Hair Vocabulary

Who would have thought that something as simple as cutting hair could have such complex vocabulary!  Hair vocabulary isn’t something you come across every day.  So it’s not until you’re in the seat that you find you are exposed to it.  Therefore, it’s worth preparing yourself before the big event.  In this blog I’ll cover the most common hair vocabulary to help you get started.  Don’t forget, if you want to perfect your english pronunciation, you can find the full video of this lesson at the bottom of the blog where you will hear me pronounce all the words for you.  

In the UK where do you go for a haircut?

Men and women have many options to choose from.  Many places that cut hair will call themselves a:

– Hairdressers

– Hair Salon

– Hair Studio

As far as I am aware there is no difference between these examples.  The only exception is if you decide to visit a:

– Barber Shop (Men Only – includes facial haircare)

This is often referred to as simply – The barbers.

Who works there?

You will initially meet the receptionist and then you will meet the person who will be doing your haircut:

Hairstylist (or stylist) / hairdresser (ranked by Junior or Senior) – a person who cuts men’s or women’s hair.

Barber – a person who cuts men’s hair.

Arriving

Most salons require you to have an appointment.  Once you arrive for your appointment you will book in with the receptionist.  They will normally take your coat and hang it up for you, then they put a protective cape around you and take you to your chair in front of a big mirror.  You will then be offered a drink (Tea, Coffee, or Water) and a magazine to read while you wait. 

Most visits will involve washing your hair.  They will shampoo and condition your hair. At this point you may be asked if you want extra treatments applied to the hair, these will come at an extra charge.   

Your hair

When referring to ONE SINGLE hair then we use an article.  For example:

   – There is a hair in my food.

   – I found a grey hair.

Please be aware that the word hair is usually used without article when it refers to all the hairs on one’s head in general. For example:

   – Brown hair is very common in my country.

   – I would like you to wash hair and sweep the floors today.

But if we are referring to more than one hair, a few hairs, then it takes the plural form.  For example:

   – He was excited to discover four hairs had grown on his chin.

   – You have a few stray hairs growing on your neck.

Let’s discuss the areas of the head.

Forehead – The front of your head above your eyebrows.

Scalp – The skin covering the head (excluding the face).

Crown – The very top of the head.

Nape – Back of the neck.

Hairline (receding hairline)  – Line where the hair starts on your forehead.

Fringe – Hair that covers the forehead.

Parting – The split of hair on the top of the head, some people have a centre parting and others have a side parting.

Sideburns – The area of hair in front of your ears.

Beard – Hair on the chin and lower cheeks.

Moustache  Hair on the upper lip. 

Equipment used

Hair stylists have lots of equipment, the common items that you should know the names for are as follows: 

Hair dryer – For drying wet hair.

Scissors – For cutting hair by hand. 

Clippers – Electric hair cutters (used on very short hair).

Trimmers – Electric hair cutters, designed to get closer to the skin.  Used for beards, sideburns, edges, etc. 

Razor – A blade used to cut the hair as close to the skin as possible.  Usually used by a barber.

Straighteners – Irons for the hair, they make hair straight using heat.

Curling tongs – Curl hair using heat.

Hairbrush – Brush used to smooth the hair.

Comb – (pronounced with a silent B) a strip of plastic, metal, or wood with a row of narrow teeth, used for untangling or arranging the hair.

Products used to keep the hair in place; Gel, Mousse, Wax, Hair spray.

What to ask for

Asking for something in the hairdressers is the same as asking for anything, you start your sentence with “I would like”, or “I want” and then you simply need to know what it is you want.  It helps to do some research and take in a few photos to show the stylist what you want so that they have a clear idea. In most cases you will want one or a combination of the following services: Cut, Colour, Styled (or restyled).  Let’s have a look at these services in more detail.

Haircuts / hairstyles

Bob – A classic short hairstyle where it is cut above the shoulders in a blunt cut with typically no layers. This style is most common among women.

Trim – Just a little hair cut off to reduce the length.

Layered – Many different lengths cut into the hair to give it shape and volume.

Feathered – Fine layers

Short back and sides – General term for having the hair shorter around the back and sides.

Number … all over – If your hair is cut using clippers then you may know which length you prefer based on the number / grade of the clipper guard.  A number 1 all over is much shorter than a number 3 all over.

Undercut – Very long and thick on top. Very short lower down. 

Fade – Gradual changing length of hair.

Shaved head – Shaved extremely short all over.

Buzz cut – Short all over.

Crew cut – Short like a buzz cut but a little longer on top.

Mohawk – long hair on the top of the head which is styled straight up and held in place with holding product. 

Colours

Usually referred to as having your hair dyed (as they use dye to do the colour), you will be asked whether you want permanent or semi permanent colour

An all over colour colours all your hair, but there are other options. You can have strips of hair coloured instead, referred to as highlights and lowlights.  Highlights involve lightening hair and lowlights involve darkening hair. In order to add highlights or lowlights the stylist will use foils or a cap.

When taking the hair lighter all over you may hear the term bleaching the hair. 

Style

Perm – Makes hair curly

Straighten / Relax – Makes hair straight

Wash & blow dry

Braid – Plait the hair

Cornrows – A style of braiding and plaiting the hair in narrow strips to form geometric patterns on the scalp.

Extensions – Artificial or human hair is attached to the natural hair in strands.

Weave – Artificial hair is braided / woven into the natural hair.

Quiff – Lots of volume in the front part of the hair.

Comb over – Hair is swept sideways across the head. Sometimes used by those who have problems with hair thinning on top. 

Slicked back – All the hair is scraped backward from the forehead and fixed in place with holding product. 

Spiky hair

Afro – Mass of tight curls that stands up / sticks out around the head. Sometimes simply called a ‘fro’.

Shiny hair

Bald – No hair on the head.

Bun The hair is wrapped into a ball like shape and fixed normally at the back of the head.

Top knot – Similar to a bun, a knot of hair on the top of the head.

Beehive – Backcombing or teasing with hairspray to style hair on top of the head so that the size and shape is suggestive of a beehive, hence the name.

Wavey

Bunches / Pigtails – Hair is tied up on each side.

Ponytail – Hair is tied up at the back.

Dreadlocks – Dreads or Locks created by matting or braiding strands of hair.

Hair vocabulary – Conclusion

As you can see, there is a large vocabulary on hair.  The above is by no means comprehensive and indeed, as hair is a creative art that is heavily influenced by fashion and culture, there is new vocabulary created all the time.  

Have I missed any important hair vocabulary?  Leave your comments below or join the debate on my social media channels.

Don’t forget, there are lots more free English language learning resources on my English Like a Native YouTube channel and to help reinforce your learning here, you can download the lesson notes for free!

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