Salon Dictionary: The Real Differences Between All The Color Techniques

A lesson in hair color terminology.

When you walk into a salon, you’ll probably overhear a number of terms that sound like a completely different language, or the secret code of an elite club, at the very least. Fear not: we happen to know an incredible interpreter, of the celebrity hair colorist variety. We called up Rita Hazan—who has tousled the tresses of superstars like Beyonce and Katy Perry—and asked her to teach us laypeople a lesson in hair color terminology.

No need to simply nod along at your next salon visit, here is Hazan’s breakdown of everything hair color.

Meet the Expert

Rita Hazan is a celebrity hairstylist and colorist with an eponymous Fifth Avenue hair salon. She also has her own line of signature hair color care products. Her celebrity clients include Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and Katy Perry.

Balayage: The process of painting on highlights directly to the hair without using foil. With this technique, the colored sections will be placed artfully around the head, delivering the look of naturally sun-kissed strands.

Foiling: Using actual aluminum foil for highlighting and lowlighting certain pieces of hair. Foils are ideal for achieving a more uniform look with color that starts at the root.

Color Correction: Any time you need to drastically fix a bad color or you want to drastically change your color.

Color Filler: Used prior to color application to protect and equalize the differences in areas of damaged hair for even color results. It’s also used to correct or neutralize existing tones.

Soap Cap: A process done at the sink that uses bleach to remove color buildup or a toner/gloss/glaze.

Glaze/Gloss/Toner: All the same—just different ways of saying it. Applied after color, this treatment leaves hair shiny and with the color in the proper tone of the desired shade. 

What Is Hair Toner?

Hair toner is a tinted solution that is ammonia-based, and is designed to neutralize tinted tones (like brassy and yellow) on bleached hair. Toners adjust the undertone of the hair and can make blonde hair look "cooler" in nature.

Color vs. Double Process Color: Color is a single process, roots only application. Double process color is a single process, which means changing the “base” of your color, plus highlights.

Partial Highlight vs. Full Highlight: With a partial highlight, color is applied to the hairline and crown of the head. A full highlight covers the entire head.

Demi-Permanent Color vs. Semi-Permanent Color: Both are non-peroxide colors, so they will fade and eventually wash out. Semi-permanent color is more translucent, while demi-permanent is more opaque.

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