Hair and Beauty Glossary

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Hair and Beauty Glossary

Have you ever been described something by your hairdresser or therapist and wondered what that meant, or know you need to ask for a particular service yet don’t know the correct term?

Fear not, for our glossary of hairdressing and beauty terms will give you the confidence in knowing exactly what your stylist or therapist is talking about.

Accent Colour - A sharp, intense colour used as a contrast or pick-up for a colour scheme. It is used to add excitement to an overall effect.

Acid Mantle - The combination of sweat and sebum that provides the skin’s protective coating.

Acid Perm - An acid perm produces permanent hair waves with curls that are actually softer than an alkaline perm. It also has a pH from 6.5 to 8.0.

Acne - An inflammation of the skin - a result of over production of oil and bacteria.

Activator - A chemical ingredient that is specifically added to hair bleach to speed up the action of the bleach without unnecessarily damaging the hair.

Acupressure - A method of relieving pain by pressing down on an area of the body.

Acupuncture - A method of relieving pain by inserting needles into the skin.

Adrenal - The adrenal glands are comprised of two parts -- the cortex and medulla -- that produce hormones which regulate body functions. The medulla, or inner part of the adrenal glands, produces the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine, which regulate the 'fight or flight' response in the body, the body's reaction to stressful events. The cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal glands, produces several hormones that affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels, growth, as well as some sexual characteristics.

Afro Hair - A hairstyle consisting of a mass of very tight curls that stick out all round the head, like the natural hair of some black people.

A-Line Bob - An A-line Bob is a geometric bob with a straight fringe, so called because of the resemblance to the capital A.

Alkaline Perm - A chemical based permanent waving product that has a pH from 7.5 to 9.5. Stronger than acid perms, alkaline perms are designed to produce tight, firm, springy curls rather than the looser curls produced by acid perms.

Allergen - Allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction.

Allergy - A bodily reaction to an irritant. Skin allergies can be exacerbated by solutions put on the skin.

Alopecia - Loss of hair, especially from the head, which either happens naturally or is caused by disease.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid - Known as AHA, these solutions are used as exfoliates and can help reduce ingrown hairs and improve the look of the skin.

Amino Acid - A chemical substance found in plants and animals - the building blocks of hair.

Ammonia - An alkaline ingredient used in some permanent hair colours. Ammonia is an ingredient that results in a chemical action that decolorizes the hair.

Anagen - This is the growing phase of the hair cycle which lasts about seven years in a healthy person.

Anagen Cycle - The active stage in the hair growth cycle.


Barbicide - Brand name of the sanitizer used to disinfect salon tools.

Basic Shade - A natural or neutral colour applied to the hair.

Blackheads - A type of clogged pore in the skin with a visible black plug.

Blanching - Whitening of the skin sometimes caused by some types of hair removal - also called hypopigmentation.

Bleach - A method used to disguise, not remove, hair by lightening its colour.

Blemish – A blood or pigment based visible mark.

Blonde Hair – Is not as visible and harder to treat. Lasers have limited effects on blonde hair because of its lack of pigment, and it is difficult to see against the skin.

Bob - The Bob was the classic look of the 50s and 60s; the style was short and straight but blow-dried and curled under.

Body - The volume or springiness of hair.

Bonding – The attachment of hair wefts to natural hair with a latex or surgical type adhesive.

Botanical - Refers to a product containing plants or ingredients that is made from plants.

Braid – Where strands of hair are weaved together. On the scalp braiding is used to form a base or track to sew on a commercial weft - this is the cornrow technique. Off the scalp braiding is used for traditional braiding styles.

Brassy - Refers to unflattering warm tones in hair colour that are created by chemicals or damage.

Broken Capillaries - These tiny blood vessels at the surface of the skin appear as streaks or blotches. Most common on the face they are caused by ageing, sun and trauma. Whilst not harmful they can be unsightly.

Bruise - A discoloration of skin from blood, sometimes caused by electrolysis, plucking or waxing.

Bulb - The root of a hair, so named because it’s wider at the base.


CACI - This acronym stands for Computer Aided Cosmetology Instrument, which is a non-surgical facelift. By applying a micro-current to the face this treatment tones muscles making them feel firmer and smoothens the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

Canities - A pigment deficiency frequently seen in middle-aged people of either sex. Close examination of greying hair confirms that it is an illusion caused by the presence of white hairs among a percentage of normal dark pigmented hairs.

Capillaries - Tiny hair-like blood vessels, some of which carry nutrients to the hair growth matrix.

Carbon Dioxide Laser - Also known as a CO2 laser, these are commonly used to perform skin resurfacing.

Catagen - This is the hair’s end of active growth period and is marked by changes occurring in the follicle.

Catogen - The resting stage of the hair cycle.

Cellulite - A collection of fat cells resulting from poor lymphatic drainage, fluid retention, poor circulation, not drinking enough water, a sedentary lifestyle and hormonal changes.

Cellulite Reduction – A clinical based method for reducing the appearance of cellulite.

Chelating - A deep cleansing process which strips the hair lightly before a chemical service - also known as clarifying.

Chemical Depilatories - Powder or cream preparations that dissolve hair above the surface of the skin. Some find these products very irritating to the skin.

Chignon - A chignon is a sophisticated, elegant up-style where long hair is twisted (either in a roll or knot) and pinned from the nape of the neck.

Cicatricial Alopecia - This is baldness due to scarring - follicles are absent in scar tissue.

Cilia - Medical term for eyelashes.

Clarifier - A clarifying shampoo is slightly stronger than an everyday shampoo and is designed to remove products, hard water or chlorine residue that have built-up over time. These types of shampoos usually have a higher pH level and therefore should not be used regularly as they may dry out the hair and scalp.

Club Hair - A non-living hair in the last stages of the hair growth cycle, it is detached from the follicle but has not yet shed.

Coarse - A classification for stronger, thicker types of hair.

Collagen - A protein that holds all connective tissue together under the skin. Collagen is sometimes damaged by plucking or electrolysis which can lead to dimpling on the skin. Collagen, from a plant, is also used to fill in scars and augment lips, often with temporary results.

Comedones - A medical term for blackheads.

Conditioner – A creamy hair product used after shampooing - moisturises and detangles the hair.

Congenital - A condition that is hereditary. As an example, excess hair often runs in the family.

Cornrow - Term used to describe an on the scalp braid. These braids can be used to form a track for the cornrow weaving method.

Cortex - The cortex is the main structure of the hair shaft. The cortex determines the colour and texture of the hair.

Couture Cut - A couture cut is a high-fashion cut which is totally exclusive and specifically tailored to your lifestyle and wardrobe.

Crop - Originally the word crop was an alternative to haircut, without any specific meaning to the style of the cut. However it has come to be a description of hair that is cut very short with the hair hugging the head.

Crown - Area at the top of the head.

Curved Follicles - A relatively rare condition which makes certain hair removal methods more difficult and can lead to ingrown hairs.

Cushing Syndrome - A disease caused by a tumour on the adrenal gland which can cause excess hair growth.

Cuticles - The hair cuticles form a protective layer which covers the shaft of the hair. If your hair is coloured or bleached they can spread out, split or become bloated due to over processing.

Cutting-In - The term used to describe getting a ’haircut’ and having your new hairpiece styled for the first time when you first receive it. It involves a simple haircut and blending in of the hairpiece with your existing hair.


Dandruff - Flaking scalp due to excessive cell production.

Deep Penetrating Treatment - A conditioner of greater intensity which usually contains protein, vitamins and moisture to help dry, damaged hair.

Depilate - Removal of hair on the surface of the skin. Examples include shaving or the use of depilatory creams.

Depilation - The temporary removal of hair.

Depilatories - Substances used to dissolve hair above the skin’s surface.

Depth - The darkness or lightness of a colour.

Dermabrasion - A cosmetic procedure used to smooth skin and reduce scars.

Dermal Papilla - The dermal papilla is situated at the base of the hair follicle. The dermal papilla contains nerves and blood vessels which supply glucose for energy and amino acids to make keratin. A tiny bulge at the root of the hair believed to be one of the primary targets in permanent hair removal.

Dermal Sheath - The lining around the hair.

Dermatitis - Atopic Dermatitis is also known as Eczema. Contact Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an irritating substance.

Dermatologist - A doctor that specialises in skin and scalp conditions.

Dermis - The deepest layers of the skin where blood vessels, lymph channels, nerve endings, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, fat cells, hair follicles and muscles are located. The dermis varies in thickness over different sites of the body.

Developer - A product which oxidises artificial colour pigment.

Diffuser - A Diffuser is an adapter you put on the end of your hairdryer; it’s generally circular with a number of pins sticking out from it. The diffuser spreads out the air flow from your hairdryer so you don’t get the full force of the air, meaning a gentler drying process.

Distorted Hair Follicles - A relatively rare condition in which the follicle is not straight. This condition can make waxing and electrolysis more difficult and can lead to ingrown hairs. It can be successfully treated using pulsed light.

Dreadlocks - A hairstyle in which the hair naturally, or through manipulation, is encouraged to become matted and form a cylindrical, rope-like pattern. Dreadlocks may take several months to well over a year to form and are considered a permanent style. In order to remove dreadlocks, one must cut them.


Eczema - Also called contact dermatitis, it’s a mild inflammation of the skin.

Edema (Oedema) - A medical term for swelling.

Elasticity - The hair’s ability to stretch without breaking and then return to its original shape.

Electrolysis - In hair removal, it is the practice of epilation with electrified needles. Electrolysis was originally the name for hair removal with direct current only (also called galvanic), although the term is generally applied to all three forms of epilation with an electrified needle.

Epidermis - The thin outer layer of skin on top of the thicker and deeper dermis.

Epilation - The removal of hair below the skin’s surface (as opposed to depilation). Epilation methods include plucking, waxing, electrolysis and laser.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) - EFA preserves the resilience and flexibility of your hair. It’s common for hair products to contain natural or synthetic EFA’s like cetyl alcohol.

Exfoliating - A process of removing the top dead skin layers to reveal healthier, newer skin underneath.

Extension - Hair extensions are pieces of real or synthetic hair woven close to the scalp in order to achieve greater length and/or fullness.

Eyelashes - Protective hairs on the eyelid.


Facelift – A surgical procedure that lifts and stretches the patient’s skin to provide a firmer more youthful look. It does not improve the appearance of the skin itself.

Fashion Shade - A basic hair colour with an added tone.

Feathering - Feathering is a cutting technique hairdressers use to take hard lines out of the hair - by cutting into the hair softer lines are created.

Finishing Spray - A hairspray with medium hold used on a finished style to maintain its shape.

Fly-Away Hair - Fly-away hair is thin hair that is charged by static and is a particular problem with straight styles.

Foils – A term used to describe highlighting/lowlighting. Foil highlights is the process of using foils to separate strands of hair which will be lightened from strands of hair which will remain its natural or different colour.

Follicle - The hair follicle houses the root of the hair.

Follicle Sheath - Protects the hair during its growth stage.

Follicular Hair Transplants - One of the latest techniques for conducting hair transplants where surgeons harvest hair from another part of the body where it naturally grows.

Folliculitis - A common disorder characterised by inflammation of the hair follicle - also known as Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB) or Tinea Barbae.

Freckles - Small clumps of coagulated melanin.

Freezing Spray - A hairspray with the firmest hold used to maintain style of hard to hold hair.

Fusion - The process of attaching small pieces of human hair with a special adhesive and a thermal gun. This is a hair to hair process, no tracks are required. This method allows for free movement of the hair extensions.


Gel - Jelly like material formed by the coagulation of a liquid. Semi-solid emulsion that liquefies when applied to the skin.

Grey Hair - Hair that has lost its pigment.



Hair Extensions - Hair extensions are used to add volume or length to your hair by bonding synthetic or real hair to your roots.

Hair Growth Cycle - Hair passes through a series of cycles known as Anagen (growing phase), Catagen (resting phase) and Telogen (dormant phase).

Hair Weaving - A process by which a hairpiece is attached to your existing hair by braiding or weaving.

Hair Weft Clips - To attach hair wefts by clips. Clips are placed in the hair and snapped closed to hold the weft securely in place.

Heat Clamps - A heat gun that is used to seal synthetic hair - used for creating warlocks and other styles.

Henna - Derived from the henna plant, a vegetable dye made from its leaves and stemmed into a powder. Traditionally, it imparts a reddish cast to the hair by coating it. Clear henna enhances shine. Henna cannot be dyed over since it coats the outer hair shaft affecting the penetration of the chemical colorant.

Highlights - Hair highlighting/lowlighting refers to changing a person's hair colour using lightener or hair colour. There are four basic types of highlights: foil highlights - the process of using foils to separate strands of hair which will be lightened from strands of hair which will remain its natural or different colour. Hair painting – a more permanent method which employs a simple hair-painting brush tool, Balyage is the most common form of hair painting. Frosting - refers to the process of free-hand lightening of the tips of the hair and is generally performed on men. Chunking - a style of highlights which is larger and thicker than traditional highlights.

Humectants - An ingredient in skin or hair products that draws moisture from the air to moisturise.

Hyperpigmentation - An over-excitation of melanocytes which causes darkening of the skin - can be seen as sun-induced freckles or melasma.

Hypopigmentation - Caused by an absence of melanocytes, whitening of the skin. Vitiligo is a common medical complaint.


Ingrown Hair - Hair that does not break the surface of the skin and grows inward. Can be severe and cause inflammation, soreness and infection.

Interlocking - A method in which hair is maintained or tightened using a tool.

Ionic - Process where water molecules are broken down by ions into smaller droplets. This then allows the hair to absorb the moisture more easily. Ionic technology usually uses hot ceramic plates to generate the negatively charged ions.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) - A treatment consisting of short pulses of light sent out through an applicator that is gently pressed against the skin. The light energy is absorbed naturally and, depending on how it is applied, can act beneficially on pigmentation in hair follicles, pigmentation in the skin, or blood lesions such as thread veins.


Jojoba Oil - Contains superior properties to keep skin and hair soft. It is beneficial to dry hair.




Keloids - A type of raised darkened scar due to a defect in the skin’s healing process - more common with darker skin.

Keratin - A fibrous protein found in hair, nails and skin.

Keratin Hair Straightening - A method of temporarily straightening the hair by sealing a liquid keratin and a preservative solution into the hair with a straightening iron. These treatments aim to straighten curls and waves and to reduce frizz. The treatments do not guarantee completely straight hair, although if performed correctly they can reduce between 50 and 80 percent of the curl depending on the original hair texture. Treatments last around 10–12 weeks and repeating the treatment every few months will allow for treatment of new growth.


Laser - An acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A commonly used tool for cosmetic and surgical procedures.

Layering - Layering is a technique used by hairdressers to change the thickness of the hair, creating either a thinning or thicker appearance. In this way the hair can be given a fuller appearance, more texture and movement.

Lipid Layer - Lipids are part of the structure of the hair and also form a protective barrier. They are composed of EFA’s amongst other complicated scientific things.


Matte - A non-shiny surface that absorbs light; a dead or dull finish.

Melanin - Natural substance that gives colour (pigment) to hair and skin.

Melanoma - A form of skin cancer.

Microdermabrasion - An intensive exfoliation process that rejuvenates the skin by utilizing ultra-fine aluminium oxide crystals to remove the upper layer of the stratum corneum.


Natural - Ingredients extracted directly from plants, earth minerals or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically.

Neutralise - To cancel or reduce an effect.

Non-Invasive - Procedures that do not involve tools that break the skin or physically enter the body.


Organic - Pertaining to carbon-based compounds produced by living plants, animals or by synthetic processes.

Outer Root Sheath - A soft thin layer that surrounds the lower two thirds of the hair.

Oxidation Colour - A colour which requires oxygen to make it work.


Papilla - The small area at the base of the hair root which provides nutrients needed for growth.

Patch Test - A test performed usually with a hair dye, or other potential allergens, on the skin 24 hours before its use to see if the skin suffers an allergic reaction.

Perm - The Perm creates curls by restructuring your hair molecules with a chemical or heat treatment, and is generally a long-lasting or permanent change to your hair.

Permanent - Lasting or intended to last or remain unchanged indefinitely.

Permanent Hair Reduction - Treatments, especially IPL, where the follicle is disabled by the light energy making it unable to support any more hair growth.

Pigment - Colour.

Pore - A small opening of the sweat glands on the skin.

Porosity - Ability to absorb moisture.

Protein Treatment - A treatment used on the hair designed to add strength and elasticity to the hair by adding protein to the cortex.


Relax - To chemically straighten the hair to gently smooth out curls, reduce frizz or create a straight style.

Relaxer - A chemical process by which the hair is permanently straightened. New-growth areas have to be maintained via ’touch-ups’ to continue the straightened pattern. A relaxer penetrates the cortex and breaks the hair’s natural chemical bonds which originally caused it to be curly. Once these chemical bonds are broken they cannot be repaired so the hair is unable to return to its natural state.

Remi/Remy Hair - Refers to human hair (usually Indian in origin) which has been harvested from root to end with the entire cuticle going in the same direction. It is different from virgin hair as it may be coloured or permed, but has not had the cuticle removed. It is generally soft and silky, and is used for making higher quality wigs, extensions and hair systems.

Rough Blow-Dry - A rough blow-dry is used to remove the moisture from wet hair, i.e. to dry the hair without styling.


Scrunch Dry - A technique used for drying your hair which creates a style at the same time.

Sebaceous - Refers to the oil-secreting glands on the scalp.

Sebaceous Gland - Oil producing gland in the dermis.

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis - Is caused by an over-production of sebum and often results in scaly, flaky, itchy and red skin.

Sebum - The oily secretion of the sebaceous glands on the scalp composed of keratin, fat or cellular debris.

Sectioning - Sectioning your hair allows you to only pay attention to a particular area or panel of hair. You or your hairdresser will do this when blow-drying, cutting or colouring your hair, and will section your hair by taking a panel of hair and pinning or ignoring the rest.

Self-Tan - A tanning product that contains DHA, which reacts with amino acids in the top layer of skin causing it to temporarily darken (2-4 days).

Semi-Permanent - A colour which lasts for 6 - 8 shampoos.

Serum - A serum is a smoothing product which stops your hair from frizzing, keeping it smooth and straight.

Skin Rejuvenation - Combating the signs of ageing using the latest innovative, non-invasive treatments that give you visibly younger, healthier and more radiant skin.

SPF - An acronym for Sun Protection Factor that ranges from SPF 2 to SPF 50. SPF 2 will give the least sun protection whilst SPF 50 will give the maximum sun protection.

Split Ends - Trichoptilosis is the splitting of hairs at the ends, often referred to as split ends. A split end is when the hair shaft splits or frays due to excessive heat and damage. There is no way to repair split ends; when they occur the hair must be trimmed.

Sun Block - Products that reflect the sun’s rays, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They permit minimal tanning and are a good choice for those who are sensitive to chemicals.

Sunscreen - Products with ingredients that absorb UVA and UVB rays. Find one labeled broad spectrum for maximum protection.


T-Zone - The forehead, nose and chin area which tends to be oilier than the cheeks.

Tan - When your skin is damaged by exposure to UVA and UVB rays of the sun, its reaction is to produce more melanin as an attempt to protect itself against further damage. Melanocytes (which produce Melanin) float within the epidermis and don’t migrate to the top. Melanin is a brown coloured protein that helps determine the colour of our skin. The Melanin that the melanocytes make finds its way into the keratinocytes (the cells containing the keratin) as they make their way up to the surface. The melanocytes produce more melanin when we are exposed to the sun. The result of this is a tan.

Tea Tree Oil - Tea tree oil is an extraction from the Melaleuca tree which is valued for its antiseptic properties.

Telogen - The resting phase of the hair cycle.

Temporary Colour - A hair colour formula that lasts until you shampoo your hair.

Texturizer - A texturizer is a mild relaxing treatment. Instead of causing the hair to be ’bone straight,’ this chemical treatment is left on for a shorter period of time. The idea is to slightly relax the natural curl in African hair so that it’s more manageable and with proper maintenance, one can mimic curly styles.

Thermal Process - Temporarily straightening the hair with a heated iron.
Tone - Distribution of ashen and warm pigments, visual effect of gold or ash in the hair.

Track - Parting or a cornrow that establishes the placement pattern of wefts or strand additions.

Treatment - A treatment is used between shampooing and conditioning to put protein back into the hair. You should leave the treatment in your hair for approximately five minutes before using your conditioner.


Vellus - The soft downy hair found covering the body.

Vertex - The top of the head towards the posterior position, including the area at which the hair grows in a spiral pattern.

Virgin Hair - This term refers to hair which is still in its original state and which has not been permed, coloured or chemically processed in any way.

VPL™ - Variable Pulsed Light, trademark of Energis Technology, describes the output from the ELITE System in terms of a precisely controlled sequence of pulses of light.


Weave - A hair weave is usually a hairpiece with layered gaps made into it. This is then placed on a person’s head and his/her own real hair is woven into the hairpiece.

Weft – Real or Fibre hair which is doubled over and machine sewn along the top to create long strands of hair. This is also the type of hair used for hair extensions and weaving.

White Hair – Hair that has no pigment. Some possible causes are genetic, Vitamin B deficiency, drugs for treatment of arthritis and some other health factors.

Wig - The term used to describe any hairpiece with a full cap which covers the hair on the head, or the entire area where hair normally grows, as a substitute for your own hair.