The Curl•ossary: Decoding the Language of Curly Hair

Curly hair is a marvel of nature, with its unique texture, bounce, and personality. But with great curls comes great responsibility – understanding the language of curly hair. From coily to kinky, from 2A to 4C, navigating the curly hair world can sometimes feel like deciphering a secret code. Fear not! Welcome to the Curlossary, where we decode the terminology of curly hair and empower you to embrace your curls with confidence.

Hair Pattern or Curl Types:

  • 2A, 2B, 2C: These are loose waves, ranging from barely-there bends (2A) to more defined, S-shaped waves (2C).
  • 3A, 3B, 3C: These curls are spiraled and springy, progressing from loose curls (3A) to tighter corkscrews (3C).
  • 4A, 4B, 4C: The tightest curl pattern, from defined coils (4A) to densely packed zig-zag kinks (4C).

Number of individual strands of hair on your scalp, and how tightly the individual strands are packed together. Density is responsible for giving your hair the overall appearance of being thick or thin.

Thickness or width of an individual hair strand. Texture is usually categorized into fine, medium, and coarse. However, hair texture does not determine your density or how much hair you actually have.

Short for "conditioner-only washing," co-washing involves cleansing the hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. It helps maintain moisture levels and preserve natural oils, making it a favorite among curly-haired folks.

This method, short for "no shampoo," advocates for completely avoiding traditional shampoo in favor of alternative cleansing methods such as co-washing (washing with conditioner only) or using sulfate-free cleansing conditioners.

Low-poo is a modified version of the no-poo method that involves using gentle, sulfate-free shampoos sparingly or choosing products with milder surfactants. While low-poo still limits the use of traditional shampoo, it allows for occasional use to remove buildup or clarify the hair without stripping away its natural oils completely.

No, we're not talking about the tropical fruit! In the curly hair world, "pineappling" refers to a high ponytail or bun secured loosely at the crown of the head to protect curls while sleeping. It prevents flattening and frizz, maintaining curl definition overnight.
Watch a video HERE to see how to Pineapple

Denman Brush:
A popular tool among curly-haired individuals, the Denman brush features rows of nylon bristles embedded in a rubber cushion. It helps detangle and define curls while distributing products evenly throughout the hair.

Wash and Go:
The process involves washing the hair with a cleansing shampoo or co-wash (a conditioner-based cleanser), followed by applying a leave-in conditioner or styling product to define the curls. Once the product is applied, the hair is typically left to air dry or dried with a diffuser, allowing the natural curl pattern to form without much manipulation. The goal of a wash and go is to achieve defined, moisturized curls or waves with minimal effort and styling time.
Watch a video HERE on how to do a Wash and Go

This technique is commonly used in curly hair styling where you gently gather sections of hair in your hand and squeeze or scrunch them upward towards the scalp. This motion helps to encourage curl formation, enhance volume, and distribute styling products evenly throughout the hair, resulting in well-defined, bouncy curls.

Prayer Hands: 
In the realm of curly hair styling, "prayer hands" refers to a technique used to apply products evenly and encourage curl clumping. To execute this method, spread a small amount of styling product between your palms, then gently glide your hands over sections of wet or damp hair, mimicking the motion of prayer. This technique helps distribute product without disrupting the natural curl pattern, resulting in enhanced definition and reduced frizz.

Cast or Gel Cast:
Don't worry; we're not casting spells here! In the curly hair community, "cast" refers to the firm, gel-like hold that forms around curls when using styling products like gels, foams, or creams that will create a long-lasting hold. Once the cast is scrunched out, it reveals soft, touchable curls underneath.
Watch a video about a Gel Cast HERE

Abbreviation for "scrunch out the crunch," SOTC is the final step in the styling process. After allowing styling products to dry and form a cast around the curls, scrunching them gently with dry hands breaks the cast, leaving behind soft, defined curls.
Watch a video on how to scrunch out the crunch

Squish to Condish: 
A curly hair technique where you apply conditioner to wet hair, then squish water into your curls to help distribute the conditioner evenly and enhance moisture retention and curl definition.

The Bowl Method:
This is like a mini spa day for your curls! Just dip sections of your conditioned hair into a warm water bowl, give them a scrunch, and voila! Your curls get a hydration boost and bounce party all in one!

Wet Refresh: 
A wet refresh helps to reactivate styling products already present in the hair, moisturize dry strands, and restore bounce and definition to the curls, resulting in a refreshed and rejuvenated hairstyle. After applying water or a refreshing spray to dampen the hair, you can also add a small amount of styling product to revive and redefine the curls if needed. Refreshing helps to maintain moisture levels, reduce frizz, and extend the life of a hairstyle, allowing individuals to enjoy their natural texture for longer periods without the need for frequent washing and restyling. 
Watch a Wet Refresh Video HERE

Dry Refresh:
Used to revive and redefine curls or waves without applying additional water to the hair. Sometimes, adding water to already styled waves or curls can add a lot of frizz, so a dry refresh is a great alternative! Instead of saturating the hair, this method involves using dry styling techniques such as finger-coiling, scrunching with a refreshing spray or serum, or gently fluffing the roots to lift and reshape the curls. A dry refresh helps to revive flattened or frizzy curls, add volume, and redefine the curl pattern without the need for a full wash or wetting the hair.

In the world of hair care refers to the smoothness and ease with which a product, typically a conditioner or detangler, allows a comb or fingers to glide through the hair. A product with good slip makes detangling easier, reduces breakage, and leaves the hair feeling silky and manageable. The feeling of the hair once it is well hydrated should feel like wet seaweed.
The Aloe Vera Curl Primer is ah-mazing for slip! 

A popular technique used during the application of styling products in curly hair care. To rake products through the hair, you use your fingers to comb the product evenly from roots to ends, resembling the motion of raking leaves. This method helps ensure thorough product distribution and encourages curl definition throughout the hair strands. Raking is particularly effective for individuals with looser curl patterns or waves, providing control and enhancing natural texture without disrupting the curl pattern.
Watch a video to learn how to rake products HERE

Finger Coiling:
A meticulous styling technique utilized to enhance curl definition and create uniform coils throughout the hair. To finger coil, you take small sections of damp or wet hair and twirl them around your finger from root to tip, encouraging the hair to form tight, springy coils. Finger coiling can be done on freshly washed hair or as a touch-up method to revive curls between wash days, resulting in beautifully defined, elongated coils that showcase the natural texture of your hair.

A technique used to enhance curl definition and reduce drying time, plopping involves wrapping wet hair in a t-shirt or microfiber towel to absorb excess moisture and encourage curl formation. Using these materials will cause less frizz than a regular towel since they aren’t as rough of a texture. It's a game-changer for achieving bouncy, well-defined curls.

A hair styling technique used by individuals with curly or wavy hair to enhance curl definition and reduce drying time. You can do this by using a cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel over the hand to gently squeeze excess moisture out of the hair before drying in an upward scrunching motion.

Micro-plopping helps absorb excess moisture from the hair without disrupting curl patterns, resulting in faster drying and more defined curls or waves.
Watch a video on micro plopping HERE

Using a shower cap to hold hair on top of the head once all styling products are applied. Encourages hair hydration and defined curls. This is usually done for 5-10 minutes before drying.

Root clipping:
A styling technique used to add volume and lift to the roots of the hair, particularly for individuals with fine or low-density hair. It involves using small hair clips or duckbill clips to lift sections of hair at the roots, creating tension and holding them in an upward direction while the hair dries. This method helps to prevent the roots from laying flat against the scalp, resulting in increased volume and lift at the crown. Root clipping can be performed on wet or dry hair and is often used in conjunction with other styling techniques to achieve desired volume and shape.

Air Drying:
A hair drying method that involves allowing the hair to dry naturally without the use of heat from a blow dryer or other styling tools. Air drying is a popular choice for individuals seeking to minimize heat damage, maintain natural texture, and promote healthy hair growth. While air drying may take longer than using heat styling tools, it is a gentle and effective way to achieve soft, frizz-free hair with minimal effort.

This technique is used to dry curly or wavy hair while enhancing and defining the natural texture. It typically involves using a diffuser attachment on a hair dryer, which disperses the airflow more evenly and gently compared to a regular dryer nozzle. This helps to prevent frizz and maintain the natural pattern of coils, curls or waves while drying.
Watch a video on how to diffuse HERE

Hover diffusing:
Instead of pressing the diffuser directly onto the hair, the dryer is held at a distance, allowing the airflow to gently hover over the curls. This method helps to minimize frizz and maintain curl definition while evenly distributing heat for more controlled drying. Hover diffusing is especially popular among individuals with curly or wavy hair who want to speed up the drying process without sacrificing curl integrity.

It involves gently gathering sections of wet or damp hair in the palm of your hand and pressing the hair upwards towards the scalp, creating a cupping motion. This technique helps to encourage curl formation, reduce frizz, and promote volume as the hair dries. Cupping can be performed with or without the use of a diffuser attachment on a blow dryer and is particularly effective for individuals with curly or wavy hair seeking to enhance their natural curl pattern.
Watch a video on cup diffusing HERE

Navigating the world of curly hair can be a journey filled with twists, turns, and plenty of definitions to learn along the way. But armed with the Curlossary, you're equipped to embrace your curls with confidence and rock your natural texture like never before! Whether you're co-washing, pineappling, or plopping, may your curls be defined, your frizz be tamed, and your confidence be unstoppable. Here's to celebrating the beauty of curly hair, one curl at a time!

Find more tutorials on ReelCurls University! Your one-stop shop to learn everything curly! 

Jun 07, 2024

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