Hair Lingo: Professional Hair Styling and Hair Cutting Terms & Definitions

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Mystified by haircutting terminology? Say, for example your hair stylist tells you she’s going to diffuse your hair—do you get confused about the term diffuse? Are you at a loss for words to describe the cute short haircut you have in mind? Do you wonder what your hairdresser means when she says she wants to cut a fringe? Pro hairstylists have a distinct lexicon, and not understanding some of the words can leave you feeling less than hair savvy. We’re here to help demystify it all for you! Here, a guide to the lingo that can lead to the best hair of your life. These oft-used haircutting terms and hair styling words that will make communication in the salon so much more effective.

Hair Styling Terms

Beach Waves

One of many frequently used hair cutting terms, this refers to hair that’s wavy with a windblown, tousled look, often created by applying a saltwater-based spray and then curled with a curling iron from the mid-lengths down.

Backcombing / Backbrushing

Also known as "teasing" the hair. Volume is created with a comb or a brush by pushing the hair down toward the scalp. Backcombing is one of those hair salon terms that comes up a lot when it comes to styling for special occasions.


A design principle in hairstyling that refers to the aesthetic placement and arrangement of elements.


A low, gathered bun at the nape of the neck that's pinned in place.

Crimping iron set

This technique results in an angular, tight wave pattern.

Crown Braid

A crown braid consists of a single braid wrapped around the head.


A “doughnut" or tubular shaped form that is added to the hairstyle for volume or to support a chignon or bun. This is one of the hair stylist terms used for updos.


An attachment on the end of a blow dryer that diffuses the airflow so hair dries with its natural curl pattern intact.

Dutch Braid

A Dutch braid is an inverted French braid. Rather than passing the plaits passing over each other, they pass underneath. The braid sits on top of the head in an inverted fashion.

Faux Hawk

A hairstyle in which a section of hair running from the front to the back of the head is enhanced, resembling a Mohawk haircut.


Hair is set into curls or waves using setting lotion and a comb.

Fishtail Braid/Herringbone Braid

Hair is worn in a braid resembling the tail of a fish. Two sections are crossed over small sections, which are fed into the braid from each side.

Flat iron set

This styling technique creates a smooth texture and polished surface on dry hair.

French Braid

A braid in which strands are crossed over each other rather under. Similar to a Dutch braid, which is the inverted version of a French braid.

Gisele Waves

Loose, tousled waves with lots of movement, made famous by model Gisele Bundchen

Heat Styling

Refers to the use of heat tools like curling irons, blow dryers and flat irons to set and style the hair.

Keratin Treatment

A permanent or semi-permanent, protein-based coating that targets the cuticle and smooths curly and frizzy hair.


A technique which entails creating loops of hair. The first loop is created with a small strand. Another small section is then pulled through the original loop, pulled halfway through the loop, and then flipped upside down to create a new loop.


This is one of the major hair terms for stylists that can be confusing. Deep waves created in the hair with a heated curling iron


The path the eye follows through the hairstyle. Wavy hair has a lot of movement. Straight hair does not have as much movement.


Also known as braiding hair in which all or part of one's hair is separated into strands--normally three--and then plaited or braided together,


The quiff combines the 1950s pompadour hairstyle, the 1950s flat-top, and, sometimes a Mohawk. The hairstyle was a staple in the British “Teddy Boy” movement, and became popular again in Europe in the early 1980s and 2010s.


The recurrent pattern of movement in hair. Tight curls have a fast rhythm while loose waves have a slower rhythm

Rough Dry

Blow drying hair with the hands in order to remove the water, and styling it with your hands rather than a brush.

Scrunch Dry

A technique used to accentuate natural texture. Damp hair is squeezed or scrunched with the hands to encourage the formation of waves and curls.


Refers to the foundation or base of the styling technique.


Texture is determined by the circumference of an individual strand of hair, with fine hair having a small circumference and coarse hair having a large circumference.

Thermal Protectant

A styling product that protects the hair from heat tools like blow dryers and curling irons.

Three Strand Braid

The baseline of braids in which the hair is divided into three strands and alternating sides are crossed over the center section.

Upside Down Braid

A French braiding technique that starts at the nape.


 Loosely gathering hair on the top of the head. This look is ideal for the gym, summer weather or for protecting hair in rainy weather.


One of the most common hairstyle terms. Hair with volume is lifted further from the scalp so it appears bigger. This can also mean thicker, fuller hair.

Hair Cutting Terms


Cutting vertically into the hair to remove bulk.


A cut that follows the angle of the jaw line when the head is tipped forward. Also known as an A-line cut.


When the hair is not the same length throughout the haircut. For example, in an asymmetrical bob, hair is longer on one side than the other or longer in the front or back. The difference can be drastic or subtle.

Bangs or Fringe

The layer of hair at the top of the face that extends to around eyebrow level.


A subtle layer or curve near the ends that gives hair a soft look and helps it turn under or up.


The process of blending one line of the haircut with another, usually by cutting out the hair between both lines.

Blunt Cut

Creates a clean edge on the lengths of a haircut. Achieved by holding the scissors horizontal to the comb.


A chin-length hairstyle that originally became popular in the early 1920s. There are many variations--from shaggy on the ends to a crisp A-line.

Caesar Cut

 A short haircut in which the top hair is styled forward with a short fringe around the face.

Choppy Haircut

A very textured haircut, in which many different pieces are different lengths. 


A tapered haircut in which the hair is extremely short on the top of the head and graduates to longer hair in the front.


 The area on top of the head.


When the main areas of a haircut are not connected with a seamless line. There will be a distinct difference between the two sections.


A technique usually performed after the hair has been washed, cut, dried and styled, but can also be used as a primary method of hair cutting. It allows a hairstylist to focus on detail and how the hair will actually lay when it’s been styled.


Cutting the bare minimum off the tips of the hair to clean up the haircut. Dusting avoids a freshly-cut look.


The act of lifting the hair when cutting to deliver layered results.


Shorter layers around the face that curl under the chin and frame the face.


A short taper.


The act of softening the hard lines in a haircut.

Graduated Cut

A cutting technique that involves layering the hair at an angle to build, remove or distribute weight to shape the haircut. Graduation often progresses from short to long, and angles upward.


The initial line in the haircut that provides a guide for the rest of the haircut. For example, the first section of hair is cut, then every subsequent section is cut at the same length.


Shorter sections within a haircut that reduce density and create movement. 


A long version of a bob in which the weight line falls to around the collarbones.

Long Layers

Layers that tend to be placed toward the bottom of the hair.


The act of cutting some hair but not all, to create texture. Notching can be done with thinning shears or with a point-cutting technique.

One-Length Cut

A haircut in which all sections are brought down to the perimeter and cut to the same length. One-length cuts add weight to fine hair. 


The hair is combed or directed to the opposite side from where it will ultimately lay, before cutting. This technique preserves length.


The edge of a haircut that determines the length.


When the ends of the hair are separated into smaller sections via cutting, or by styling it with gel or wax and the fingers.   

Pixie Cut 

Super short hair cut very close to the head. By keeping the cut wispy around the edges, it maintains a feminine appearance.

Point Cutting

Scissors are held at an angle, creating a soft effect on the ends of the hair. Great for creating texture in the hair.

Razor Cut

Hair is cut with a razor or with a razor comb to create a texture that's typically softer than that achieved with scissors.


This refers to dividing the hair into smaller sub-sections while cutting or styling. Sectioning offers more control over the hair and the technique.


A gradual lessening of hair. Short hairstyles are often tapered in order to seamlessly blend the perimeter into the rest of the cut.


The amount of pressure applied when holding each section of hair while cutting.

Texturizing/Thinning Shears

Shears with blades that are notched on one or both sides. Texturizing shears cut some hair and leave some hair to create a textured look.


A 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 keep the bottom close to the head. It can also be more extreme. For example, the entire nape may be shaved, leaving the rest of the hair at a conventional length.

Weight Line

The area of the haircut where most of the weight is concentrated. For example, in a non-layered, straight across haircut, the weight line is the bottom of the hair.

There, don’t you feel more versed in professional hair cutting terms and definitions? Now you can talk the talk!