I remember just before cutting my dreadlocks in 2016 I had gone on a natural hair community binge online. If anyone was posting anything about natural hair I wanted to know more. I joined Facebook groups, followed new YouTube channels, bombarded Google because something in me came alive when I saw women falling so madly in love with their inate beauty. Little did I know that my new obsession was pushing me to cut my hair with each passing day. At first I taught myself how to twist and somewhat style my own dreadlocks and I did so successfully before admitting to myself that I actually wanted a fresh hair journey.
At the start of my obsession there were SO MANY terms that I just didn’t know and that can be jarring to a newbie keen on being part of the community. Terms and knowledge are constantly changing or rather they are constantly being added to. I’ve hand picked just 10 that one needs to know from the onset.
1. LOC/ LCO
This is an abbreviation for Liquid (water or Leave-In), Oil, Cream. This is the step you take immediately after completing your wash routine. It helps keep your natural hair soft, hydrated and nourished. The ripple effect is thriving hair that grows. Depending on a number of things LOC may not work for you and instead Leave-In, Cream and Oil (LCO), or just LO, or even just LC may work best depending on your hair porosity (explained below). It is therefore very important to know what kind of hair you are handling before you begin applying anything on it. Personally I use the LO method on my hair.
I remember the first time I heard this abbreviation, I thought ‘how fancy’? But I still didn’t know what it meant. It was on one of the natural hair Facebook groups and someone was talking about their TWA. If you are like me let me help you out. This is an abbreviation for that awkward stage of your hair growth when your afro is so small you can barely do anything with it except hide it under a wig or simply comb it and show up. At this stage your afro is referred to as a Tinie Weenie Afro – TWA. I’m very grateful that my hair grows fast, within 2-3 months I was past this stage.
3.POROSITY, TYPE & DENSITY
There are three types of porosity and four types of natural hair types as explained in one of my Youtube videos. To view the video click here.
It is very important to know all three of these if you are going to give your hair the very best treatment.
Porosity refers to how porous your hair is and there are various tests as explained in the video that one can do to ascertain this. Knowing if you have high, normal or low porosity hair will help you determine what you feed it for it to grow at its healthiest. The same goes for the type of hair you have, do you have 1A hair or 4C hair. This is also explained in the video. Density simply speaks to how many follicles of hair you have on your head. Does your hair grow thick or thin and how to handle thick or thin hair is also very vital for healthy growth.
I have low porosity type 4C dense hair. I am saying this because most of my hair care tips will be for hair like mine.
This refers to a treatment you do on your hair before putting shampoo on it. Most shampoos, especially those that contain sulfate, will strip your hair of its natural oils. Prepoo treatments do a double duty in that they assist in detangling your hair before you wash it as well as coating it in oil so that when it makes contact with the shampoo very little damage is done. The most common form (trust me there are plenty) of prepooing is using water and coconut oil to detangle and twist the hair the night before wash day. I never wash my hair without prepooing first.
5.TWIST OUT/ BRAID OUT
It’s the ‘out’ that throws most people off. We all know what twists and braids are. However most people with natural hair use these as protective styles and instead of washing their hair and styling it again when they undo these, the styles perform a double duty as volumizers or shrinkage preventers. What I mean by that is when one braids out or twists out their hair it will be stretched and for a day or two they can wear their natural hair in that state with increased volume and length. A number of women of colour are preoccupied with how long they can keep their twist out thriving. Generally, when my hair is not in a protective style I twist it in large sections before I go to bed and wear my hair in a twist out during the day. If I’m too lazy or late to twist out I keep and style the twists or I cover them with a headwrap.
6.SULFATE & PARABENS
Sulfate is a chemical found in most shampoos which is known for stripping hair of its natural oils, therefore damaging it. There are a number of sulfate-free shampoos on the shelves in various stores across South Africa. With all things it is wise to know your hair type and use everything in moderation as shampoos with sulfate help tremendously in removing product build up.
Parabens are preservatives used in most beauty and hair products. They’ve earned a bad name over the years as their safety has come under question. There are paraben-free alternatives in most beauty supply stores.
For my low porosity hair I need to clarify my hair more often than someoneo with high or normal porosity, so my wash day regimen contains shampoos with sulfate and those without.
This is an absolute no no for me. In the first year since I started growing my afro I only put heat on my hair once. However to my utter dismay in the past six months (my hair is 1.5 years old) I’ve had two more encounters with heat, one where my hair was greatly protected albeit I was not so comfortable with the amount of direct heat on it and another where my hair was brutally mishandled. Not all heat is bad for you, but frequent heat straight out of a hair dryer onto your freshly washed hair will dry and damage your hair in the long run. The trick is in how, when, and how often you administer heat on your natural hair. For example during the deep conditioning phase of your wash day it will do wonders to own a deep conditioning cap, or a hooded dryer as heat helps open up the hair strands allowing the deep conditioner to penetrate deeper and work its magic. During this process the hair is not bare as it is protected by the product, and the heat falls on the conditioning plastic cap and not directly on the hair.
I’m still to get myself a deep conditioning cap/dryer. #wishlistthings
A special appointment with your hair. Once a week, or twice a month, depending on your personal preference, you set a day, or rather a morning, afternoon or evening aside to wash your hair thoroughly using shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner and other treatments.
My wash days are weekly and usually start the night before with the prepoo. I prefer mornings for my wash routines and I like washing my hair on Saturdays. It usually takes me about 2 hours for a straight wash day with no extra treatments. If you have heating equipment like a deep conditioning cap it should take less time.
9.EDGES, ROOTS & ENDS
All three of these should be given the utmost attention when handling your hair. Edges refer to the perimetre of your hair, the outside circumference with a lot of attention being given to the front of your head as it suffers the most contact and manipulation, especially during styling. Proper care for this area is vital as most people who neglect it end up suffering major hair loss in this area.
Roots are the newest hair on your head, right below the surface of your scalp and usually refered to as the healthiest, this of course is dependent on you. The roots are alive and fed by blood vessels. How healthy your hair grows out is dependent on how well you treat your body, which is why some people take hair vitamins or cut their hair when they see a problem to allow it to grow fresh again. The best way to take care of your roots is to consume a lot of water and eat nutritious foods and in so doing keeping your blood healthy so that it feeds the hair what it needs.
Ends are the oldest parts of your hair, the tips. Once the hair is on the surface of the scalp, meaning it is visible and has grown out, it is no longer alive. Ends are the most fragile. As we know hair is dead cells and ends have been dead the longest, so they need the most care and the least manipulation to prevent breaking and ensure length retention.
This refers to washing your hair only with conditioner. Due to the harsh nature of most shampoos, conditioners are a lot milder and can assist to clean the hair to a certain extent. Most people alternate their weekly wash days between shampoo and conditioner. However it is important to know your hair type as low porosity hair tends to have a lot of product build up and benefits very little from a co-wash. Product build up can weigh your hair down and cause major damage.
I co-wash only once a month, so that is one out of four times.
What natural hair terms do you know of that are not mentioned above? Sharing is caring, please comment below :)!