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Afro: A popular hair style worn on natural hair that involves picking and shaping the hair into a large, round halo around the head.

Aloe Vera Gel: A plant-derived gel composed primarily of water. Aloe hydrates, conditions and strengthens the hair and scalp with its healthful mix of amino acids and anti-inflammatory ingredients.


Alopecia: Loss of hair, especially from the scalp.


Alopecia Areata: Hair loss that occurs in patches. Alopecia areata totalis is hair loss that occurs all over the scalp. Alopecia areata universalis is hair loss that occurs over the entire body.


Amino Acids: Small, organic compounds that are the basic building blocks of protein chains.


Anagen: The active growing stage of a hair strand.


Anagen Effluvium: An abrupt shedding of hair in its normal anagen (growing) phase by a traumatic event such as severe illness or cancer treatment (chemotherapy)


Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): A highly acidic liquid that helps smooth and constrict the hair’s cuticles to greatly improve shine and manageability. ACV is often diluted and poured over the hair as a final rinse to seal the hair after conditioning.


Big Chop (BC): Process by which chemically relaxed hair ends are removed from the hair in one step, leaving only natural, unprocessed hair behind.


Biotin: A water-soluble B-complex vitamin. A deficiency of biotin can lead to brittle hair and nails.


Breakage: The physical fracturing of hair fibers due to stress and/or an imbalance of protein and moisture conditioning.


Buildup: Occurs when products, dirt and debris accumulate on the hair fiber over time. Oils and silicone-based products such as serums and conditioners are typical instigators of product buildup.


Butter: A semi-solid fatty oil.


Carrier Oil: A thick oil base used to dilute lighter essential oils before they are applied to the scalp or hair. Jojoba and sweet almond are common carrier oils.


Catagen: Short, transitional stage of the hair cycle that signals the ends of active hair growth.


Ceramides: Fatty acids with lipid components that help the hair and skin retain moisture.


Chelating/Chelator: Ingredients that lift and remove dulling deposits (including metal ions such as copper and iron) from the hair. These ions often build up in water causing hard-water conditions and dry, brittle hair.


Clarifying Shampoo: Clarifying shampoos are formulated to lift product debris from the hair better than traditional shampoos. They often contain EDTA and citric acid and must be followed by a moisturizing conditioner due to their tendency to dry out the hair.


Conditioner: A water-based product formulated to restore the cosmetic appearance of the hair cuticle. Conditioners improve the protein and moisture content of the hair and often confer shine and manageability on the hair fiber.


Conditioner Washing (Co-washing): A hair-washing method that skips the shampoo stage. Hair is simply cleansed with conditioner. Conditioner washing improves comb through and reduces the impact of harsh sulfate-based shampoos.


Cornrows (Canerows): Cornrows are braids that lie flat and tight against the scalp. These braids can be styled in intricate designs, or used simply as a base for a more complex weave hairstyle.


Cortex: The innermost portion of the hair shaft. The cortex houses our hair’s color molecules. The cortex also bears the disulfide chains that are responsible for our hair texture.


Cuticle: The shingled, protective outer layer of the hair shaft that is responsible for our hair’s cosmetic appearance. The primary role of the cuticle is to protect the cortex from deterioration. The condition of the cuticle determines our hair’s ability to take in moisture and affects its ability to reflect light. The thickness of the cuticle layers varies with the coarseness of the hair fiber. Coarser hair fibers have more cuticle layers than fine hair fibers.


Deep Conditioner: A type of conditioner product that contains a combination of light proteins, humectants, oils and ceramides to nourish the hair fiber. These products are left on the fiber for up thirty minutes and often require heat assistance for greater penetration.


Dermal Papilla: The structure at the base of the hair follicle that transports nutrients and oxygen to the early hair and skin cells.


Disulfide Bonds: The important linkages between proteins in the hair cortex that are responsible for our unique curl patterns and textures.


Dreadlocks: See Locs.


Emulsifier: A product ingredient that allows the water and oils in a product to be mixed together without separating. Lecithin is a common emulsifier.


End Bonds: The chemical linkages that join together amino acids into longer protein chains


Erector Pili: Tiny muscles attached to the base of the hair follicle that cause the hair to stand on end.


Essential Oils: Light, water-like oils with natural therapeutic properties for the scalp. These oils are often used as several drops dispersed in a larger volume of oil or water due to their potency and expense.


Fatty Acids: Organic compounds that support the hair’s ability to retain moisture.


Follicle: A small sac situated within the scalp from which the hair grows.


Hair: A cylindrical, keratinized fiber that grows from the scalp at the rate of roughly ½ inch per month.


Hair Bulb: Situated at the lowest portion of the hair follicle, the hair bulb contains the rapidly growing cells that ultimately become our hair.


Hard Water: Water with a high mineral content, especially calcium and magnesium.


Humectant: A substance that draws water to the hair or skin from the surrounding air. Sorbitol and glycerin are common humectants.


Hydrogen bond: Hydrogen bonds are linkages that give elasticity and flexibility to the hair. These bonds break temporarily when the hair is wet and reform when the hair is dried.


Hydrolysis/Hydrolyzed: Process by which a compound is made smaller or broken down using water. Proteins are routinely hydrolyzed.


Keratin: Keratin is a fibrous protein found in hair, skin and nails. Hair is almost entirely composed of this high-sulfur protein.


Line of Demarcation: The juncture along the hair fiber where chemically processed hair meets newly-grown-out unprocessed hair. Demarcation lines separate relaxed hair from non-relaxed new growth and colored hair from uncolored hair.


Lipids: Fats, waxes and light oils derived from plants and animals that support the cuticle’s ability to retain moisture.


Locs (Dreadlocks): A hairstyle involving the natural, intentional matting of the hair into ropelike strands. Locs may vary in thickness from smaller than a pencil to large, organic, free-form clumps of natural hair.


Lye Relaxer: High pH, sodium hydroxide-based chemical hair straightener.


Melanin: Pigment found in skin and hair.


Neutralizing Shampoo: A low-pH shampoo product that normalizes the hair’s high pH just after rinsing a relaxer. These shampoos may change color in the presence of chemical relaxer components.


New Growth: New growth is the untreated hair that grows in after chemical relaxing or coloring has taken place.


No-Lye Relaxer: High pH, hydroxide-based chemical hair straightener.


Peptide: A chain of amino acids.


pH: Scale which measures how alkaline or acidic a given substance is. A pH of 7 is neutral on the scale. A pH of 14 represents the highest level of alkalinity possible, while 0 represents the lowest acidity possible. Acid-balanced products are best for textured hair.


pH Adjuster: Also known as a buffer, pH adjusters regulate the pH of hair products.


Plasticizer: An ingredient that softens the hair or skin and makes it more manageable.


Polar Oils: Oils such as coconut and palm kernel oil that possess polar bonds but are still nonpolar overall. These oils have a slight attraction for other polar molecules including water or proteins, despite their primary non-polarity.


Preservatives: Ingredients that extend the shelf life of hair products.


Pre-shampoo Treatment (Pre-poo): A conditioning treatment done on the hair just prior to shampooing. Conditioners and oils are commonly used as pre-shampoo treatments on the hair to increase its moisture content.


Relaxer: Relaxers are high-pH chemical products that break down the hair’s disulfide bonds to straighten the hair. Relaxers are followed by a neutralizer to return the hair fiber to its pretreatment pH. Saturated Oils: Oils with straight chemical chains that facilitate their passage into the hair fiber.


Sebaceous Glands: The special oil glands in the scalp that produce oily sebum.


Sebum: The hair’s natural oil, which is made up of many waxes and triglycerides.


Shedding: Hair that is naturally released from the scalp during the telogen phase of the hair-growth cycle.


Stratum Corneum: Outermost layer of the skin.


Surfactant: “Surface acting agent” used in both shampoos and conditioners. Detergents are the most common surfactants found in shampoo products.


Telogen: Resting phase of the hair cycle during which hair no longer grows but remains within the follicle until it falls naturally. The next new growing hair may push the old hair out of the follicle if it fails to fall free on its own.


Telogen Effluvium: Process of excessive hair shedding that occurs when a large number of hair follicles enter the telogen (resting phase) at one time.


Terminal Hair: A mature scalp hair.


Terminal Length: The longest a hair can grow given the length of its growing phase.


Texlaxing: One of several processes by which hair may be intentionally underprocessed during the relaxing process. Texlaxed hair is generally straighter than texturized hair, but kinkier than fully relaxed hair.


Texturizer: A texturizer is a mild thioglycolate chemical relaxing treatment that processes just long enough to reduce the curl pattern.


TWA: Teenie Weenie Afro


Unsaturated Oils: Oils that contain kinks or branching in their chemical structure that inhibit their passage into the hair fiber.


Vellus hair: Shorter, finer, thinner and usually colorless hair fibers. These hairs are commonly found on the face, hairline, and on the backs (non-palm side) of the hands.


Virgin Hair: Hair that has not been treated with chemical processes including colors, perms and chemical relaxers.