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

Here are some top hair cutting and hair styling terms that will make communication in the salon so much more effective!

AMMONIA

An alkali agent used in the hair colouring process which helps hair colour molecules to be deposited into hair.

COPPER HAIR COLOUR

A hair colour which is a warm autumnal tone, in between red and brown.

BABYLIGHTS

Delicate highlights, often used to lift hair colour around the face. Created to mimic the natural look of a child’s hair which has been sun kissed.

BALAYAGE

Balayage, AKA, hair painting, is the process in which colour is swept in soft downwards strokes using freehand application. This method achieves a multi-dimensional final result, with a soft, natural look.

BASE COLOUR

The hair colour that is the predominant colour of the hair, or the colour at the root area of the hair.

BLEACH OR LIGHTENER 

Cream, gel, oil, or powder lighteners, mixed with developer which raise the cuticle of the hair, and disperse the colour molecules to create a lightening effect.

BRONDE

A soft tone that sits between blonde and brunette. Usually achieved through a mixture of highlighting and darkening techniques.

BUTTERY BLONDE

A light, golden shade of blonde with yellow undertones.

CHUNKING

A style of highlights in which the highlights are thick and not blended, the opposite of babylights.

CLARIFYING SHAMPOO

A type of shampoo product which reduces product build up without stripping away natural hair oils. Refreshes and purifies hair.

CONTRAST

A way of describing highlights: highlights with a high-contrast are much lighter than the base colour of the hair, used for a dramatic effect. Low contrast highlights blend in to the base colour of the hair and are used to create a more natural finish.

COOL/ASH TONE

A tone of blonde, brunette, or red hair. Cool tones have a base of blue, violet, or green, such as: platinum blonde, mushroom brown, and plum-red.

COVERAGE

A measure of a hair colourant's ability to cover grey hair. Some hair colours are too transparent to completely cover greys.

DEMI-PERMANENT COLOUR

A hair colour formula that deposits hair colour, but provides no lift to hair colour. Demi permanent colour can be gentler on hair than permanent colour, but is a temporary colorant.

DEVELOPER

Hydrogen peroxide, which is mixed in with an alkali, such as ammonia. This mixture oxidises hair colour, and allows the mixture to penetrate the hair. Used in the hair colouring process.

DIMENSION

An adjective describing the tonality of hair. Hair with lots of ‘dimension’, or that is ‘multi-dimensional’ has a range of hair colours- normally achieved by a highlighting, or balayage technique.

DOUBLE PROCESS

When two colour services are provided during one appointment. Usually the first colouring process takes place, next the hair is washed and dried, and then the last colour treatment is applied. This is the case for hair lightening, followed by a toner, or the application of semi-permanent colour, followed by a glaze.

EXPRESSO HAIR COLOUR

A shade which sits between deep brown and black, and has cool, rather than warm undertones.

FLAMBOYAGE

An updated version of ombre hair: shows a more natural progression between tones, as opposed to the line between colours which can be seen in ombre. Best for brunette, or dark blonde clients with medium-long hair.

FOILING

Part of the process of highlighting/low lighting hair, foiling is when foils are used to separate coloured, or lightened sections of the hair while colour is developing.

FOILAYAGE

A combination of the balayage and highlighting techniques.

FULL HEAD HIGHLIGHTS

When highlights are applied to sections of the hair throughout the whole head, rather than just on the top section. A full head of highlights provides a more dramatic effect, with higher coverage.

GLAZE

A semi permanent hair treatment which can transform the appearance of the hair, lifting hair, and adding more shine.

HAIR CONTOURING 

A beauty trend recently make its way into hair-care. A colouring technique, often using freehand application in which a variety of tones are added into hair to lighten and simultaneously add depth and dimension.

HIGHLIGHTS

When thin layers of hair are treated in isolation with hair colour, or lightener, usually using a foiling technique. Highlights add dimension to flatter hair colours.

JEWEL TONE HAIR

Bold, bright hair colorants that are used to give hair the appearance of vivid, beautiful gems.

LIFT

The process of lightening the colour of hair, usually using bleach, or lighteners.

LOWLIGHTS

A colouring process which creates an end result opposite to the effect of highlighting. Lowlights are created through the use of foils, a cap, or hand painting. The result is sections of hair which are 2-3 levels darker than the base colour of hair. Used to add depth and dimension.

MIDNIGHT BLACK HAIR

A deep hair colour which is in between black/blue

MUSHROOM BLONDE/BROWN HAIR

A variation of the  colour trend. Often the base colour of hair is darkened, while highlights are added to create a multi-dimensional look. An ashy toner is added all over to create cool tones

OMBRE

The ombre hair colour trend is when hair is darkest at the root, and colour/lightener is used at the tip of the hair to create a dual tone.

OXIDATION

The chemical reaction between hair colour and developer. The process of oxidation lifts the cuticle of the hair, and allows hair colour to penetrate into the hair shaft.

PASTEL HAIR COLOUR

A colour trend which uses soft, lightened, or muted versions of bolder colours. Pastel tones are best achieved when applied to light blonde hair to create tones such as pastel pink, lavender, or baby blue.

PERMANENT HAIR COLOUR

Permanent hair colour changes the structure of hair, and the hair’s natural pigment. The colourants in permanent dyes penetrate the hair cuticle, creating a hair colour that can’t be easily washed out.

RE-BALANCING HAIR

The colouring process which restores hair-colour balance. Can be achieved using a combination of highlights and lowlights, and/or glazes.

ROSE BROWN HAIR

The brunette take on rose gold hair. Normally achieved through a brown base colour which is enhanced with pink tones, usually through a balayage technique.

ROSE GOLD HAIR

A colour craze which tints lightened, or blonde hair to a soft, metallic-pink hue.

SEMI-PERMANENT HAIR

Colour formulas which can cover greys, or temporarily change the colour of hair, but shampoo away in 5-10 washes. Semi-permanent colour does not require developer.

SINGLE PROCESS

When colour is applied to the hair in one process, creating a new base colour. Single process doesn’t have as much variation as double process colour treatments, but can be used to add shine to hair, or cover greys.

SOMBRE

AKA: soft ombré. A gradient shift in hair colour which starts at the roots, and gets gradually lighter towards the tip of the hair. Sombré is a subtler version of ombré in which the colour contrast is less dramatic, and less definitive.  

STRAWBERRY HAIR

A hair colour which is a warm blonde/reddish hue

TEMPORARY HAIR COLOUR

Hair colour which only lasts between shampoos.

TONE

The term uses to describe a colour as cool, neutral, or warm. For example: “coppery red”, “honey blonde”.

TONER

A demi- or semi-permanent colour formula applied to damp hair to blend and even out unwanted hues (i.e., brassiness,) especially after a double process hair colour.

TORTOISESHELL/ECAILLE 

When a range of brown to gold tones are blended throughout the hair to create a gradual shift in tone from dark to light. The tortoiseshell technique creates a softer, more natural look than ombré, and begins with a darker root and is subtly blended to a warm blonde.

WARM

Warm is an adjective that describes a hair colour when it has red, orange, or yellow undertones, such as auburn brunettes, coppers, and honey blondes.


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