Hair Gloss Treatments 101: Everything You Need to Know

Hailey Bieber with shiny, silky brown hair and frameless sunglasses in sunlight


Indecisiveness can be a curse —especially when it comes to a hair color. The urge to change hair colors with every season can be harmful to the strands. Traditional hair dye typically contains ammonia, which can damage the hair both physically and chemically as it disrupts the keratin protein in hair. If your color change is likely only temporary, the decision to put your hair through an ammonia-based coloring treatment may not seem worth the risk of damage.

Luckily, there are less permanent and ammonia-free options out there for those looking for a color shift and healthy-looking hair. Hair gloss treatments (or hair glaze treatments as they are sometimes called) can offer a fresh look without sacrificing the shine of healthy hair. We turned to hair colorists Richy Kandasamy and Matt Rez to get the full scoop. Below, we break down everything there is to know before scheduling your first hair gloss.

Meet the Expert

What Is a Hair Gloss Treatment?

The name "hair gloss" may seem self-explanatory, as one of its many reported benefits is providing shiny, glossy hair. However, it might not be as clear that hair gloss treatments can provide a tonal or color change to the hair as well. "A hair gloss treatment or a glaze is a non-ammonia type of color. What it does is add shine or tonal enhancement and also can make your hair color darker if desired," Kandasamy explains. Rez agrees, adding that "a gloss is typically a demi-permanent color." Demi-permanent colors are oxidative, which means they interact with the hair fiber and are likely to last longer than non-oxidative semi-permanent colors, though they're still less of a commitment than a fully permanent option.

The biggest difference between a gloss and traditional hair dye comes down to ingredients and formulation. Rez explains that hair gloss is free of ammonia, so it has zero lift. Additionally, Kandasamy shares that it normally has a lower pH than other hair color options. "If you are new to hair color, that’s a great first color date," he says, adding that, unlike the sometimes-damaging effects of traditional dye, when using a great gloss there can be a gentle healing factor.

It's important to note that a gloss isn't going to completely change the color of your hair the way a traditional dye would. It's able to shift the tone and deposit color on top of your natural color, not change the color of your hair. For example, you can't go from brown to blonde, but you can go from cool brown to a warmer brown or add a tint of a different shade like red to your existing hair color. The results last four to six weeks, depending on how often you wash your hair.

Benefits of a Hair Gloss Treatment

  • Seals the hair cuticle
  • Adds extra shine
  • Low-maintenance color
  • Softens the hair

Unlike traditional dyes, which primarily work to change the color of your hair, hair gloss actually provides a benefit to the look and feel of your hair outside of the color. First, according to Kandasamy, it helps to seal the hair cuticle, which reduces frizz. Rez agrees and explains that with Redken glosses, the acidic formulation smooths out the hair cuticle, which keeps color from fading too quickly from even the most damaged hair.

Next, true to the "gloss" in its name, this treatment can boost hair with extra shine. Rez explains that with the Redken glosses he uses, a major shine boost comes from the formulation's deposit-only capability—a.k.a. no lifting of the natural hair pigment.

When it comes to the color/tonal changes provided by hair gloss treatments, both experts share that this type of coloration is low-maintenance. "When using a gloss, you will not have a strong line of demarcation, so your regrowth can come through much softer," Kandasamy says. Rez explains that gloss is color change without the permanent commitment, adding that you can tone down brassiness or add warmth to hair within one application (in comparison to other traditional color changes that may require multiple visits to the salon). Kandasamy does caution that benefits will vary based on the porosity of the hair, as this impacts the hair's ability to hold the gloss.

How to Prepare for a Hair Gloss Treatment

Traditionally, glosses are an in-salon treatment. Rez says that your first step in preparation should be researching your desired color so you have reference photos to show your colorist. As previously mentioned, a hair gloss is demi-permanent and works by depositing color, so it's worth discussing with your colorist what results are realistic for your hair color. Both experts say your colorist will prep your hair for the treatment by washing your hair. "Normally I will recommend applying [the gloss] on clean, towel-dried hair," Kandasamy advises.

What to Expect During a Hair Gloss Treatment

The entire salon visit for a hair gloss treatment should take about an hour, according to Rez. This includes the pre-treatment wash, the hair gloss itself, and a blow-dry. The hair gloss is applied to your clean, damp hair, with both experts giving the combined application and treatment time a window of 10-25 minutes maximum. Kandasamy assures us that most gloss products have an acidic or very low alkaline pH level, so the treatment should not sting. Your stylist will then wash the hair gloss treatment out and finish by blow-drying your hair. You can expect your hair to feel softer and your color will illuminate with extra shine once the treatment is complete, Kandasamy tells us.

At-Home vs. In-Salon 

While hair gloss treatments are traditionally performed in-salon by a professional, at-home glosses are available as well. However, both of our experts caution against attempting an at-home hair gloss treatment for a number of reasons. "I absolutely do not advise doing glosses at home. Any gloss that is mixed with a solution to process should be left to a pro, as they know how to formulate for desired results," Rez cautions.

"At home there is a possibility you will not have an even application, so you might miss an area if you have a lot of hair density or if your hair is very long," Kandasamy adds. "With a professional, you will get a more bespoke gloss treatment after a professional consultation and know that all your hair is covered." He does say that an at-home gloss is not impossible to achieve: "With a little practice, everything is possible."

A similar but less complicated solution for those looking for a slight color change at home would be a pigmented treatment. "A pigmented treatment is different and can be done at home for maintenance. Pigmented treatments such as Redken's Color Extend Blondage Masks ($31) are great for color upkeep between salon visits. These masks are really amazing as they will treat and tone in one step,'' Rez says. The Maria Nila range offers similar (and vegan) color hair masks ($33), which come in more than 10 pigment options and also nourish and moisturize the hair.

Potential Side Effects

This is a very low-risk treatment, according to both of our experts. "No side effects [have been] noted in my 17 years of doing hair," Rez shares. Kandasamy agrees, adding "there are no side effects at all. The journey to make something bad happen is very difficult." Since the color change is subtle and only semi-permanent, it will wash out in a few weeks after the treatment.

The only potential risk, as with any treatment, is an allergic reaction to ingredients in the hair gloss treatment itself. If you know you have had reactions to similar products or certain haircare treatments, Kandasamy says a patch allergy test can be performed before application to the entire head.

The Cost

The total price of a hair gloss treatment will vary based on where you live and what the colorist/stylist includes in the price of the treatment. "On average it will cost from $30-$100. It can sometimes cost more depending on where you live and if you add on any other services like a blow-dry," Kandasamy explains. Rez shares that in Los Angeles, the service typically costs anywhere from $75-$125.


After a hair gloss treatment, many at-home options are available to maintain the results. "My biggest recommendation is to always use a post-color treatment and color mask to maintain the longevity of your gloss, and utilize the correct shampoo and conditioner designed for your hair color and style. I recommend R+Co’s Gemstone Shampoo and Conditioner ($66) in addition to the Gemstone Pre-Shampoo Color Protect Masque ($32)," Kandasamy shares.

Rez recommends using Redken's Acidic Bonding Concentrate line of shampoo, conditioner, and treatment to keep your hair strong and color from fading. "The range is sulfate-free and will reinforce hair’s pH down to a healthy state of 4.5-5.5, keeping cuticles shut and color from fading," he says.

The Final Takeaway

Hair gloss treatments are a great alternative to traditional hair dye for those looking to make a tonal or color change to hair without the damage of ammonia. Results last four to six weeks depending on how often you wash your hair, and the demi-permanent formula boosts shine while minimizing processing. If you're looking for a low-damage hair color shift, hair gloss treatments are the solution for you.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Ali N, Marsh J, Godfrey S, Williams DR. Aqueous mea and ammonia sorption-induced damage in keratin fibers. ACS Omega. 2018;3(10):14173-14180.

  2. Da França SA, Dario MF, Esteves VB, Baby AR, Velasco MVR. Types of hair dye and their mechanisms of action. Cosmetics. 2015;2(2):110-126.

Related Stories