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From Biotin to Telogen: The Ultimate Glossary of Textured Hair & Ingredients

There is so much to learn when it comes to textured hair. Our rich and diverse practices, ingredients and products can only mean one thing: a rich and diverse glossary of all the terms you really ought to know. Scroll on and load up your brain on all the techy lingo, be it the ancient babassu trees that make the most nourishing oil, or the controversial silicones that both help and hurt out strands.

Aloe vera: most commonly used as a gel for healing burns and cuts, its microbial and anti-inflammatory powers work wonders on scalp and hair when used as a cleanser or moisturiser (in leave-in products).

Alopecia: balding or hair loss as a result of tension and pulling (traction) or when the immune system attacks hair follicles (areata)

Anagen: the first phase of the hair growth cycle, when hair grows for two to seven years.

Argan oil: produced from the argan tree kernels in Morocco, it’s rich in antioxidants and phenols to strengthen hair.

Babassu oil: lightweight and made from the seeds of the South American babassu palm tree (known as the ‘Tree of Life’ ), with vitamin E and fatty acids plus possesses antibacterial powers.

Baobab oil: with antioxidants, vitamins A and E, and lots of omega, this light oil has been used by African communities for centuries.

Big Chop: the act of cutting off all heat and chemical damage to start anew, or shaving everything off just because.

Biotin: popular B vitamin found in hair supplements for faster hair growth, but can overstimulate oil production in the body in doses higher than 400mg (hello, bacne).

Castor oil: said to cause hair growth spurts when massaged into the scalp – especially the Jamaican black variety.

Catagen: the second hair growth phase when hair transitions to the telogen (resting) phase, lasting ten days as it stops growing and detaches itself from the blood supply.

Clarifying: deep cleansing of scalp and hair to remove excess oil and build-up, either as a treatment (apple cider vinegar rinse) or with clarifying shampoos.

Coconut: used in oil, milk, and water form, it deeply hydrates and nourishes hair. It can penetrate the hair shaft deeper than most oils thanks to its small molecular structure, but can also cause build-up on the hair if not washed off properly.

Conditioner: instantly surrounds hair cuticle to give a shiny, soft coating, and makes hair slippery for tug-free detangling.

Cortex: the middle layer of the hair shaft in between the cuticle and medulla, giving hair its pigment with melanin.

Co-washing: the act of using conditioner or co-wash products to cleanse the hair while nourishing it – although it is not advised to use on the scalp without alternating with a shampoo.

Cuticle: the outermost layer of the hair shaft, made from dead cells that overlap each other like a palm tree trunk. How raised or flat these cells are determines the porosity of the hair.

Deep conditioner: conditioner with smaller molecules that penetrate the hair shaft to give more intense hydration and nourishment, often taking up to thirty minutes to work its magic to the fullest.

Diffuser: bowl-shaped hairdryer attachment with holed prongs to gently diffuse air onto curls without disturbing their pattern.

Edges: the front hairline including baby hairs, which need special and gentle care. Receding edges can strike as a result of tight hairstyles, improper cleansing, or simply with age and hormonal fluctuations.

Exogen: the final hair growth phase, when hair sheds from the root naturally.

Follicle: a tunnel-shaped bed within the skin where hair grows and pushes out from, nourished by blood from neighbouring vessels.

Gel: a gloopy-in-a-good-way type of product that coats around curls to help them hold their shape and protect from humidity.

Hair shaft: all the hair that can be seen above your scalp, made up of keratin that’s been fused all together.

Heat-styling: using straighteners, curling tongs and hot hairdryers on hair to manipulate it into a certain texture and style, always causing damage to the hair structure. Use with caution (and heat protector)!

Keratin: a very strong protein held together by bonds that are broken with water, heat, and chemical treatments
Leave-in: a conditioning treatment that can either be lightweight or heavier depending on the hair type, used as the first step in a styling routine.

LOC method: Leave in, oil, then cream – the order of products to remember for hydrating, sealing, then defining hair. Can also be switched around to the LCO method, for low porosity hair that struggles to absorb moisture.

Medulla: only in thick hair, it’s the innermost layer of the hair shaft consisting of a near-invisible space of air and transparent cells.

Mousse: a styling alternative to gel for finer hair or waves, with a light aerated texture to deliver conditioning and hold.

Parabens: preservatives found in many hair products that stop bacteria and mould from forming, but can cause dryness when built up on curly and coily hair.

Porosity: how flat or open your hair cuticle is, as a result of genetics and damage. Low porosity hair struggles to absorb moisture, normal functions… well, normally, and high porosity absorbs and loses water rapidly.

Relaxer: chemical treatment to permanently straighten hair or make it easier to straighten with heat, often with harmful ingredients like formaldehyde. Use with caution, too!

Rice water: buzzy ingredient originating from an ancient Yao recipe for long, strong hair. Rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals as a result of leaving rice-infused water to ferment over a number of days with antimicrobial citrus peel.

Sebum: the waxy oil our skin and scalp naturally produces, hydrating but also prone to building up and clogging pores.

Silicone: a class of thin waterproof ingredients that coat the hair cuticle to stop moisture escaping and to protect from heat tools. Temporarily fills in the porosity and gives a false shine, but can stop moisture and conditioner from getting in over time– make sure to clarify it off every so often.

Shrinkage: the illusion of shorter curls and coils as they dry and shed the weight of water, allowing them to spring up to their full potential.

Stretching: letting hair dry in twists, braids, buns, or with gentle heat to reduce shrinkage and create a looser, longer curl pattern.

Sulphates: foaming ingredients to cleanse dirt and sebum, but often go overboard by stripping the hair of moisture and creating dryness.

Telogen: the third phase of the hair growth cycle, when hair rests until it sheds.

Texturiser: a chemical treatment that permanently loosens the curl pattern while still keeping some of it, being left on for just a few minutes.

Transitioning: the period between heat or chemical styling and wearing your natural texture, as you learn how to take care of it. Hair is often multiple textures as the new growth comes in.

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