing alone can dry out your hair. Co-washing uses your conditioner as a shampoo as it is gentler on your hair and doesn’t strip it of its natural oils.

8. Shrinkage: When your hair dries after a wash, the length of hair can appear up to 95 per cent shorter.

9. Heat Stretching: To counteract shrinkage, blow dry hair to minimise knots and tangles and make it easier to style. Make sure to use some heat protection as it can be quite damaging if heat is applied too often.

10. Pineappling: This style involves loosely tying hair up in a ponytail at night so your curls don’t get messed up while you sleep. It keeps curls tame, in tact and easy to maintain.

Other articles you may be interested in:
The best tips for washing your weave
The best short hairstyles to rock
How to: Detangle your natural hair
What your hair type needs
Best SA salons

Written by

Zanele Kumalo was a beauty editor for 8 years for some of the top glossies in South Africa before venturing into broader content including pop culture, social issues, lifestyle and travel. Fuelled by fashion, technology, music, art and design, she’ll never leave the house without lashings of mascara, a good playlist and a spritz of her favourite scent.

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  1. Pepsi

    Hi, I have been trying to find out where in SA i can get sisterlocks installed. I’m based in Durban but wouldn’t mid a trip to Joburg or Cape town to get it done. Please help with any info. Thanks

    3 years ago •

  1. Boitumelo Motswenyane

    I guess I am one of the super lucky people who have easy to handle natural hair. Joan, I see you are a true naturalist with the terms. I have relaxed my hair now, did that just to have an open weave. I do still have my LOC method routine so my hair does not get dry, especially with the weave.

    4 years ago •

  1. Joan Hillman

    Can we grow this glossary and maybe have it with its own tab under this section…the terms and words currently listed are just the tip of the ice-berg. (LOC, LCO, LOCO, Pre-Poo, Banding etc etc). Thanks for starting though – Naturalistas are here to stay!

    4 years ago •

    1. BeautySouthAfrica

      Hi Joan, we’ll definitely look into this for you.

      4 years ago •

  1. Sandra Phoma

    I love this feature! I have a teeny weeny afro right now. It is so refreshing to have natural hair. I hear it gets harder to manage later.

    4 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    I dont think I can deal with my hair in its natural state.

    4 years ago •

  1. Busisiwe Ndzube

    Great article, I love curls!

    4 years ago •

  1. AndreaM

    We call this swirling, with pantihose works much better.

    4 years ago •

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