Afro Hair Terminology

Afropedia - The Ultimate Guide to Afro & Textured Hair Terminology

Ever wondered the difference between base colour and balayage? Or a Silk Press and Texture Release? Fear not! Our dedicated team have created a guide to assist you in mastering the salon lingo for your next salon visit! Here they explain all the important afro hairstyling, cutting and colouring terms to help you understand what technique is best for you and be able to ask for exactly what you want next time you come to our salon. 

We strive to deliver the best hair cut, colour & style to all our clients and believe that the key to unlocking the hairstyle of your dreams  hinges on your ability to articulate your desired look. Say goodbye to merely nodding in agreement, hoping that you and your stylist share the same vision! We've navigated through the alphabet to compile a collection of popular hairdressing terms, words, and phrases. This guide will assist you in mastering the salon lingo for your next visit to the stylist's chair!

When you visit Afrotherapy, we promise to speak jargon free and will carefully explain each step of your chosen hair journey. It is recommended that you bring along screenshots of looks that you like and even of those that you don't to enable us to get a clear idea of the look you are hoping to achieve.

Start your journey towards beautiful hair today. Call our friendly team on 020 8345 5621 or book online




An acronym for Apple Cider Vinegar.  People often use this as a hair rinse on wash day as a way to balance the ph level of the hair and scalp. It can also be used to cleanse the scalp specially at the start of a locs journey when the hair is not washed for several weeks to allow the hair to locs.


An afro, short for "Afro hairstyle," is a distinctive and voluminous hairdo characterized by tightly curled or coiled hair that extends outward from the scalp in a rounded shape. This hairstyle gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of cultural pride and identity, particularly within the African American community during the Civil Rights Movement.

While the popularity of the afro has fluctuated over the years, it remains an iconic and culturally significant hairstyle. Many individuals still choose to embrace their natural hair texture and wear afros as a celebration of diversity and individuality. Additionally, the afro has become a symbol of empowerment and a way for people to express their cultural heritage.


Is a term for hair loss anywhere on the body, which can be permanent or temporary. 



Big Chop

This is an incredibly personal and pivotal decision to cut damaged hair caused by heat damage, overprocessed hair caused by relaxer, colour or other chemical processes.  The big chop provides an opportunity to start again with a structured routine to regrow heathy hair again.

Bantu Knots

A hairstyle where the hair is twisted, wrapped and then formed into a spiralled knot that are put into sections. 

Braid Out

A hairstyle that enhances your curl pattern to give a wavey definition to your hair.

Box Braids

Box braids are a popular and versatile protective hairstyle for individuals with textured or natural hair. These braids are characterized by small, square-shaped sections (or "boxes") of hair that are divided and then braided into long, thin extensions. The name "box braids" is derived from the distinct square or rectangular sections created during the braiding process.

My project 4

Bob Cut

A cute style to where the hair is cut to jaw length and typically left with a fringe at the front.


Hair breakage refers to the physical damage and splitting of hair strands, leading to the loss of hair length. It occurs when the hair shaft becomes weakened, resulting in the breaking or snapping of individual hair fibers. Breakage can affect both the ends and the shaft of the hair, and it can contribute to the appearance of frizz, uneven length, and overall hair health issues.

To prevent breakage you can moisturise, gently handle your hair, limit the amount of heat that you apply to your hair, do protective hairstyles and balance your diet.

Fortunately, at Afrotherapy, we offer precisely the service you require for a comprehensive understanding of your hair. You can book a hair consultation and we will help you answer any questions about your hair! 




This is when your hair is mainly washed with conditioner or a cleanser that holds more moisturising ingredients with no harsh chemicals.


Also known as Canerows in the Caribbean, this is a plaiting style where narrow strips are formed on the scalp. This hairstyle has significant meaning where during the time of slavery, this style was used to represent possible routes to freedom and even hide food for those who needed it.

Curl Sponge

Also known as a hair twist sponge, is a hair tool that has holes and grooves of different sizes which are used to enhance the curls, coils, and twists throughout your hair. They're typically used on short natural hair and come in oval, round and rectangle shapes. They give hair a finger curled look and are popular in barber shops.

Crotchet Braids

This protective cornrows based hairstyle allows versatility through creating a variety of different hairstyles using a latch hook.

Curly Perm

A curly perm, also known as 'The wet look', is a chemical hair treatment that creates or enhances natural-looking curls or waves in straight or loosely textured hair. The process involves the use of chemicals to alter the hair's structure, allowing it to take on a new, curly pattern. Curly perms are often chosen by individuals who want to add texture, volume, and a permanent curl to their hair.


Curl Pattern

This term is used to explain the pattern of your curls AKA how tight or loose the curls are. For example, 4c 4b to 1a 1b.


A moisturising agent which helps to moisturise hair after shampooing. It also helps with prevention of hair breakage as well as helping to create soft and smooth hair.


Clip-ins, also known as clip-in hair extensions, are a type of temporary hair extension that can be easily attached and removed from your natural hair. They consist of strands of hair, typically attached to a clip, and are designed to add length, volume, or colour to your existing hair. Clip-ins are popular because they provide a quick and customisable way to change your hairstyle without the commitment of more permanent hair extensions.


The process of which a wig is added to the top of the hair to make the installation look a lot more natural.


Coily hair refers to a hair texture characterised by tight curls or coils that form a distinctive and compact pattern. This hair type is commonly found in individuals of African descent, though people of various ethnic backgrounds can have Coily hair. Coily hair is often associated with having a natural curl pattern that ranges from tight coils to spring-like curls.




Also known as Dreads or Locs (that can start as twists, locs or instant locs) these are strands of hair that are twisted and allowed to grow naturally.



To remove tangles from your hair through various methods such as using a wide tooth comb, conditioner or needle.

Deep Conditioning 

Deep conditioning is a hair care practice that involves applying a highly moisturising and nourishing treatment to the hair in order to improve its overall health, manageability, and appearance. This process is particularly beneficial for individuals with dry, damaged, or chemically treated hair, as well as those with natural curls or coily hair types. Deep conditioning helps to restore moisture, strengthen the hair, and enhance its elasticity.


Density refers to the amount of hair strands on the scalp per square inch or square centimeter. It is one of the factors that contribute to the overall appearance and thickness of the hair. Hair density can vary widely among individuals, and it is influenced by genetic factors, age, hormonal changes, and overall health.

High hair density means that there is a larger number of hair strands per given area on the scalp. Individuals with high hair density often have a thick and full appearance, and their hair may appear voluminous. Medium density is a common hair density level, and individuals with this common density typically have a balanced amount of hair that gives a natural and healthy appearance. Lastly, low density means that there are lower number of hair strands. Individuals with low hair density may have hair that appears thinner, and the scalp may be more visible.




Hair extensions can be used as a protective style. It’s a method that has been used for many years and has created many different hairstyles. Usually clipped, sewin or even braided.


Edges are the baby hairs that frame the hairline. These hairs are often shorter and finer than the rest of the hair and can be more delicate. The edges play a significant role in framing the face and can contribute to the overall appearance of a hairstyle. 

Essential Oils 

Essential oils are concentrated, aromatic compounds extracted from various parts of plants, including the flowers, leaves, stems, bark, roots, and seeds. These oils capture the plant's fragrance and other beneficial properties through a process of distillation or cold pressing. Essential oils are highly potent and contain the essence of the plant from which they are derived, often possessing therapeutic, aromatic, and medicinal properties.

Whilst essential oils are recommended to keep your hair healthy, you must still ensure these oils are safe to use on your hair as everybody's hair reacts differently to various oils.




A type of hairpiece or hair extension that covers the entire hairline from ear to ear. Lace frontals are designed to mimic a natural hairline and provide a seamless transition between the hair extension and the wearer's natural hair. They are commonly used in conjunction with weaves or hair extensions to create a realistic and natural-looking hairstyle.


Faux Locs

Faux locs, short for "false dreadlocks" or "fake locs," are a hairstyle that mimics the appearance of traditional dreadlocks without the commitment or permanence. This protective style involves attaching synthetic or human hair extensions to natural hair to create the look of locs. Faux locs have gained popularity for their versatility and the ability to achieve the aesthetic of real locs without the long-term commitment.


A fade is a popular and stylish men's haircut characterised by a gradual transition from short to long hair. The fade is known for its seamless blending of different hair lengths, creating a smooth and polished look. Fades are versatile and can be customised to suit various preferences, with different types of fades, such as the low fade, high fade, or skin fade. This haircut is often associated with a clean, modern appearance and is commonly used in combination with other hairstyles.

Flat Twist

Flat twists are popular and versatile hairstyle for individuals with textured or natural hair. This style involves twisting sections of hair close to the scalp, creating a flat, two-dimensional pattern. Flat twists are commonly used as a protective style to promote hair health and retain length. They are suitable for various hair lengths and textures, including curly, coily, or kinky hair.


A frohawk, short for "afro mohawk," is a hairstyle that combines elements of a traditional afro with the distinctive shape of a mohawk. It's a creative and bold look that showcases a central strip or row of hair down the middle of the head, while the sides are typically shaved or closely cropped. The frohawk brings together the volume and texture of an afro with the edgy and structured appearance of a mohawk.

While the frohawk is a bold and attention-grabbing style, it can be relatively low maintenance compared to some intricate braided or twisted styles. Regular trims and upkeep of the shaved sides may be required to maintain the desired look.


A hair follicle is a small, tube-like structure in the skin that houses and nurtures individual hair strands. Each follicle is responsible for the growth, development, and maintenance of a single hair. They are distributed across the entire surface of the skin, except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.



Goddess Braids

Goddess braids are a type of intricate and large-sized braided hairstyle that is both stylish and protective. These braids are are a thicker size compared to traditional braids and often involve creative and visually appealing patterns. Goddess braids are a versatile and trendy option for individuals with textured or natural hair, providing a unique and eye-catching look.

Gel Twists

Gel twists refer to a hairstyle in which the hair is twisted using a styling gel to create defined and sleek twists. This is a popular hairstyle as gel twists are often used as a protective style to promote hair health and minimise frizz.




Highlights are simply pieces of hair that are lighter than your natural colour and it comes in different shades for example you can get blonde highlights if you have darker hair.

High Porosity

If you find your hair is very difficult to moisturise it may be more porous AKA high porosity. Hair that is long, damaged or 'high porosity' needs more oils or creams to seal in.



Knotless Braids

This style of braiding is used to give off a more natural, flexible look as it’s started by using the natural hair rather than beginning with the hair extension.

Keratin Treatment

A keratin treatment is a hair-smoothing and straightening procedure that involves the use of a product containing the protein keratin. The treatment is designed to reduce frizz, enhance shine, and make hair more manageable. Keratin is a natural protein found in hair, nails, and skin, and the treatment aims to replenish and strengthen the hair's natural keratin content.


Kinky hair is part of the broader spectrum of natural hair textures and falls under the category of Type 4 in the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, which classifies hair into four main types (straight, wavy, curly, and coily). It is commonly associated with natural hair types, particularly among people of African descent. 




Lace Front

A "lace front" typically refers to a type of wig or hairpiece where the front portion is made with a thin, sheer lace material to simulate a natural-looking hairline. This lace is nearly invisible and allows for the hair to appear as if it is growing directly from the scalp, providing a realistic and seamless look. Lace front wigs are popular in the world of hair styling, especially for those seeking a natural and versatile solution for various hair-related needs. 

Leave-in Conditioner

Also known as no-rinse conditioners. They are usually applied to towel dried hair to moisturise and protect it from damage. Containing humectants that keep the hair hydrated.




A mohawk is a distinctive hairstyle where a strip of hair runs from the front to the back of the head, with the sides shaved or closely cropped. The central strip of hair is often longer and can be styled in various ways, creating a bold and edgy look. Mohawks have been a symbol of rebellion and individuality, and they are popular in various subcultures and fashion trends.


A combination of water and oil held together by a stable emulsifier. For a product to be moisturising it must be water-based. Oils and butters do not have hydrating properties as they don't contain water. However, they can be used after a water-based moisturiser to seal in moisture. Using a water-based moisturiser like Sheen or Smooth followed by an oil or butter will make your hair happy.


Maintenance refers to the ongoing care and upkeep required to keep something in good condition or working order. In the context of hair, maintenance refers to the regular practices and routines undertaken to keep the hair healthy, nourished, and looking its best. This includes a combination of cleansing, conditioning, styling, and other treatments aimed at promoting hair health and managing its appearance.

We promote healthy hair maintenance and will give you the best advice for keeping your hair maintained. 




No shampoo – it is a method of 'cleaning' hair that usually uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar, rather than a traditional shampoo. NB: not washing your hair isn’t something we would suggest. We suggest using a gentle shampoos to cleanse your scalp.

Natural Hair

"Natural hair" generally refers to hair that has not been chemically altered or treated with relaxers or perms to change its natural texture. The term is often associated with the hair of individuals of African descent, but it can apply to any hair type that has not undergone chemical straightening, perming, or similar treatments.

afro hairstyles for students at afrotherapy salon north london



Pixie Cut

A pixie cut is a short and chic hairstyle characterised by its cropped length and close-cropped sides and back. Pixie cuts are known for their versatility, as they can be tailored to suit different face shapes, hair textures, and personal styles. This classic and timeless hairstyle has been popularised by various fashion icons and celebrities over the years.



"Plaits" is a term used to describe a hairstyle created by intertwining three or more strands of hair. The term is often used interchangeably with "braids." Plaits, or braids, come in various styles and patterns, and they are popular for their versatility, allowing individuals to express their creativity through different weaving techniques.


This describes a high ponytail hairstyle which resembles a pineapple. It is also used to help keep curl definition. 

Protective Hairstyle

A protective style is any style that keeps your hair protected from damage by many factors such as weather, manipulation, heat or tension and aids in length retention .

Pony puff

A pony puff is a hairstyle that involves gathering the hair into a high, rounded ponytail, creating a full and voluminous puff of hair. This style is often associated with natural or textured hair, and it's a versatile and stylish option for individuals who want a chic and easy-to-achieve look.

The pony puff is a go-to style for those who appreciate the beauty of natural and textured hair. It's a quick and stylish option that can be customized based on individual preferences, making it a popular choice for individuals seeking a simple, cute and low-maintenance hairstyle.


A perm, short for "permanent wave," is a chemical hair treatment that alters the structure of the hair to create permanent curls or waves. It is a popular hairstyling technique used to add texture, volume, and body to straight or flat hair. Perms work by breaking and reforming the bonds in the hair, allowing it to take on a new shape when set.



Porosity refers to the hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture and chemicals. It is determined by the condition of the hair cuticle, the outermost layer of the hair shaft, which consists of overlapping scales that can open and close to varying degrees. Hair porosity can affect how products are absorbed, how well moisture is retained, and how the hair responds to chemical treatments. 

Take note that everybody has different hair porosity, so whatever works for someone else's hair may not work for you and vice versa. That is why it's important to stay consistent in how you keep your hair healthy and not use too many different products. 




Quick Weave

Is a weaving method where hair weft is glued directly to a protective weave cap placed on your head before bonding. This is a good protective style if you’re looking for something quick as all your hair protective under the weave cap.




A relaxer is a chemical product designed to straighten or loosen the natural curl pattern of tightly coiled or curly hair. It is commonly used by individuals who want to achieve a straighter and smoother hair texture. Relaxers work by breaking down the protein structure in the hair, specifically the disulphide bonds, to alter the shape of the hair strands. The result is temporary straightening that typically lasts until new hair growth occurs.


A self-made or prescribed routine that typically allows you to keep your hair happy and healthy. It provides structure.


Ringlets refer to tightly wound, well-defined curls that resemble spirals or coils. These curls often form a distinctive ring-like or spring-like pattern, giving the appearance of individual rings along the length of the hair. They are often associated with individuals who have curly or coily hair.



Silk Press

A non permanent straightening system designed to straighten curly hair, damage free and chemically free using products that allow the curls to revert back.

silk press

Slicked Ponytail

To achieve this look you would have to pull your hair either in a low or high ponytail using holding products such as gel, wax or hairspray. If you have natural afro hair straightening the hair prior to this may be necessary so it gives you the smooth shiny look.


The technique where thick oil is used in order to retain moisture and to seal in moisture. We recommend olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and jojoba oil. A mixure containing all of these and more so it's our top recommendation, it was recently voted the top Indy Best oil for afro hair because it: "penetrates the hair shaft and leaves your strands feeling hydrated and super soft, and it remains that way for hours afterwards."


They are a form of microlocs which are created using a special tool, which locks strands of hair from the bottom up.


Curls becoming tighter and appearing shorter, usually after being wet. Also a sign of healthy hair


A cleansing product used to wash hair and clean away externalities and dead skin that may have gathered around the follicles.


The types of silicones used in hair care products are supported by scientific research and are considered safe. There are many variants of silicones used in hair and skin care for protection against moisture loss. High-grade silicones allow for nutrients and moisture to penetrate the hair shaft, however, lower grade silicones tend to build up faster.

Split ends

Are when the hair becomes dry and brittle at the ends causing the strands to split and look frayed and damaged. To fix this a trim is necessary to seal the hair shaft. We recommend doing this at least 3/4x a yr.

Second Day Hair

Hair that has gone more than one day without being washed.


This usually refers to how much lubrication a product like conditioner or hair cream can give your hair once applied. Products with lots of slip can make it easier to detangle curly and afro hair. 

Shea Butter

Shea butter is fat that is extracted from Shea tree seeds, found in east and west Africa. It is rich and creamy in texture and is also favoured for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This also can be used as a thick hydrator moisturiser.

Search and Destroy

In the context of hair care, "search and destroy" is a technique used to identify and remove split ends or damaged hair strands. It involves visually inspecting the hair and selectively trimming or cutting individual strands that show signs of damage, such as split ends, fraying, or breakage. This is important to do at least every three months as that is when, on average, you will grow back split ends. 





An acronym for Teeny Weeny Afro.  When the hair is cut short to a mini afro.  Sometimes done when transitioning from relaxer to natural hair.  Rather than growing out the relaxer, the hair is cut short and then grown out. 



The technique of cutting the ends of ones hair to prevent further splitting accruing. This is recommended every 3 months.

Tape ins

A method of installing either synthetic or human hair by taping it in between sections of hair. This method creates the least tension as it doesn’t require cornrowing the base. This also allows versatility as majority of the hair is left out


Transitioning to natural hair is the process that involves no longer using a hair relaxer, letting your natural hair texture grow and gradually cutting off the chemically processed or damaged ends. 

Twist Out

Is used to describe a hairstyle after twisting hair and leaving the twists in (usually overnight) you take them out for a more defined curl pattern.

Two Strand Twists

A hairstyle with which the hair is parted and wrapped around each other to create a twist. Protective hairstyle. Can also be used to start locs.




A bold and unique cut that includes shaving the back of ones hair. Patterns and colours can be added. It can only be seen with the hair up.



Virgin Hair

Hair that has not been treated with chemicals or heat.

Vixen Sew In/ Versatile Sew In

A method of installing, tracks of hair to the clients scalp in a way that allows for parting down the middle and across the head. The hair can be put up as more hair is left out compared to a traditional sew in. 




A way of installing hair, the hair comes in bundles of tracks and is sewn into a cornrowed base. 


A hair unit comprised of synthetic or human hair. This can be stuck or sewn on. This comes in a wide range of different styles including; head band wigs, lace frontals, closures and glueless. Due to its versatility, wigs are a popular protective hairstyle for women with curly and afro hair.

Wash and Go

Washing and styling your hair without the use of heat, protective styling, or other manipulation techniques.