Natural Hairstyling Glossary

Natural Hairstyling Terminology

Here is a glossary of natural hairstyling terms.

acid alkaline

This is a term that is actually meant to mean acid alkaline balance or pH factor.  There is a proper acid alkaline balance or pH factor that skin needs to have, and that hair needs to have in order not to dry out or burn.


Adhesive is a chemical that is used to stick something onto something else.  Glue and tape are examples of adhesives.


Rubbing alcohol is the type that is used in cosmetology for sanitation of an area or tools.  Its chemical formula is C3H7OH.  Tools must be left in it for 10 minutes before they are considered decontaminated.

animal parasite

An animal parasite is a bug or insect that feeds off of the skin, blood, or other byproducts of a larger animal or human.  Fleas, scabies, and lice are examples of animal parasites.

antimicrobial soap

An antimicrobial soap is a soap that contains a disinfecting chemical that kills all types of microbes be they fungus or bacteria.  Iodine soap  and “surgical scrub” are examples of antimicrobial soap.


A substance that prevents or fights infection by killing the germs in an area where it is applied.  Iodine and rubbing alcohol are examples of antiseptics.


A substance that when applied, causes the organic tissues to draw up, constrict, or contract.  This is usually due to a drying effect.  Vinegar and alcohol are examples of astringents.


Bacteriology is the study of bacteria, but can also be used as a term for the sort of bacteria that may be present in a particular area.  If you were to find out what kind of bacteria are present on a square inch of a person’s scalp, you would be finding the bacteriology of the area.


Bonding is a term used for gluing a weft of hair to the scalp or gluing strands of hair to other natural hairs with an adhesive.


The bulb is the lowest part of the hair follicle, and contains the growing matrical cells and the keratinocytes.


Gray hairs.

communicable disease

A communicable disease is any disease that can be spread from one person to another.  Whether it is carried to them by air, blood, or skin contact, they are all considered communicable.


The word contaminated has two meanings.  Its first and most normally used meaning in cosmetology is to say that a product or area has been exposed to an infectious bacteria or fungus.  For cosmetology simple exposure is enough.  One does not have to prove that the item or area actually has the germs on them.  Anything that has been used on a client, such as combs and brushes, tools, and even your hands are considered contaminated after touching each client until they have been sanitized.

The second meaning of the word contaminated is when a chemical has been transferred to another container or area where it does not belong.  For instance, if you were to accidentally spill some bonding glue into a jar of hair gel, the hair gel would be considered contaminated.


A cornrow is a “visible” track braid.  This means that it is formed by braiding and picking up hair along the section and adding it to the braid, laying it flat against the scalp, and that you can see how the strands intertwine.  In other words, one is using an underhand technique to form the braid…bringing hair up from under.  Its opposite would be an inverted braid also known as a French braid.


The word decontaminated means that a contamination has been resolved through sanitation.


Disinfected means that a tool or an area has had any germs it may have been exposed to killed or at least reduced to a point where they do not pose a health risk.

dry sanitizer

A dry sanitizer is powder or a solid that is used for disinfecting an item or an area.  Dry bleach or bleaching action powder or tablets are examples of dry sanitizers.

electronic sanitizer

An electronic sanitizer is a tool that is used for disinfecting an item by heating it or by automatically cleaning it with a chemical solution.  An autoclave or an ultrasonic cleaner used with a chemical disinfectant would be considered an electronic sanitizer.


Extensions are sections of hair that are used to add girth or length to a person’s natural hair (in this case meaning the client’s own hair).

This term usually means either bulk hair for braiding, or extension clips that either come with a part to secure them near the root of a section of hair or extension plugs that are pre measured and gathered for bonding.

finishing comb

This is a comb that is used for styling the hair as opposed to detangling or sectioning.


Chemical formula HCHO or H2CO.  Formalin is a solution of formaldehyde gas that has been dissolved in water.  It is highly toxic and a known carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer.  It is used to control parasites.  In cosmetology if formalin is used, a comb must be soaked in a 10% formalin solution for at least one minute before it is reusable.  Though you need to know this for the exam, as far as practical use, I would personally advise against the use of formalin in natural hairstyling.  Other methods may take more time, but generally people come to natural hairstyles partly to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals.

forty strand braid

The term forty strand braid is taken from the book Milady’s Black Cosmetology.  It is better known as the herringbone or fishbone braid.

French braid

A French braid is an inverted or “invisible” track braid.  This means that it is formed by braiding and picking up hair along a section, but rather than pulling hair up from under, hair is pulled from above and tucked under using the overhand technique.


Fungi are organisms in the kingdom fungi.  They are not plants.  They have no chlorophyll (the substance that makes plants green) and have no true leaves or stems.  They reproduce using spores and live as parasites.  Mold, and mildew are fungi.  Ringworm is also caused by a fungus.  An infection by a fungus is called a fungal infection.


Gluing is using an adhesive to secure a weft or strands of hair to the scalp or to other hairs.


Hairlocking is styling the hair in a way that is intended to be permanent.  Examples of hairlocking are forming dreadlocks, Nubian twists, or Himba “Lioness Locks”.

basic methods of locking

comb techniques

These include twisting and back combing, and teasing or backcombing and then twisting.

palm roll

This is to take a section of hair and roll it between the palms of two hands to help it to matt into a lock.


This is the process of braiding the hair into small uniformly sized braids for the purpose of allowing them to permanently matt with time.

Additionally, extensions can be added to a braid or a lock in order to make it look longer by braiding it on, sewing it on, or securing it or blending it using a latch hook tool.


In cosmetology this means that the style does not have a uniform quality or symmetry or that for instance the braids do not all have the same look or tension.  The style can become imbalanced if one becomes distracted or tired while braiding.  A braid can become imbalanced if you forget which strand is supposed to overlap next, or pull one side of the hair tighter than the other.

inverted braid

An inverted braid is a braid that when you look at it, you cannot see the actual interweaving of the strands.  It is inverted meaning upside down or inside out.  A French braid is an example of an inverted braid.  Herringbone tracks are also inverted.

latex adhesive

Latex adhesive is the sort most commonly used for bonding wefts of hair.

lock stitch

A lock stitch or overlock stitch, for hair weaving purposes, is a sewing stitch that is made by looping the thread around both the track braid and the sewn edge of the hair weft.  Technically, a true lock stitch is made by pushing the needle through, doubling back through the same hole, leaving a loop, and then taking up that loop with the needle and thread from the other side.  It is much easier to do with a size small latch hook tool than a needle and thread, but for the exam you will have to do it with a needle and thread.  So the simpler method of a running lock stitch will be more prudent.  This is basically sewing round and round both the track and the sewn edge of the weft.

locktitian (loctitian)

A locktitian is someone who specializes in the forming, care, repair, and maintenance of dreadlocks and other hairlocking styles.

material safety data sheet

A material safety data sheet is a document that contains important information about a chemical, its proper usage, possible side effects, and what to do if one is accidentally exposed to it.  It is there to inform the workers and emergency personnel on the safe proceedures and handling of a substance.

natural hair

The term natural hair has two meanings:  the client’s original hair, or hair that has not had its texture or color changed using chemicals.  The meaning depends on the context of the situation.  In order to not get mixed up, it is better to call the second “virgin hair”.  A natural fiber is fiber that was produced from a living plant or animal.  Cotton, wool, and silk are natural fibers.

Nubian coils

Nubian coils are neatly formed corkskrew-like twists, usually held in place by a line of yarn attached near the root and at the end.

parts of the hair

The parts of the hair are the areas that make up the anatomy of the hair as described in the lesson.  The bulb, root, shaft, and end are some of the parts of the hair.


Pediculosis is a lice infestation.  It is detected by examining someone’s hair and scalp.  They look like small white dandruff that moves, or like small round dandruff that sticks to the hair shaft.


The pH factor means how acidic or alkaline something is, or rather how much hydrogen it releases when it comes into contact with water.  This means how much acid there is in proportion to how much base there is.  The more acid in something the more hydrogen it releases.  The more base or the more alkaline the substance, the more OH or hydroxide it releases.


Chemical formula:  C6H5OH .  Phenol is also called “carbolic acid”.  It can be used as a disinfectant, but it is highly irritating to the skin and can have terrible side effects.


Plait is another term for braid.  When you hear it, it sounds like “plat”, somewhat like “flat” but beginning with a “P”.


Porosity means how vulnerable the hair shaft is to absorbing chemicals it comes into contact with.  Chemical texturizing can increase the porosity of hair, thus making it more vulnerable to the damaging effects of permanent hair colors.

pressing comb

A pressing comb is a metal comb that is used to straighten or press the hair.  It is also called a thermal styling comb.  There are two kinds:  one that is electric and heats in much the same way as a curling iron, and the other that is placed on or near a flame or a separate iron.  An electic pressing comb should never be placed on a flame or heating iron.


The shaft refers to the part of a hair that is seen above the skin, between the root and the end.

sodium hypochlorite

Chemical formula NaOCl .  It is an antimicrobial bleaching chemical.

spray moisturizer

A spray moisturizer is a chemical solution that is made to apply moisture to the hair by way of a spray or mist.  This is often the method used to apply detanglers or leave-in conditioner because it allows for more even coverage in less time.

synthetic hair

Synthetic hair means man made hair, or fiber that is made through chemicals rather than growing from a living being.  This includes nylon, Kanekalon, Yaki, and acrylic yarns.  Silk, Italian mink, and wool are not considered synthetic hair.


Tension means how tight something is being pulled or held in place.  In natural hairstyling it refers to how tightly a braid or row is holding or pulling the hair away from the scalp.

test bond

A test bond is done by gluing a small section of a weft of hair to a clean area on the scalp to see if the bond will hold or if their scalp will react negatively to the glue or the mild tension.  Sometimes a negative reaction will occur even if a person does not have a latex allergy


Texture means how the hair lays or coils.  Straight, wavy, curly, spiral and “nappy” are words used to describe hair texture.


Texturizing is using a chemical to change the texture of the hair.  Permanent relaxers, “conking”, curl perms, and chemical “blow outs” are examples of texturizing.

three stranded technique

A three stranded technique is a method of braiding that uses three main strands.  Cornrowing or French braiding would be considered three stranded techniques even though hair is added to the main strands.

track braids

Track braids are braids that are formed by braiding and picking up hair along the way so that the braid lays flat against the scalp.  Cornrows and French braids are examples of track braids.

traction alopecia

Alopecia is a condition of the scalp wherein infected bumps or blisters form on the scalp at the roots of the hairs.  Traction alopecia is the result of the hair being pulled and held in this taut situation, thus traumatizing the hair follicle and possibly leading to infection and loss of the hair.  Some of the hair loss can be temporary if the situation is corrected soon enough, but sometimes it can be permanent.


Transition means that something is changing.  The catagen phase of hair growth, for instance, is the transitional phase.  The state that someone’s hair is in when they are changing from chemically processed styles to natural hairstyles is also a transition.  If you encounter a client who has, let’s say, straight hair near the ends, and the rest is curly, their hair is in transition.  Many are concerned about how much hair they may lose in transition.

virgin hair

Virgin hair is hair that is in its natural state and has been neither chemically texturized nor color treated with either a permanent or semi permanent hair coloring.


Wefts are sections of hair that are sewn together for the purpose of weaving or bonding.

wet sanitizer

A wet sanitizer is a liquid chemical or solution that is used for disinfecting an item or an area.  Liquid bleach solution, or alcohol would be considered wet sanitizers.  The term wet sanitizer is often used for the container with a sanitizing solution in which combs and other implements are placed after use


Natural Hairstyling Laws

Natural hairstyling is an international art.  Every culture in the world developed their own way of taking care of their hair.  It is not an exclusively African thing.  Natural hair care is a field of beauty and self care in which a person does not use chemicals to alter the texture or color of the hair.

It includes:

  • Basic hygiene and care, such as cleaning and conditioning
  • Braiding, twisting, and hair locking
  • Weaving and the addition of extensions
  • Maintenance of physical and mental health
  • and other hair preserving practices

A Natural Hairstylist then, is someone who styles the hair in a way that does not alter the hair’s texture or color using reactive chemicals.

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