You know you need it: a slang dictionary for all of those curly hair words and terms you hear thrown around.
What the heck is plopping? What kind of weird contraption is a diffuser? What in the name of all that is holy guacamole do pineapples have to do with anything?
Don’t fret, my lovelies. I’ve got you. Like the curl version of the urban dictionary, here is a curly hair glossary for all those crazy terms and words.
Cue theme music.
The Curly Hair Slang Dictionary
- ACV Rinses
- Bonnets and Buffs
- The Bowl Method
- Deep Conditioning
- Density (see: Porosity)
- Hover Diffuse
- Hygral Fatigue
- LOC (Method)
- Medusa Method
- Pigtail Cut (see: The Unicorn Cut)
- Pixie Diffuse
- Porosity and Density
- Praying Hands
- Rake & Shake
- Rice Water Rinses
- The Unicorn Cut & The Pigtail Cut
One popular way to clarify, not to mention add some shine, is to use an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse.
Dilute with water (you’ll thank me when you get this in your eyeballs), and use on your scalp. You can also use a spray bottle.
You can use the ACV rinse either before you shampoo, in between your shampoo and conditioner, or last. Make sure you rinse thoroughly so you don’t smell like an Italian sandwich the rest of the day.
This is also great for dandruff!
Bonnets and Buffs
Okay, these ones aren’t that confusing, but in case you’re thinking Little House on the Prairie bonnets, let’s explain.
Used for sleeping, a silk bonnet with a wide band is popular because it creates less frizz as you toss and turn all night. It will protect your hairs and give you a much better shot at a good hair day the next morning.
A buff does the same thing, but is more like a wide headband that keeps your curls off the nape of your neck, piled high atop your head (like the pineapple but without the ponytailing).
I cannot imagine sleeping with a bonnet on my head, so I’ve never bothered to try it. Also, I don’t really feel like looking like the cross between a chef and a middle-aged woman wearing a shower cap when I crawl into bed at night. I mean, I’ve been married for 21 years but I like to think the magic isn’t QUITE gone. So says the woman wearing a nasty old t-shirt and mismatched socks. Ahem.
My compromise? Sleeping on a silk pillowcase in my pineapple. HAWT.
The Bowl Method
Everyone in the curl community was gushing over this a while back, but I think we all ran out of bowls or something.
This method really gets water and moisture into thirsty hair. With a large bowl (I would recommend plastic, not glass, both for the weight and your spaghetti arms, and also because you’ll be doing this in a slippery shower), catch your rinses into the bowl. Swirl your hair around inside the bowl. Pour over head, and repeat the catching and swirling.
Legend has it it creates clumps and really gets the water into your hairs.
I can see doing it while camping or something, but it seems a little labor intensive for everyday washing. Then again, I’ve never tried it.
Clarifying is an important step in your curly life. Your scalp is your garden soil, and you won’t have beautiful flowers growing out of it if you neglect it, right?
Clarifying means using a special shampoo or another “clarifying” agent every third time or so you cleanse. This removes all the buildup from natural oils and various hair products you use.
There are scalp scrubs that are great, too. You just want to make sure all the product buildup is being removed every so often, and our beloved sulfate-free shampoos or cowashes just won’t get the job done.
How often you clarify will depend on your needs.
Clumps or Clumping
When we talk about creating clumps, we’re talking about the individual hair “families.” They may be a dozen strands that cling together, or several dozen, but they want to be together forever and ever amen. The more defined your curl clumps are, the less stringy your overall hairdo will appear.
I find the praying hands method really encourages my clumps, and others swear by using a styling brush, like the Denman, to create great clumps.
Girls and boys with thicker hair may need to separate their clumps after their hairs dry. This will create volume as well!
Co-washing is a method and product used to clean your scalp without shampoo. Personally, I don’t care for it at all, and yes, I’ve given it a lot of shots.
A favorite co-wash in the curly community is As I Am Coconut Co-Wash. If you do co-wash, I would still follow up once or twice a month at least with a normal, sulfate free shampoo.
Co-washing was a big thang for a while, but I think now that it’s easy to find sulfate free shampoos, and because of the Deva Curl scandal going on, it’s not as popular as it used to be.
Like I said, I’m not a huge fan, but you do you, boo.
You’ve probably figured this one out all on your own, you smart thing you, but just in case.
Deep conditioning is important for curlies because we just need more moisture than our straight haired friends do. Our kinks and coils are thirsty!
There are about as many deep conditioners on the market as there ways to apply them. You can use a mask, a regular old conditioner, an oil, or an official ‘deep conditioner.’ You can use in the shower after cleansing, or on dry hair before shampooing, or even sleep in it.
Deep conditioning is essentially just giving your hair some extra loving. Some like to put a shower cap over the hairs and apply some heat to really penetrate.
I can rarely find the time to do a proper deep conditioning. Don’t be like me.
A diffuser is a handy-dandy tool that attaches to your blow dryer.
It’s shaped like a bowl with tentacles essentially. It creates much less frizz because it stops the blow dryer from blowing your hair in all directions.
A diffuser is definitely a curly person’s best friend, especially if you don’t like to air dry.
What you name your poodle, and also what you do after you SOTC.
When hair is fully dry, bend over, insert your fingers through your hairs to the scalp, and fluff away. You’re breaking up some of the leftover product, lifting the roots of your hairs up towards Jesus, and shaking things up (literally). This gives you volume and airiness. You can also fluff with a pic.
You also want to fluff after waking up in the morning and you look like a crazed serial killer who’s been running for his life all night long. Or maybe that’s just me.
This method of using your diffuser (see above) is less about cupping your curls into the bowl, and instead hovering just an inch or so away from your hair.
Especially good at the beginning of blow drying to dry your roots and scalp without physically touching your locks.
Okay, until I looked it up, I thought it was Hydral Fatigue. Spell check doesn’t like either version, but I promise it’s a thing. Hygral fatigue or moisture overload or protein overload, these are terms used pretty interchangeably.
Essentially, if you’ve been groovin’ along with your curly hair journey, and suddenly you find yourself with soft, squisy, limp locks that won’t hold a style, you might be experiencing hygral fatigue. It’s a weird mix of soft frizz. You’ll know it when you feel it.
To fix it, simply use a clarifying shampoo or even a sulfate shampoo. You just need to get the buildup gone and start over with your next wash day.
To avoid getting this in the first place, always rotate your products, shampoos, and conditioners. Hairs get tired of the same thing over and over. So while it’s nice to have a “holy grail” product, don’t use it every single time you wash and style your hair.
Another acronym, LOC stands for Lotion, Oil, Cream. It’s simply the order in which you can apply products.
Essentially, you could create acronyms for any of your desired product layers, but GML (gel, mousse, lotion), or MOL (mousse, oil, lotion), or COG (cream, oil, gel), just aren’t as catchy or easy to remember.
Most curlies who use the LOC method have thicker, coarser, type 4 curls, as this is a pretty heavy handed use of products.
This is the alternate to a pineapple when you have shorter hair. If your hairs are too short to make it to the top of your head in a ponytail like the pineapple method, try the medusa!
Using bobby pins, simply twirl each curl clump (or a few at a time if you have thick hair) up towards the top of your head and pin into place.
Again, this is a method used for sleeping, although it makes a cute updo too.
Again, with the pooping.
No poo or low poo is a term used mainly in the Curly Girl Method, referring to the lack of shampooing in their shower routine. A lot of curlies swear by co-washing (more on that coming right up), or using conditioner to wash their scalps. A low poo would be a shampoo that is very light and gentle, free from harsh chemicals and sodium laurel sulfates especially.
Please don’t google no poo or low poo. No one needs feces in their browser history.
Not just a delicious fruit that makes your tongue tingle and swell, a pineapple is a style mostly used for sleeping or working out. Only weirdos work out, but all of us sleep, so this is one curly haired term you’re gonna want to know!
Best for longer curls, it’s a very high (right atop your head, above the crown), loose ponytail/bun. Using a silk scrunchie is best as it creates less frizz and doesn’t yank out your poor hairs like a normal rubberband will.
The effect is like a pineapple.
So they say. I don’t really see it, but I don’t make the rules.
Yet another method of diffusing!
This one starts with your blow dryer in the Off position: cup your curls (as much as will fit, depending on your thickness and the section you are starting with), and press up towards the scalp.
Then, once your diffuser is in place, turn on the blow dryer. Keep it there for about one minute or so, then turn off the dryer.
Move to the next section and repeat.
You’ll likely have to do each section a few times, depending on your density and thickness and how wet your hair is.
I sat with my hair in a plop for about an hour.
I only plop with a cotton shirt or a silk scarf.
You can plop while you poop!
Okay, I really think the powers that be could have come up with a better name for it, but I digress.
Plopping is simply bending over frontwards onto a laid out towel (microfiber, not terry cloth), or silk scarf, or cotton shirt (long-sleeved works best), then “gift wrapping” your head. The curls will be gently “plopped” on top of your noggin. This removes some of the excess moisture and gets the drippy locks off your hair while you put on your makeup, eat breakfast, skip merrily through the tulips, whathaveyou.
Some curlies like to plop overnight, but it’s generally discouraged as yeast and fungus can build up on a wet scalp and nobody wants that.
I personally don’t like plopping as it creates weird cowlicks on my fine, thin hair. But I am in the minority in this, so give it a try!
Porosity and Density
First up: porosity. There are three types of porosity: High, Low, and Normal.
To find yours, the easiest way is to grab a clear glass of room temp water. Pull out a clean strand of your hair (or grab one from your brush).
- If it sinks to the bottom of the glass, you have high porosity hair.
- If it floats on top, you have low porosity hair.
- Lastly, if it sinks, but more gradually, not immediately, it’s normal porosity.
Once you know your porosity, you can tailor your products and methods to reflect your newfound knowledge.
Density is the literal thickness of your hair. Not just as a whole, but each individual strand.
(Learn more & find out your “hair type” here)
Most of us already know how thick or thin our hair is, but if you’re confused, you can take a look in the mirror and see if you see any scalp showing.
- If you can’t see any (except where your part naturally falls), you have high density.
- If you see some, it’s medium.
- And if you definitely can see some scalp without moving around too much, you have low density.
You can also measure how thick your ponytail or braid is. I have a tiny little braid that looks like it belongs on the head of a toddler, so I know I have low density hair.
Again, now that you know, you can tailor your products and methods accordingly.
Of all the methods and products and things I’ve learned in my curly hair journey, this might be my favorite. Hands down.
Get it? Hands down? Praying hands?
Ha! *wipes away tears of mirth
This is used when applying your styling products. What you do is (keeping your palms straight open) press from the top of your head near the roots, and smooth your way down to the tips. Usually a section at a time. Your hand shape looks like praying or like when you say Namaste after the end of a yoga class.
It encourages your hair to clump, and smooths away any frizz.
Rake & Shake
Not to be confused with shake and bake (mmmmm, chicken), rake and shake is another method of applying your styling products.
Using your hand as a “rake” (or a claw), comb your products through to distribute evenly. The shake part comes after you’ve raked: give your curl clump a firm shake to encourage the coil.
You can do both or either. Personally, I rake and then use praying hands.
Rice Water Rinses
You know how long and gorgeous and shiny and sleek women in Asia grow their hairs? Word on the street is, they’ve been using rice water rinses for centuries to achieve their perfect locks.
Protein is an important step with curlies, and rice water is basically a protein treatment. According to the devoted among rice water rinsers, it will also make your hair grow much faster. Since I’ve only ever tried it once, I can’t promise you anything.
It’s as easy as soaking and boiling rice. You know how it gets cloudy right before the rice soaks up all the water? That’s when you want to drain it. If the rice is cooked, feel free to eat it up, but we’re not really doing this for lunch. Cool the water, then use it in the shower. Some use the bowl method (coming up next), so as to not waste this precious elixir.
Whatever you don’t use, refrigerate. It gets a bit stinky and smelly, be warned. I guess that’s how you know it’s working …
Suddenly Obnoxious Teenager Confesses? Stern Octopus Tries Calculus? Swift Owl Tumbles Carefully?
Nah. It’s Scrunch Out The Crunch.
Gels especially, but also mousses and even some creams, leave a cast on your hairs. This is why most people are over-the-top wretched in their view of gel.
“The crunch! I don’t want crunchy hair!”
There is much hand-wringing, nail-biting, and petticoat twisting. And if you’ve ever tried hand-wringing and nail-biting at the same time, it’s very stressful, especially while wearing a petticoat.
But here’s the thing, dingaling: you want that crunch. It’s gonna lock in that gorgeous style for days! SOTC is simply this: when hair is FULLY dry, cup those ringlets in your (not nail-bitten) hands. Press upwards to your scalp and scrunch. This breaks the gel cast and what you are left with is soft, bouncy, touchable, tousleable, hair. Voila.
The Unicorn Cut & The Pigtail Cut
Curlies have an innate fear of professional hair stylists.
We’ve just been burned too many times by scissor happy, flat iron obsessed, dry brushing pros. So if you can’t find a stylist you love, it’s time to try trimming your own hairs.
The unicorn cut is a great way to get plenty of layers in your long hair. You’ll end up with a V shape in the back, so if that doesn’t float your boat, keep searching for a stylist.
How to do the unicorn cut:
- Brush wet hair upside down and tie into the world’s highest ponytail. When you hold it up, you’ll look like a magical unicorn, hence the name.
- You can repeat in sections to make sure all your layers are getting a fresh trim.
I’ve used this method for years, both on mine, and also on my straight-haired daughters. It works peachy keen, jelly bean. Then again, curly hair hides a multitude of sins, so if you’re someone who likes to straighten their hair frequently, or at least occasionally, you might find some wackadoo parts that you missed.
The pigtail cut is essentially the same thing, but using two mid-high pigtails instead of one ponytail.
There are lots of youtube tutorials on these methods, so educate yourself before you get out those kitchen shears!