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Hairstylists literally use their own language sometimes. There is so much hair terminology and phrases that they use on a daily basis, that might mean nothing to non-cosmetologists. Do you ever wonder what some of these common phrases that hairstylists use mean? Well, if you said “yes,” then you’re in luck! I’ve compiled a list of all the hair language I could think of, and I’d like to call it the “Dictionary of Hair Terminology.” I plan to keep this page updated when I think of new terms and/or when new terminology comes into play, so make sure you save it.
The Hair Terminology:
Acid Perm– A type of permanent wave that produces softer curls and has a pH level of 6.5 to 8.0.
Activator– A chemical ingredient added to hair bleach to speed the process without creating extra damage.
Afro Hair– Hair terminology referring to a hairstyle made up of a mass of very tight curls surrounding the head.
A-Line Bob– A type of bob that is longer in the front then it is in the back, resembling a capital “A.”
Alkaline Perm– A stronger, yet harsher type of perm solution used to create tight, firm curls. It has a pH level of 7.5 to 9.5.
Alopecia– Hair loss, either naturally or from a disease.
Amino Acid– “The building blocks of hair.”
Anagen– The growing phase of the hair growth cycle. Typically, this phase lasts around 7 years in a healthy person.
Ammonia– The main ingredient found in hair color that opens the cuticle, allowing color molecules to enter.
Ammonium Thioglycolate– aka “Perm Salt.” This is a chemical compound (C2H7NO2S) that works by swelling the hair and breaking down disulfide bonds, rendering the hair as “permable.”
Asymmetrical– Hair terminology meaning different lengths on both sides. For example, in an asymmetrical bob, hair is a longer on one side than the other. It can be drastic or subtle.
Balayage– Hair that is a certain color on the bottom (usually a lighter color) that gradually fades into a different color around the roots.
Bangs– The layer of hair present at the top of the face to about eyebrow level. Not everybody has bangs, and they can be styled many different ways. Check out 10 Different Types of Bangs to learn more!
Barbicide– Brand name of the blue liquid used to disinfect all hair styling tools.
Bi-Lateral Haircut– See Mullet.
Beach Waves– Hair that is somewhat wavy, with a “wind-tousled” look. It is usually created by using salt water-based spray.
Bob– A bob haircut is hair terminology for when the weight line of the haircut falls around your chin or ears.
Body– See Volume.
Bonding– The process of attaching hair wefts to hair with adhesive.
Bleach– Bleach, for hair, works by raising the hair cuticle, going into the hair and dispersing color molecules, which lightens the hair. If done correctly, it shouldn’t cause too much damage.
Blending– The process of blending one line of the haircut to the other line by usually cutting out the hair between both lines.
Blowout– A service performed at various salons where the hair is washed, blow-dried and styled with hot tools. It is different from just blow-drying your hair; there is much more attention to detail and the style should last 3-5 days.
Blunt Cut– When the scissors are held horizontal to the comb, cutting all hair the same length.
Braid– A hairstyle created by weaving strands of hair together. There are many different types of braids.
Brassy– This hair terminology refers to unwanted golden or orange tones in hair.
Brazilian Blowout– See Keratin Straightening.
Bulb– The root of the hair.
Buzz-Cut– A haircut in which the entire head is shaved with clippers.
Caesar Cut– A short haircut in which the top hair is styled forward and there is a little fringe around the face.
Canities– The scientific name for grey hair.
Catagen– The resting phase of the hair growth cycle.
Chelating– Chelating shampoo is similar to clarifying shampoo. It works by binding to minerals and metals and removing them from the hair. This is good for removing hard-water buildup or chlorine.
Chignon– This is a popular hairstyle; there are many different ways to wear a chignon but it is typically a knot or coil of hair worn on the back of the head. It is a popular choice for formal events.
Chemical Haircut– Hair that has been processed so many times by bleach, color or perms that it has broken off.
Choppy Haircut– This is hair terminology for a very textured haircut, in which all the different pieces are different lengths. It is often created with a razor.
Chunking– A method of highlighting the hair in which the highlights are very thick and unblended.
Clarifying Shampoo– Shampoo that is stronger than normal shampoo, designed to remove buildup from hair products, hard water, etc. It has a strong pH level and should not be used more than once or twice per week.
Clippers– Electric machines used to cut hair.
Clipper-Over-Comb– This is a hair cutting technique in which the hair needed to be cut is pulled out with the comb and then the clipper is ran over the comb, cutting the hair.
Clip-In Hair Extensions– Real or synthetic hair that has clips sewn to the top of the weft so they can temporarily add length and/or volume to the hair.
Club Hair– A non-living hair in the last phase of the growth cycle, that has detached from the hair follicle and is waiting to be shed.
Coarse– This is hair terminology referring to the diameter of the hair. Coarse hair is large in diameter and feels rough to the touch.
Comb-Over– A trendy haircut made popular by Cristiano Ronaldo, in which the hair is parted to one side and combed completely over. There is usually a line carved into the hair with clippers where the hair is parted.
Conditioner– Creamy hair product used after shampoo to soften and detangle hair.
Consultation– The consultation is a very important part of the hair service. It is at the beginning of a service, where the stylist discusses what the client is looking to achieve. A client has the chance to communicate what they like/don’t like and the stylist has the chance to tell them their opinion. It is the key to a successful service.
Cornrow– Tight braids that are on the scalp.
Cortex– The body of hair, consisting of 90% of the weight. This is where the color molecules are found.
Cowlick– A cowlick is an area of hair where the hair grows in the opposite direction from the rest of the hair. It is hard to get them to lay down in most cases.
Crew Cut– A short, tapered haircut in which the hair is extremely short on the top of the head and graduates to longer hair in the front.
Crop– A haircut in which the hair is cut very close to the head.
Cross-Check– Cross-checking a haircut is the final step to make sure everything is even. If you used vertical subsections in the haircut, cross-check it with horizontal subsections.
Crown– The area on top of the head.
Cuticle– The outermost, scale-like surface of the hair shaft.
Cutting Line– See Guide.
Dandruff– A condition caused by excessive cell production causing the scalp to flake.
Decolorizer– See Bleach.
Deep Conditioner– Extra strong conditioner that sits on the hair for at least a few minutes. It will add protein, moisture, and vitamins to help repair dry, damaged hair.
Depth– The lightness/darkness of a color.
Developer– Peroxide that is added to any permanent or demi-permanent hair color or bleach. It works by lifting the cuticle and allowing the color to enter the hair.
Diffuser- An attachment for a blow-dryer that disperses the air flow and distributes it over a larger area of hair. These are commonly used with curly hair since the air flow won’t disturb the natural flow of the curls.
Dimension– This is hair terminology referring to the illusion of depth and space created by the contrast of different colors.
Dimensional color– Color that adds dimension to the hair, such as highlights or balayage.
Disconnected– When main parts of the haircut are not connected by a seamless line. There should be a distinct difference between the two sections.
Dreadlocks– A hairstyle in which the hair is not combed, and twisted into tight ringlets that hang down.
Dry-Cutting– Dry cutting is usually a performed after the hair has already been washed, cut, dried and styled, but can also be used as a primary method of hair cutting. Since hair reacts a lot differently wet than dry, it allows you to focus a lot more on detail and how the hair will actually lay when it has been styled.
Dusting– Cutting the bare minimum off the tips of the hair to clean up the haircut, without making it look freshly cut.
Edger– See Trimmer.
Edgy– Trendy, non-conventional hair.
Elasticity– The ability of hair to stretch and then return to its natural shape without breaking.
Emphasis– Where the eye is drawn to. Can be created with color, cuts or styles.
Essential Fatty Acids– These are ingredients in hair products that preserve the resilience of the hair.
Extensions– Pieces of real or synthetic hair that is attached close to the scalp to make hair appear longer and/or more voluminous.
Face-Framing– Shorter layers around the face that tend to curl under the chin and frame the face.
Fade– A very short haircut that is extremely short (sometimes completely bald) on the sides and gradually fades into the longer hair on top.
Faux Hawk– A Mohawk type haircut that blends down into a regular men’s haircut.
Feathering– This hair terminology refers to the act of softening hard lines in a haircut.
Filler– Used to even out hair before a coloring service.
Finishing Spray – A medium-hold hairspray used to keep a hair in place after it has been styled.
Fluid Hair Painting– The method of painting hair color on the hair, while the client is reclined and their hair is fanned out on a table.
Fly-Away Hair– Thin, fine hairs that have been statically charged and will not lay with the rest of the hair.
Foiling– A method of highlighting hair in which parts of the hair are sectioned into foils and color is applied. The foil allows you to only color certain pieces of the hair.
Follicle– The hair follicle houses the root of the hair.
Freezing Spray– Heavy-hold hairspray meant to keep hair in place.
Fringe– Politically correct hair terminology for “bangs.”
Frosting– Highlights performed by pulling small sections of hair through a cap and applying bleach. The result is very fine, blended highlights, usually very light in color.
Fusion– The process of attaching small pieces of hair to the natural hair by heating up adhesive with a thermal gun. This allows the free movement of hair.
Glaze– A semi-permanent product that adds shine to the hair.
Gloss– Shine overlay on the hair. Can be created temporarily with hair products or a clear hair color.
Graduation– When hair “graduates” from short to long. Typically this refers to the back of a bob or face-framing.
Grey Hair– Hair that has naturally lost all pigment.
Guide– The first initial line in the haircut, that will be followed through the rest of the haircut. An example is if you dropped the first subsection of hair, cut it to the length you wanted, and then cut every other subsection to that same length.
Hair Extensions– The process of adding real or synthetic hair to natural hair, either by braiding it in, fusing it, bonding it or with the use of clip-ins, to make hair appear to be longer and/or fuller.
Hair Growth Cycle– The life of a strand of hair goes through three different phases: Anagen (the growing phase), Catagen (the resting phase) and Telogen (the dormant phase). This is why hair grows out unevenly.
Hair Painting– Painting the hair color directly on the hair with a brush.
Hair Shaft– The non-growing part of hair above the skin.
Heat Clamps– A heat gun used to seal synthetic hair.
Henna Dye– An extremely permanent, but natural, plant-based hair color. It is reddish-brown in color. It does not use developer, and will not damage your hair, but will be very hard to remove later if you change your mind.
High and Tight– A very short, faded haircut that is blended high on the head. This is very popular in the military.
Highlights– The process of lightening some pieces of the hair, but not all.
Humectant– Ingredient in hair products that draws in moisture.
Ionic– Ionic hot tools emit negative ions, which disperse water quickly, drying your hair faster and causing less damage.
Jojoba Oil– Oil extracted from the seeds of an American Shrub, commonly found in hair products. It closely resembles sebum and adds a lot of moisture to the hair.
Keratin– A fibrous protein forming the main substance of hair.
Keratin Straightening– Aka “Brazilian Blowout.” This is a very expensive hair treatment that will straighten and smooth hair for a long period of time. It removes most curl and frizz and will not cause any damage to the hair. It can be performed on bleached hair.
Layers– Layers are a very important part of hair terminology that everyone should know. Layers are shorter pieces of hair that blend seamlessly into the haircut, adding volume and dimension. Remember, there is no such thing as getting “3 layers put into your hair.” Layers are created by cutting the shortest layer and the longest layer and cutting everything in between.
Lightener– See Bleach.
Line-Up– The act of creating hard lines around the perimeter of a short haircut with trimmers.
Lob– A lob is a long version of a bob. The weight line should fall around your collar bones.
Long Layers– Layers that tend to stay towards the bottom of the hair.
Lowlights– The process of darkening some pieces of hair, but not all of it.
Medulla– The innermost part of hair structure. It may be absent in some people and its purpose is unknown.
Melanin– The natural pigment of hair.
Mohawk– When all of the head is shaved except for a strip of hair down the middle of the head. It can be either really short or really long.
Movement– The path that your eye will follow through the hairstyle. Wavy hair has a lot of movement. Straight hair does not have as much movement.
Mullet– A haircut that is short and clean-cut around the top of the head and in the front, but long in the back.
Nape– The lower part of the back of the head, below the occipital bone.
Neutralizer– Neutralizer is applied to hair after it has been broken down by perming solution. The purpose of neutralizer is to rebuild the hair back in the newly formed curls.
Notching– The act of cutting some hair but not all of it, to create texture. Can be done with thinning shears or point-cutting techniques.
Overdirecting– This is hair terminology for when the hair is combed to the complete opposite side of where it should lay, before cutting it or blow-drying it. This is meant to create volume.
Palming the Shears– This is the common practice of closing the shears in your palm, while using the comb to take sections. Leaving the shears open could result in unwanted cuts to the hair.
Papilla– The small area at the base of the root that provides nutrients for the hair.
Patch Test– A patch test is performed prior to a chemical service to check for any adverse allergic reactions to the chemical. It is performed by adding a dab of the chemical behind the client’s ear and letting it process like normal.
Perm– The process of adding permanent curls to someones hair. It can either re-shape curls that already exist or add curls to straight hair. The head is wrapped in cylinder-shaped perm rods, and then the hair bonds are broken down and then rebuilt in the shape of the perm rod.
Permanent Wave– See Perm.
Piecey– This is when the ends of the hair are separated into smaller sections with gel or wax with the fingers. It is generally a term used for shorter haircuts. Can also be used synonymously with the term, choppy.
Pixie Cut – Super short hair that is cut very close to the scalp. It usually is still wispy around the edges, making it look feminine.
Point Cutting– When the Scissors are held at an angle, creating a “saw-tooth” effect on the hair. This is great for adding texture to the hair.
Pompadour– This style was made famous by Elvis Presley. It is a hairstyle, in which the hair is combed straight up from the forehead, without a part.
Porosity– The ability to absorb moisture.
Protein Treatment– A type of deep conditioning treatment that adds protein to the hair cortex, which strengthens hair and adds elasticity.
Razor Cut– Using a razor blade, or comb with razor blades in it to cut the hair. This type of haircut is not perfectly even, and is very textured, giving a softer look than scissor cuts.
Relaxer– Used to permanently straighten hair.
Remy Hair– This is hair that has been harvested so that the cuticle faces the same direction on all the hair strands. It is high-quality hair used in extensions and hair pieces.
Rhythm– This is hair terminology for the recurrent pattern of movement in hair. Tight curls have a fast rhythm while loose waves have a slower rhythm.
Sebacuous Gland– Oil-secreting glands on the scalp.
Sebum– The oily secretion on the scalp composed of keratin and fat.
Sectioning– The act of breaking the hair into smaller sub-sections for a haircut or hair style. This allows you to have more control over the section you are working on.
Semi-permanent– Hair color that is semi-permanent will eventually wash out. It does not use developer and therefore it cannot make your hair lighter. It works by coating the hair shaft.
Shears– Scissors used to cut hair.
Split Ends– When the tip of the hair strand has split due to dryness or damage.
Taper– Hair terminology that means to gradually lessen. It is popular to taper short hairstyles so that the perimeter blends without a hard-line.
Telogen– The resting phase of the hair cycle.
Temporary Color– Temporary color is color that coats the hair until you wash it again. Think Halloween hair color that you will wash out the next morning.
Texture– Hair that has texture in it, is hair that is not all the same length. It can be created by layers, razor cut, or thinning shears.
Texturizing Shears– See Thinning Shears.
Thermal Reconditioning– A method of straightening hair by working like a reverse perm.
Thinning Shears– Shears in which one or both of the blades have notches cut out of them. When using these to cut hair, they only cut some of the hair and leave hair. This creates a textured look.
Thinning the Hair– Using thinning shears, razors, layering or other various methods to reduce some bulk in the hair.
Track– Cornrows that hair extensions are sewn into.
Trimmer– Small clippers made to clean up the edges and add detail to a short haircut.
Undercut– This is a type of haircut in which the top is left longer than the bottom, leaving an overhang. It can be very subtle, as in a bob haircut, where the undercut is used to make the haircut flip under. It could refer to the the very popular look right now, where the whole nape of the neck is shaved and the rest of the hair is still regular length.
Upsweep- Loosely gathering all of the hair on top of the head.
Virgin Hair– Hair that has never been processed.
Volume– Hair that has a lot of volume is hair that is lifted further from the scalp, so that it appears bigger. Can also mean thicker, fuller hair.
Weaving– The act of sewing hair extensions in to cornrows on the head.
Weft– A hair piece that is woven together by a strip on top.
Weight Line– The part of the haircut that holds the most weight. For example, in a non-layered, “straight across” haircut, it will be the bottom of the hair.
White-Walls– This is hair terminology for maximum scalp exposure on a short haircut.
Wig– A covering for the whole head made from real or synthetic hair.
Your Turn: There are a million other words of hair terminology that I want to add to this list and I plan on updating it often. Do you have any questions about anything on here? I’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below…
With an extensive knowledge of hair color science and over 12 years as a licensed cosmetologist working in the hair industry, Hollee feels the need to share her passion for beauty with the world. She specializes in hair color science, hairstyles, hair hacks, hair knowledge, and how things work in the hair industry. She enjoys sharing her expertise and helping people achieve their personal hair goals.