Hair Color Glossary: Terms You Need To Know

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Have you ever sat down in your stylist’s chair for a consultation with this exact look on your face because you had no clue what they were saying? “Umm…yeah, I’ll have that,” you politely respond, pretending to know exactly what he or she was saying. You don’t have to pretend with us! Stylists have a vocabulary of their own that, sometimes, us clients don’t understand. That’s where we come in! It’s important to understand your stylist, because after all, you are trusting them with your hair. Before your next color appointment, brush up on these important terms in our hair color glossary.

Hair Quality

Porosity: Your stylist determines how porous your hair is by how much color it absorbs. Hair damage can also be determined through its porosity.

Over processed: Chemically damaged hair caused by over-coloring. The results can be dull, frizzy, fried, matted strands of hair and split ends.

Dull: Hair with little or no shine. This can be fixed with glossing treatments.


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Level: The amount of lightness or darkness in the shade or tone of hair color.

Tone: The actual color of hair: blonde, brunette, auburn, etc. These colors can range from dark to light depending on the level of the tone.

Contrast: The difference between one section of hair versus another. Light hair with darker lowlights is low contrast, and dark hair with light highlights is high contrast.

Brassy: A term for hair that gives off a yellow-orange tint after lightening. This can happen if your hair was a darker shade and you tried lightening in one process, or if you have naturally red or golden undertones that are chemically lightened.  Brassy color.

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Dimension: Giving hair more than one color gives it natural dimension.

Lift: Lightening of the hair gives it lift.

Highlights: A lightening effect used on thin or thick strands of hair with a tint that’s lighter than the rest of your hair.

Lowlights: A darkening effect used on thin or thick strands of hair with a tint that’s darker than the rest of your hair.

Ombre: A gradual hair lightening technique consisting of darker roots transitioning into lighter tips. Dark on top, light on bottom  Ombre.

Reverse ombre: The opposite of an ombre. A gradual hair color technique that starts with light roots and gradually gets darker. Light on top, dark on bottom. Reverse ombre.

Sombre: A softer and more natural ombre. Ideal for those of us that want some color without going ombre bold.

Balayage: Highlighting hair by hand rather than with foil or a cap. This gives your stylist more freedom to apply the color and the result is a more natural color.

Chalking: A temporary technique of applying colored chalk to the hair. The chalk is temporary as it washes out in the shower. This method should be done professionally for the best and safest results.

Now that your stylist will no longer be speaking to you in tongues, what are you waiting for? Book that appointment and talk color with your stylist!

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