The A – Z of ethnic hair

Monday, 9 March 2015


You’ve probably heard some terms your hairstylist throws around, which made little if no sense to you at all. We give you a breakdown of what they mean.

Alopecia: This is extreme loss of hair, especially around the hairline. It is often caused by the tight pulling of hair when putting on hair extensions. In severe cases, it can cause balding and permanent hair loss around the hairline. Ask your hairstylist not to pull your hair when plaiting it. Always give your hair a break in between changing hairstyles. Hair implants are alternative treatments for severe cases of alopecia.

Basing the scalp: This is a common term used to describe the process of applying a scalp nourishing cream to your scalp every second day to keep it nourished and healthy . Always massage the scalp very gently to stimulate blood flow.

Brazilian hair: A type of 100 percent human hair extension sourced from Brazil. It’s usually full and thick and one of the best hair textures available on the market. When properly taken care of, it can be reused a couple of times or even for a couple of years.

Cornrows: These plaits are originally from Africa and are a type of hairstyle where a narrow row of hair is plaited tightly and close to the scalp from the hairline to the back of the head. The pattern of the cornrows can be styled as desired.

Dreadlocks: This is intentionally twisted hair strands formed to create a variety of hairstyles with different textures.

Da brats: Named after the US female rapper who popularised the hairstyle in the 90’s, these are boxed braids done into a thick texture. They can be done in different lengths.

Frontal vs. closure: These are used to finish off a weave and close it off, giving it a natural-looking finish on the parting. The big differences between the two is how they are made, the material used and how they are applied to the hair. Closures are used when a weave is sewed into the hair when installed. It can be placed just behind the hairline, allowing you to wear a full weave with no hair left out while giving you the appearance of a natural scalp. Closures are not applied from temple to temple. It’s placed around the horseshoe area at the top of a weave to close off the style.
Lace frontals are used when a weave is sewed into the hair when installed or bonded. It can be placed just behind the hairline from temple to temple, allowing you to wear a full weave with no hair left out while giving you the appearance of a natural scalp. Similar to a lace wig, a lace frontal piece when applied on a weave has a realistic hairline that is supposed to look like hair growing from the scalp. They allow you to be versatile when styling your weave.

Hair food: A thick, oily product like a petroleum jelly used to add moisture to a dry scalp, leaving the hair healthy-looking. Hair foods are usually targeted at specific concerns such as treating breakage, thinning hair, stimulating growth and adding moisture. They are used at least twice a week or every other day.

Lace wig: This is a special kind of wig made from a sheer lace base, giving your style a natural-looking finish. They are made from synthetic or human hair and can be applied with glue or tape on the hairline.

Perm: The chemical perm was popular in the 80’s, and more popular than applying a relaxer to hair. This trendy look has made a comeback, but is now known as a dry curl. Hair is relaxed instead of using a perm lotion and curled using perm rollers. A dry perm lasts for three days maximum, as compared to a chemical perm which lasts for at least two months.

Relaxer: This is a chemical used to straighten virgin, natural hair ( It’s done once every eight weeks. A relaxer can strip the hair’s natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle. Always do moisture treatments at least once every two weeks.

Sulphate-free shampoo: Sulphate helps to remove excess bacteria and dirt from hair. While good at doing this, it can strip the hair’s natural oils. Sulphate-free shampoos have become the latest craze in ethnic hair care and treatments. Ethnic hair is already dry and brittle, so rather avoid using shampoos that contain sulphate. A nourishing conditioner can also be used as an alternative to cleanse your hair, which also leaves it feeling soft and smooth.

Strand bonding: Also known as fusion weave, strand bonding is a popular technique of applying a weave. The hair is fused using the cold bonding or thermal bonding technique. It lasts longer than other techniques of applying a weave.

Virgin hair: This is natural hair that has not been chemically-treated by perming or a using a relaxer.

Weave: Weaves are hair extensions sewn into the hair, creating flowing tresses. They come in various types and textures depending on where they were bought, such as Brazilian, Peruvian, and Indian Remy.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Tips to maintain your natural hair
What an at-home oil treatment can do for you
Do you know how to talk about your hair?
The three best short hairstyles to rock
How to: Care for braids

Written by

Sinethemba Makhasi is a former beauty editor at Real magazine. She researches on beauty topics and frequently attends women's events and conferences to share beauty tips and host beauty workshops. She currently works as a copywriter for an international cosmetic company.

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