Big Curl Dictionary

Big Curl Dictionary

by Keeks Reid

While we have a hold on looking after our curls, coils and waves, the long list of lingo for curly hair can be hard to remember. Luckily, we have a complete A-Z (and some numbers too!) for all the products, methods, and techniques for curly and coily hair, so that you will never have a confused hair wash day again!


This is when you allow your hair to dry completely naturally without any heat.

Big chop

If you previously chemically straightened your hair or have a lot of heat damage, doing a big chop involves cutting off all your damaged strands and starting from scratch with your natural curls or coils.

Braid out

To do a braid-out, you braid your hair while it’s damp and allow it to dry (either air-dry or diffuse). When you unravel, you have a gorgeous curl definition. The bigger the braid, the looser the texture will be. This technique is often recommended for type 4c hair.


The dreaded consequence of various hair damage. Breakage is when your hair snaps at its weakest point. The main causes of breakage are dryness and protein overload, so you should make sure you are hydrating your curls and sealing moisture in with nourishing masks and conditioners.


If you use too many products and don’t properly cleanse your scalp and strands regularly, you are likely to get product build-up. This also happens when you use products with silicones, as they sit on the outer layer of the hair to block out moisture. Use a weekly scalp scrub to help purify and remove build up.


When defining or holding gel dries on your curls, it forms a cast. The cast (or crunch) is the stiff layer that sets there and has to be broken up to style your curls.


This skincare favourite is also loved by hair enthusiasts due to its ability to seal the hair’s cuticle. Ceramides naturally occur in the makeup of the hair and when used in products they can help to repair, protect, and retain moisture 

Chemically treated hair

This one is pretty simple but is often spoken about as hair that has been treated with chemicals for straightening. Chemically treated hair also includes hair that has been bleached or permanently dyed.

Clarifying wash

There’s washing your curls and then there’s clarifying your curls. A clarifying wash is necessary every few washes if you are using a lot of styling products like oils, butters or creams which can build up and cause flakes, so it’s important to use a foaming shampoo to reset your curls.


These are big sections of curls or coils that stick together when conditioning. You will want clumps to stay together for as long as possible when doing a ‘wash-and-go’ to get the ultimate definition 


While there are now great co-washes on the market, before they became a product itself, co-washing was when you used a conditioner to rinse your hair without losing moisture.


No alcohol is needed when cocktailing for curls. This is all about mixing and matching styling products for your curls before you apply them to create your perfect look.


This acronym stands for “clap out the crunch”. When using hair gel (like Curl Jelly), once your curls are dry, this technique involves you using a clapping motion over your curls to soften the hold.


Yes, this could be referring to your crown of curls but if we’re getting all technical, your crown is the top section of your hair. Think of it as, if you were wearing an actual crown, where would it sit?

Curl type

When speaking about your curl type, you could be referring to language such as wavy, curly, coily or kinky, or the hair type system (see: type 1-4 hair), as they are used interchangeably.


Each hair strand is made up of lots of cuticles that lay on top of each other. When cuticles are flat, hair is healthy and tangle-free, but when lots of them are lifted, it leads to moisture loss and breakage too.


This stands for a “deep condition”, crucial every few washes – especially if you have dry curly hair – to replenish lost strength and moisture, Banana Butter is a curly-girl favourite


It’s often noted that curly hair is thick, but this isn’t always the case— it can appear thicker because of the volume the curls or coils create. The same goes for density. While thickness speaks to the size of the strand, density is all about how many strands you have on your head.


Some would argue that this is the most important part of a curly wash day. Detangling is the process of removing knots from your locks.


All great hairdryers will come with a diffuser attachment, which looks a bit like a bowl with prongs to hold up your curls as they dry. The attachment dissipates the airflow to not disrupt your curl pattern or cause too much frizzing.

Finger coil

When your hair is wet, this is when you use your fingers instead of a brush to define your curl before it dries and sets into shape. This method tends to give the coils and curls more definition.


Want more volume? Fluffing is the process of massaging the roots of your hair with your fingers (you can also use a comb or scalp brush) to create volume.

Halo frizz

Frizz is often inevitable for curly and coily hair, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing! Halo frizz is super common and sits on the top layer of your hair, like, you guessed it – a little halo!

Hair type

Speaking more broadly than your curl type, your hair type also takes into account things like hair texture, thickness, chemical processes and damage. For example, you might describe your hair as fine, bleached, and curly 


This a very important type of ingredient for curly and coily hair when conditioning. A humectant attracts moisture from the environment to hydrate hair.


Like glazing a doughnut or pastry, glazing hair is when you gently apply styling products on your curls to not disturb the curl pattern.


All hair is made of this type of protein.


The opposite to cocktailing, layering is the method of applying products one-at-a-time on your curls.


A popular type of layering – this stands for leave-in, oil, cream or leave-in, cream, oil as the best moisturising layering routine for your curls


Lightly foaming and sulphate-free shampoos are referred to as lo-poo shampoos.


Definitely not as sinister as it sounds. This is the overarching term for whenever you use a comb, brush, or your fingers to shape a curl.


The choice to only use conditioner when rinsing your hair.


A fun name for the style that bundles all your curls or coils to the very top of your head in a loose ponytail. This style preserves curls and can help with volume, so is a good choice for bedtime or when exercising.


Using a towel or cotton t-shirt to gently remove excess water from your hair after washing. This is done by holding your head upside down and gathering your curls together and allowing them to dry in the towel or t-shirt.


Porosity is all about how much moisture your hair strands let in and out. Low-porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles and doesn’t allow moisture in or out easily, but high-porosity hair is the opposite, in that while it allows moisture in easily, it doesn't hold onto it well.

Prayer hands

The method of applying styling products on wet curls when you hold your hands on your hair like you’re praying and slowly gliding downwards 


Applying products before shampooing hair.

Protective style

Styles like braids and twists are described as protective styles for type 3 and 4 hair. They give you a break from styling your hair all the time, which helps avoid excess breakage.


The process of applying products after washing your curls and squishing and squeezing your strands to coat your hair. 


Rather than using an actual comb, raking is all about using your fingers to comb products through your curls. 


A name for something you’re likely already doing for your curls. Roping is a method of conditioning your curls by applying your product to soaking wet hair and squeezing through like you’re squeezing a rope. 


Squeezing out the cast of a hard-set gel, like Curl Jelly.


Something that’s very common for type 4 coils and kinks. Shrinkage is when your texture recoils when met with water.


Often referred to as the “baddies” of the ingredient world. Many people love the effect that silicones give the hair. They are a group of ingredients that are used to seal the hair and keep moisture out.


Slip refers to how easily your fingers glide through your curls as you style them. If you don’t have enough slip, you can risk excess frizz.


The initialism for “squish to condish”. The same action as scrunching, but it’s done on soaking wet hair to condition your curls. 


Stretching is usually done on type 4 hair which experiences shrinkage. You can use heat to stretch coils, or non-heat methods include Bantu knots, braid-outs, and twist-outs.


Many old-school shampoos are made with sulphates, which are a type of detergent that helps create foam but can also leave hair and the scalp extremely dry. Curly and coily hair should avoid sulphates like sodium laureth sulfate when washing. 


If you have previously chemically treated or straightened your hair so much that your curl pattern is out of whack, some people in this situation choose to big chop, but others prefer to transition, gradually trimming away the straight ends.

Twist out

Similar to a braid-out, but instead of braiding, you twist your hair when it’s wet for defined curls once dry. 

Type 1-4 hair

The hair typing system was created by Andre Walker in the 1990s to help people easily distinguish their texture beyond hair types like thick or fine.

Type 1 hair = straight hair

Type 2 hair = wavy

2a hair — light waves, just a slight bend

2b hair — more defined waves

2c hair — waves that are so defined, they’re almost a curl

Type 3 hair

3a hair — the loosest curl, a gentle ringlet

3b hair — slightly tighter curl that is springy

3c hair — corkscrew curls

Type 4 hair

4a hair — very tight curls that have an ‘S’ shape

4b hair — ‘Z’ textured coils that have a freer definition

4c hair — kinky, tightly packed textured hair.


Washing your hair and letting it dry as it is without manipulation.


When you’re on the lookout for good products for curls, Umberto Giannini is the OG curl brand to help transform every wave, curl and coil.

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