The Black Health Matters Natural Hair Dictionary

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The Black Health Matters Natural Hair Dictionary

Do you know what TWA, APL, TNC and DT mean? Don’t go natural without this guide

Starting your journey to natural hair can be a very rewarding experience. Embracing your hair’s natural beauty and richness opens up a wide spectrum of new styling possibilities that eliminate the need for harsh chemical relaxers and heated styling tools. Still, as with any new endeavor, it can be daunting at first, and a certain degree of research is necessary to navigate your way. There are so many acronyms floating around in the world of natural hair—from BSL to TWA and TNC and WNG—that it’s easy to feel like you’re dealing with phone companies or federal government entities instead of hairstyles. But we’ve pieced together a user-friendly natural hair dictionary to help you along.


BAA: Big-A$$ Afro, Foxy Brown-style. You know what they say—the higher the hair, the closer to God!
Braid ’n Curl: Ends of braided hair are set with rollers to create definition.
Braid Out: Hair is braided to create defined curls before being unbraided.
Coils: tiny sectioned curls all over the head, usually achieved with fingers
Cornrows: Sections of hair are braided tightly to the scalp, often in numerous sections.
Dredlocs, locs: Hairstyle that is created when nappy hair is left to its own devices; sometimes achieved by twisting hair first, and then leaving it alone until individual strands of hair begin to lock around each other.
Protective style: protects the ends of the hair by keeping them tucked away with little manipulation. Protective styles include twists, coils, flat twists, braids, and roll, tuck and pin styles.
Sisterlocs: a thinner form of locs
Stretched Hair: an afro extended to its maximum length
Twist Out: Hair is styled in two-strand twists, and then released.
TNC: Twist and Curl. Hair is styled in two-strand twists, and then rolled at the ends.
TWA: The opposite of the BAA, the TWA stands for Teeny Weeny Afro. The style that became synonymous with the “Black Is Beautiful” movement of the ’60s. A true classic never dies!

Length Acronyms are, as the name suggests, used to indicate where on the body your hair reaches.

APL: Armpit Length
BSL: Bra Strap Length
CBL: Collar Bone Length
MBL: Mid Back Length
Treatments and Techniques

ACV: Apple Cider Vinegar rinse, a technique used to close the hair follicle.
Bag Job: Soaking hair with moisturizer and sealing with a plastic covering
Carrier Oil: Any oil used to dilute the more abrasive essential oils. Some good ones for locking in moisture are olive, grape seed and sunflower.
Co-Wash: Washing the hair with conditioner instead of shampoo to avoid stripping it of its natural oils
DT: Short for deep-conditioning treatment, where you leave the conditioner in hair for an extended time period.
Pineappleing: Piling long curls in a high, loose ponytail at the top of the head before sleeping on a satin pillowcase
WNG: wash and go—washing hair and letting it air dry
—Hairy—Situations (AKA Things to Avoid)

Alopecia: medical term for hair loss. This can be attributable to a number of reasons, including thyroid disorders, fungal infections of the scalp, autoimmune disorders such as lupus and too-tight ponytails, and a dermatologist should be consulted.
ALS: Ammonium lauryl sulfate gives shampoo its lather. Avoid products containing this as it leads to drying out of the hair follicle.
Breakage: when hair breaks off because of over-processing, poor diet, stress or a lack of moisture

Miranda Southwel