Glossary

accelerator

An external product, such as a spray or rinse, that “accelerates” the maturation process by creating a chemical environment in the hair that damages the cuticle layer and encourages the strands to knot.

ACV

Acronym for apple cider vinegar.

ACV+BS

Acronym for washes that involve both apple cider vinegar and baking soda, either mixed together or used one after the other.

alopecia

Medicalized permanent hair loss that can be caused by a combination of factors, such as age, hormones, chemical exposure, radiation, poor health, and prolonged pulling.

baby locks

Locks that have not reached maturation.

backcombing

A method of starting locks by heavily teasing sections of hair.

BBB

Acronym for “boar bristle brush.”

big chop

Slang in the black hair community for cutting off all processed hair so only the hair’s natural texture remains.

blanket stitch braid

A braiding technique used to braid synthetic locks into brushable hair.

blunting

The process of rounding the tips of each lock to make them blunt in shape, rather than tapered.

box braids

A protective style where natural hair is braided with an extension, typically synthetic hair. Box braids are sometimes wrapped with an outer layer of synthetic hair mimic the look of locs.

braidlocks

Locks started from braids. A head of loose hair is sectioned and braided, and the new growth comes in as locks. Once enough new growth has come in at the roots, the braids may be kept at the ends or cut off. In the case of microlocks, the braided ends will eventually mat up and lose their braided texture.

breakage

When the individual hairs in a lock break, usually caused by manual manipulation (maintenance) or dehydrate hair. If enough breakage occurs in a concentrated area of a lock, then the lock itself may break and shed completely off, as well.

BS

Acronym for baking soda.

budding

When young locs mature in kinky hair, they often develop “buds,” which are pea-sized swells of matted hair in the shaft. This is a sign typically found in locs started with comb coils or palm rolled twists, indicating that the hair in the lock is knotting up. Budding in locs is analogous to looping in non-kinky curl patterns, although the former isn’t as visually dramatic as the latter.

buildup

Buildup is the accumulation of product, dandruff, debris, lint, dirt, or any other foreign substance in the core of a lock. Buildup is typically difficult to remove from locks and makes each individual lock stiffer and heavier.

chelating shampoo

Shampoo with chelating ingredients, which are specifically designed to remove mineral buildup from hair. Many chelating shampoos double as clarifying shampoos as well.

clarifying shampoo

Shampoo designed specifically to remove buildup. Clarifying shampoos have heavy-duty surfactants that strip buildup from each hair strand. This can excessively strip sebum, as well, so clarifying shampoos should not be used in lieu of a daily shampoo. Use only as needed.

clockwise rubbing

Root rubbing in a clockwise pattern. Clockwise rubbing is not any more or less advantageous than counterclockwise rubbing.

co-wash

The term “co-wash” is a contraction of the term “conditioner wash.” Conditioner washing is simply washing the hair with conditioner only, skipping shampoo altogether. Many choose to co-wash between shampoo days as a way to prevent dry hair.

Some people co-wash with commercial cream conditioners, but this can cause buildup in locked hair. Safer options for co-washing locked hair include aloe vera and coconut milk.

comb coils

Comb coils are a method of starting locs in tightly coiled and kinky hair types. The hair is sectioned, and each section is spun into a soft coil shape using a fine-tooth comb. The tight natural curl pattern of each hair strand keeps the coil in place.

combining

Fusing two locks into one, either down the entirety of the shafts, or just at the root. There are several combination techniques that yield different aesthetic results.

congos

Slang for matting between the roots of adjacent locks. If left alone and unseparated, congos can form double-headed dragons. The origin on the word is uncertain. Some speculate that it came from the term “bongos”—a shortening of the term “bongo locks” in the 1970s, which was invented to describe the large freeformed locks of reggae stars such as Bob Marley. Some individuals encourage congos and welcome the natural combination of locks, while others get them unintentionally and pull them apart to prevent combination.

crochet hooking

A variety of techniques that use a small crochet hook to start locks, tighten them, add extensions, or pull in loose hair.

crocheting

Crocheting is a slang term for “crochet hooking.” Though they use the same tools, this terminology often is confused with the yarn craft, so “crochet hooking” may be preferred for clarity.

cultivated locks

Locks that were started manually with a starting method, as opposed to locks that were started by freeforming.

curl typing

A system of defining curl patterns found in the shafts of loose natural hair. One popular method of curl typology was developed by Hollywood stylist Andre Walker in his book Andre Talks Hair. In Walker Hair Typology, basic curl shapes are defined with a number (1-4), and the coarseness of the hair strands is defined with a letter (a, b, or c).

Walker’s hair typology is controversial in natural hair communities focused on unlocked hair because some people believe its labels are divisive and don’t have have any bearing on brushable hair care. These people emphasize the importance of other physiological aspects of hair, such as cuticle porosity. However, when it comes to locks, curl pattern hugely affects which starting and maintenance methods are best for an individual.

cyberlocks

Synthetic locks in the cyberpunk community, typically characterized by dramatic volume, tubular crinoline, bright colors, and/or fiber optic elements.

daily shampoo

Shampoos with gentle surfactants suitable for typical washes. The name “daily shampoo” is misleading because it may suggest that it is used every day. However, the name simply means that it’s gentle enough to be used as someone’s “usual” shampoo — as opposed to a clarifying shampoo, which should not be used frequently.

damage

An irreversible process that splits and/or weakens the individual hairs inside of a lock. Damage can be caused manually through heavy maintenance, but it can also be caused by excessive dehydration or other factors.

dandruff

Dandruff is a condition where the top layers of skin on the scalp slough off in visible flakes. Dandruff can come from a variety of sources, such as seborrhea, dry scalp, scalp fungus, and scalp inflammation.

deep clean

A variety of methods designed to remove buildup from the cores of locks. Deep cleaning tends to be very drying to hair, so it is not recommended for frequent use.

deep cleanse

Alternate term for “deep clean.”

double-ended (DE) synthetic locks

Synthetic locks in the shape of a straight shaft with tapered tips at each end. Double-ended locks are folded in half and one tail is braided into the loose hair, leaving the other one free. This creates double the volume of a single-ended lock installation.

double-headed dragon

Two locks that have been allowed to grow together at the root, resulting in a single lock that forks off into two ends.

dread perm

A method of starting locks in hair with a loose curl pattern by backcombing sections, twisting those sections of hair around a perm rod, then chemically setting them into a lock shape.

dreadlocks

A word that came into use in the 1900s used specifically to describe hair in the Rastafari faith.

dreads

A shortened nickname for “dreadlocks.”

Dreadsock

Dreadsock is a brand name polysatin sleep caps sold by dreadsock.com. They are designed to prevent lint buildup and dehydrated hair, which are commonly caused by sleeping on cotton surfaces.

dreds

An alternative spelling of the term “dreads,” used mainly to avoid negative racial connotations stemming from the publicly debated etymology of the word “dreadlocks.”

dry scalp

A scalp that doesn’t have enough moisture. Dry scalp is characterized by itch, irritation, and/or visible dandruff flakes.

EVOO

Acronym for “extra-virgin olive oil.”

extensions

A variety of methods and materials that make one’s natural locks longer. There are several techniques of extending locks, all yielding unique results.

falls

Groups of synthetic locks that can be tied or attached to buns of loose hair.

felting

“Felting” refers to one of two techniques:

  1. Repeatedly jabbing a felting needle down the shaft of a lock, either as a method of starting or maintaining locks.
  2. Using a felting needle to permanently embed wool into a lock using a traditional felting technique.
finger rolling

A technique of palm rolling short locks by rolling the shaft of each lock between the index finger and thumb of one hand, as opposed to two palms.

freeforming

The state of not maintaining locks, except separation. Freeforming can be a method of starting locks, which some people know as the “neglect” method. Locks started with other methods (cultivated locks) can be freeformed by doing nothing more than separating the locks between washes to avoid matting. While anyone can freeform at any time, it is generally understood that the specific term “freeform locks” only pertains to locks that were started by freeforming and have remained untouched by maintenance.

genie locs

Loose hair box braided with yarn extensions to mimic the look of locs.

goddess locs

Loose hair box braided with extensions, then wrapped with synthetic hair to mimic the look of locs. Wavy synthetic hair is used at the end of the locs for a soft, cascading tail of curly, unlocked hair at the tip of each loc.

growth marker

An object or dye line in a lock that is used as a reference point to see how much a lock has grown since the time that marker was put in. Popular markers are beads kept in the same place on a lock, or bleaching the root of a lock without further bleach upkeep.

interlocking

A method of starting small locks by pulling the tip of a lock through the shaft from multiple angles. This can be used as a maintenance method to tighten the root. Interlocking is distinguished from “root flipping” because interlocking pulls the tip of the lock through multiple angles of the root, whereas “root flipping” destructively pulls the tip of the lock through just one angle of the root.

jata

The name given to the locks of Shaivite spiritual ascetics.

JBCO

Acronym for “Jamaican black castor oil.”

kanekalon

A plastic-like synthetic fiber that is used to make braids, twists, and synthetic locks. Kanekalon comes in varying textures and qualities: KK, K2, K5, and K7. Some grades are better than others for certain projects.

kinky twists

A protective style where natural hair is rope twisted with textured synthetic extension hair.

lark’s head knot

A knot that is used to secure single-ended locks to to the base of real locks for decorative purposes. This knot is also known as a “cow hitch knot.”

latch hook

A handheld tool with a metal hook and moveable, hinged arm that is sometimes used to interlock locks. Latch hooks are often confused with crochet hooks, which do not have any moveable parts.

latching

Multi-point interlock maintenance performed with a latch hook.

LCO method

A variant method the LOC method for moisturizing brushable hair after washing. The name of the method is an acronym for “Liquid-Cream-Oil.” A water-based moisturizer is applied to the hair first, then a heavy cream is applied over it. Lastly, a sealant oil is applied over the cream. This method is not suitable for locked hair because the cream layer can cause buildup.

LOC method

A method of moisturizing brushable hair after washing. The name of the method is an acronym for “Liquid-Oil-Cream.” A water-based moisturizer is applied to the hair first, then a sealant oil is applied over it. Lastly, a heavy cream is applied over the oil. This method is not suitable for locked hair because the cream layer can cause buildup.

lock brushing

Lock brushing is a method to remove lint and other topical debris from the surface of locks. This technique also redistributes natural scalp oils found at the root of your lock down through the lower shaft, which tends to be drier. Briskly run a soft bristle brush over the surface of the lock to get the topical debris out, then draw the brush from the root of a lock to the tip to redistribute the oil.

lock popping

Slang for root separation. The name comes from the popping sounds that occur when two locks are ripped apart.

locks

A race-neutral, culturally neutral term for the locked hair (“deadlocks”) that is not associated with any one group of people or faith. Brambleroots uses this term exclusively, unless referring to a specific, culturally contingent form of locked hair — in which case, the appropriate name for that specific form is used.

locs

A word first used by black haircare magazines in the 1990s to describe Afro-textured hairstyles — not necessarily locked hair. In recent years, this term has evolved to describe locked hair on people with African or Diasporic African racial heritage. Just as we would not use “Jata” to describe non-Indian locks, this website does not use the word “locs” to describe nonblack locks.

loctician

A slang term for someone who specializes in starting and/or maintaining locked hair.

loops

Circular, zig-zag, or wave-like protrusions from the shaft of a lock. Loops arise when the shaft of the lock is shrinking, and they commonly develop in hair with loose curl patterns.

loose hairs

Hair strands that are not part of a lock, primarily the fine hairs between the sections of locks.

maintenance

Any manual intervention to alter the shape, tightness, texture, or sectioning of a lock for a neater look.

manicured locks

Regularly maintained locks, typically with a uniform shape throughout the shaft of each lock.

marrying

Slang for combining two or more locks.

matting

Typically refers to tightly tangled hairs. The word “matting” typically is used to describe unintentional mats beyond what is wanted in a maturing lock. A common type of matting is when the roots of several locks knot up at the back of the head and are unable to be separated.

mature locks

Locks that have completed the maturation process. This is characterized by resilience to vigorous washing, shafts that no longer change shape, and a relative elimination of loops and buds. Some locks do have permanent loops and waves, but no new loops should appear on the mature shafts after maturation. Maturation typically completes 1-3 years after starting.

mildew

“Mildew” is a word some use to refer to the early stages of mold. Taxonomically, mildew is distinct from common molds, but both mold and mildew are closely-related forms of fungi. The articles in this website will define “mildew” as the early development of any fungal growth.

natural locks

The definition of the term “natural locks” is quite debated. Some believe that natural locks can only be started through freeforming. Others believe that “natural” means no maintenance (no matter the starting method). Some go as far to say that bleaching, coloring, or separating locks takes away “natural” status. The definition of this term is not well agreed-upon, so this website does not use it at all.

neglect

An alternate term for “freeform.” “Neglect” is a less preferable term because it may falsely suggest neglectful hygiene. Neglected locks are still washed and kept clean.

no-poo

Short for “no shampoo,” which refers to any method of washing that does not involve the use of shampoo. This includes co-washing, vinegar-only washes, and baking soda washes.

organic

An ambiguous term, often meaning “natural” or “freeformed” locks.

paddle

A lock that has developed a flat shape.

palmrolling, bidirectional

Bidirectional palmrolling is a maintenance method where a lock is rolled back and forth between the palms for the purpose of encouraging a smooth, round shaft. This method does not twist the root of the lock.

palmrolling, unidirectional

Unidirectional palmrolling is a maintenance method where each lock is rolled between the palms in one single direction (as opposed to back-and-forth) to twist the root.

Pan-African colors

The Pan-African color palette comes in two variants: red, black, and green or red, yellow, and green. In Africa, these colors are a political signifier of national and territorial flags. Outside of Africa, these colors are used to signify Pan-African or diasporic ideologies, such as those found in Rastafari. These colors are not intended to signify a “hippie lifestyle” or “island lifestyle,” as outsiders often mistake them as such.

partial locks

A sectioning style of locks where only part of the head has locks and the remainder of hair is left unlocked. Partial locks are popular on the underside of the hair and/or behind the ears. They are helpful for those who are interested in starting a whole head of locks, but are unsure. Loose fringe does not typically constitute partial locking.

permanent loops

Loops that have not been reabsorbed by the lock by the time it is fully matured. Permanent loops will not go back into the lock on their own and are also resistant to crochet hook maintenance. They commonly form in locks started by freeforming hair with a loose curl pattern.

pinch rolling

A technique of palm rolling locks by pinching a lock between the index finger and thumb of both hands, clasping the hands together, then rotating one hand in a circular motion on top of the other palm.

Polish plait (kołtun)

A large mat of hair that consumes part of or the entirety of someone’s scalp. Called kołtun in the Polish language, Polish plaits originated in Poland in accordance with a superstitious belief that the cultivation of one will encourage overall health. Historical references cite the existence of neater, narrower versions of Polish plaits, most notable being a narrow one on the left side of Danish King Christian IV’s head in the 15- and 1600s. The popularity of Polish plaits spread to other countries, such as Germany, over the course of a couple centuries. However, in the 20th century, a definitive medical movement took place that sought to wholly eliminate Polish plaits under the premise that large ones were often hosts of disease vectors such as lice, blood, pus, and scalp inflammation.

protective style

Protective styles are hairstyles for that encourage neat lock formation and protect the wearer’s hair from harsh weather, excess manipulation, and absorbent fabrics.

Rastafari

An Afrocentric social and spiritual movement that was developed in the early 20th century. Followers of the Rastafari movement popularized the style of locks in the 1970s. Rastafari guidelines include the tenants of the Biblical Nazarite Vow, which forbids the cutting of hair. Many believe the Biblical description of the Nazarite Samson and his “seven locks” describes locked hair, so they lock their hair in observance of the Nazarite Vow, as well. However, dreadlocks are not compulsory, and many Rastas wear their hair in other unlocked styles, such as box braids or cornrows, to observe the vow. Rastas reject the term “Rastafarianism,” and it is sometimes viewed as offensive.

Rastas

“Rasta” as a singular word can mean a follower of the Rastafari movement. The same is for the plural “Rastas.” However, “rastas” in several non-English languages (such as Spanish) translate to “dreadlocks,” which sometimes causes some confusion.

re-backcombing

Backcombing hair that has already been backcombed once.

resectioning

Brushing adjacent locks out and restarting them with a new sectioning pattern. An alternate re-sectioning method involves carefully pulling hairs from the root of one lock and either sewing or crochet hooking them into another lock to redefine the sections between them.

resectioning

Brushing adjacent locks out and restarting them with a new sectioning pattern. An alternate re-sectioning method involves carefully pulling hairs from the root of one lock and either sewing or crochet hooking them into another lock to redefine the sections between them.

reti

Short for “retightening.” This term is used to describe maintenance for Sisterlocks®. Reti appointments should be scheduled every six weeks at most for the continued health and integrity of each Sisterlock.

root flipping

Pulling the tip of a lock through the root as a form of maintenance. Root flipping is distinguished from interlocking because interlocking pulls the tip through the root several times from different angles, whereas root flipping typically only flips once (or several times at the same angle), which can potentially result in weak spots or Y-shaped holes in the lock.

root rubbing

Scrunching the top of a lock down against its loose roots and gently rubbing it against the scalp. This increases root friction for the purpose of accelerating the locking process at the roots.

root wrapping

Wrapping the roots of each lock with string or surrounding loose hairs for the purpose of keeping them separate, often resulting in weak spots.

roots

The base of a lock, typically loose and unknotted, where it attaches to the scalp.

rope twists

A variation of two-strand twists that works on loose hair textures and mature locks. In a rope twist, one “strand” (half) of the twist is twisted clockwise, and the other strand is twisted counter-clockwise. The alternating tension makes the twist stay put.

rot

rot

Russian locks

A slang term to describe a popular style of manicured lock startup and maintenance in Russia. This style of locking is usually started by a combination method of “backcombing then crochet hooking” or “twist-and-pull then crochet hooking.” Maintenance is regularly performed with crochet hooking to eliminate loops and bumps.

scalp density

The number of hairs on the scalp per square inch. The fewer hairs per square inch, the lower the density. Hair density does not influence the thickness (coarseness) of each strand.

seborrheic dermatitis

A medicalized skin condition characterized by excessive amounts of oil produced by the scalp. The excessive amounts of oil cause the skin to flake off in large, crust-like formations. Scalp itch, redness, and irritation are common symptoms.

sectioning

The scheme of parting that separates one lock from another. Common sectioning styles are brick-pattern, fan-shaped (fish scale), triangle-shaped, diamond-shaped, grid, and random.

separation

Pulling locks apart from each other to avoid unwanted combination. Regular separation avoids root matting, which often results in having to cut the locks apart — a highly damaging and risky form of emergency maintenance.

shaft

The body of a lock that hangs below the root.

shampoo brush

Also known as a scalp massager. A small egg-shaped brush with stiff, widely-spaces spike bristles, designed to be used while shampooing. Shampoo brushes are an easy way to exfoliate the scalp, stimulate blood circulation, and lift excess dead skin. Some simple shampoos brushes are made of hard plastic. Other, higher-quality shampoo brushes are made of soft silicone with battery-operated massage functionality.

shape-up

When the hairline is carefully barbered to a sharp edge, eliminating fine baby hairs for a clean, sculpted look.

shrinking

When the shaft of locked hair shrinks in length during the maturation process. Typically shrinkage results in looping and/or thickening of the shaft.

side shave

When one or both sides of a head are shaved closely to the scalp. This is also known as an “undercut.”

single-ended synthetic locks

Synthetic locks with a loop at the top. Brushable hair is threaded through the hole of the single-ended lock and braided with the lock with a 3-strand braid or blanket-stitch braid. Single-ended locks with extra-large loops can be temporarily attached to the base of real locks with a lark’s head knot.

Sisterlocks®

Sisterlocks® is a brand-name system of sectioning, starting, and maintaining micro-sized interlocks developed in 1993 by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell. Sisterlocks are almost exclusively cultivated in kinky hair types, and a full head of Sisterlocks has a recommended 400+ sections when complete. The delicate, manually-formed knots in Sisterlocks are regularly maintained by a registered consultant who has undergone training in the technique. Therefore, there are no online tutorials to start or maintain Sisterlocks; one must complete the official 4-day training to legally advertise or establish Sisterlocks.

sludge

A viscous substance, often murky in color, that can be squeezed out from the cores of dirty locks during a deep clean.

splitting

When two locks tanged at the root are separated. “Splitting” also refers to when the root of a lock seems to be separating into two on its own, or when a lock is resectioned into multiple smaller locks.

strand thickness

Also known as “coarseness,” strand thickness is the diameter of each individual hair strand growing out of the scalp. Strand thickness does not dictate hair density.

synthetic locks

Artificial, temporary locks braided into loose hair that are made from a synthetic fiber, typically kanekalon. A majority of synthetic locks are made into two shapes: single-ended and double-ended.

tail

A lock that is grown at the nape amongst brushable hair. The name comes from the similar appearance with an animal tail coming from the back of the head.

take down

Picking or brushing locks out with the intent to remove them.

tam

A bulbous hat, often knitted or crocheted, that has a similar shape to a beanie. Tams are often used by people with locked hair because it is one of the few hat styles with enough room to tuck all the locks under the hat. Tams also come in billed and non-billed varieties.

teenage locks

Locks that are neither in the baby stage, nor mature. At this stage, the core of each lock has mostly solidified, but loops and buds are still common.

thinning

Hair thinning is when the hair density on the scalp decreases. This is a common precursor to hair loss, but not always. Hair thinning can be caused by other factors, such as over-tightening and hormones, and is common after pregnancy. Dramatic thinning can cause weakness at the roots of locks.

threadlock

Slang for a lock that has been decoratively wrapped with thread or decorative embroidery floss.

three-strand twists

A method of starting locs similar to two-strand twisting. As the name suggests, three sections of hair are twisted together instead of two.

tightening

A variety of methods designed to eliminate loose hair and firm up immature locks.

traction alopecia

Alopecia that is caused by constant pulling of the hair. Sources of constant pulling include trichotillomania, excessive maintenance, or tension hairstyles like braids or ponytails.

tubular crinoline

Also called “crin,” tubular crinoline is hollow, flexible tubing that is added to synthetic cyberlocks for decoration and a futuristic/cyberpunk aesthetic.

TWA

Acronym for “teeny weenie afro.” People with kinky hair that do the big chop often refer to their resulting hair length as “TWA.”

twist and rip

A method of starting locks that involves twisting a section of brushable hair, separating the bottom of the section into two, and pulling upward to create knots.

two-strand twists

A method of twisting two sections of hair together into a spiral shape. Two-strand twists left alone will form into locks. Some choose to palmroll their two-strand twists with product to encourage them to stick together. Two-strand twists can also be accomplished with two locks for the purposes of combination. When done with immature locks, the entire shaft may fuse together to form a single lock. When done with mature locks, the locks will combine at the root, but not at the lower shafts, resulting in a two-headed dragon.

undercut

When one or both sides of a head are shaved closely to the scalp, or the nape area is shaved.

unraveling

Refers to when a lock “comes undone,” commonly after getting wet or being washed. The lock itself technically doesn’t “unravel” unless it was started with twists. Rather, the knots in the lock just relax while still maintaining loose tangles.

water-only washing

Washing hair with water only — no shampoo, soap, vinegar, baking soda, or other products.

waxing

The application of beeswax to a lock—either as a product to hold a palm rolled twist at the roots, or as an agent intended to reduce frizz on the shaft of a lock. Wax does not wash out of locks and is a common source of permanent buildup.

wool locks

Fake, temporary locks made from wet felted and palm rolled wool roving. They are installed in brushable hair with box braids or blanket stitch braids.

wool rubbing

Rubbing a woolen material on either brushable hair or immature locks to accelerate freeform knotting through friction.

wrap

To wrap a lock with string, yarn, twine, embroidery floss, or another decorative line. Wrapping is sometimes used for maintenance purposes.

yarn braids

Box braids utilizing yarn as the extension material. Locks can be put into yarn braids to make them appear longer.

yarn wrap

To wrap a lock with decorative yarn. This is sometimes a technique for making faux locs, though it has fallen largely out of fashion.