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We’ve all been there. You walk into the salon, plop down into the swivel chair, and listen as your colorist starts rattling off about a million words and phrases that go way over your head. What does it all mean? Even more so, what do you do? Since you only have one head of hair, we’re firm advocates for the importance of understanding the hair processes that work to give us our very best-looking color, as well as what makes this year’s top color trends so unique. So, pull up a chair and get ready to get schooled—consider this the ultimate guide to hair color!
Below are terms worth knowing if you’re considering coloring your hair. Bust these out the next time you’re at the salon and your colorist will be seriously impressed!
Babylights: A very fine version of highlights that mimic the natural look of a child’s hair that’s been kissed by the sun.
Balayage: A hair painting technique that was developed by French colorists. It involves hand painting strands for a natural-looking, easy-to-maintain ‘do. Since it utilizes a free-hand technique balayage can be customized to your lifestyle and ideal maintenance schedule.
Base Color: The color that is applied all over your head as a starting point for your dye job. Typically, highlights and lowlights follow in order to veer away from a monochrome, one-dimensional look.
Chocolate Mauve: Just think of it as the brunette version of rose gold hair. When you choose this hair color, you’re looking at a dark brown base that’s layered with a pink balayage technique. No wonder this look is filling social media feeds left and right.
Contrast: The shade of your highlights. Think: high-contrast for lighter, more noticeable highlights and low-contrast for more natural-looking swipes of color.
Cool: Although you might be the epitome of a “cool girl,” this term actually refers to the tonal value of the dye you select. Cool tones include blues, purples, and greens, while cool colors range from platinum and ash browns to plum reds and blueish blacks. Pro tip: Opposites attract, which means cool hair colors look best on warmer skin tones.
Denim Hair: It’s no secret that denim is uber-popular these days, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. So, is it any wonder why the beloved fabric has made its way into the realm of hair inspo? Think: a gradient-rich blue hue from root to tip.
Dimension: The opposite of flat hair. Dimension is the difference between lackluster locks and a head full of movement brought on by highlights and lowlights.
Double Process: When you sit in the salon chair through not one, but two coloring techniques within one hair appointment to achieve optimal dimension. Example: base color + highlights.
Foiling: When a colorist paints your hair inside strips of foil which are then folded around the sections of hair to create highlights and lowlights.
Full Highlights: Highlights everywhere! Who would’ve guessed? No, this doesn’t mean that all your hair is being dyed. Rather, it means that sections of hair will be highlighted all through your hair, instead of just on the topmost layer.
Jewel Toned Hair: 2017’s amped up version of pastel tresses. These are brighter, bolder hues that embody the brilliance of some of the world’s most beautiful gems.
Lowlights: Where highlights use blonde streaks to brighten up tresses, lowlights darken strands to add depth and dimension.
Nude Hair: The ‘No Makeup, Makeup’ of the hair world. Super-neutral and super-chic.
Ombré: The low maintenance look that’s the result of the beautiful balayage technique. Since strands are only colored from mid-shaft to ends, you won’t need to worry about growth or touch-ups nearly as often with this look.
Partial Highlights: Typically face-framing or top layer lightening to add the illusion of volume and body.
Pastel: The lightened, extra playful colors that span across the rainbow. Lavender locks, anyone? Grab a box of the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color for Light Blonde or Bleached Hair in the color of your choice and watch as your mermaidy tresses make a splash.
Pintura: A process that focuses on hand-painting (yes, just like balayage) specific patterns around the bends of each curl to create a one-of-a-kind dimensional look. And you thought your curls alone were eye-catching. Well, this little technique will most definitely rev up the head-turning factor.
Platinum: The blondest of blonde. Easily one of the most time-consuming, maintenance-requiring hair shades a girl can choose. But if ice cold color is what you’re after, then a platinum ‘do might be in your future.
Pumpkin Spice Hair: Don’t go looking in your coffee cup for a hint as to what this hair color looks like—you’ll be unnecessarily disappointed. Instead, imagine an oranger version or traditional strawberry blonde tresses that embody all of fall’s most beautiful colors.
Rose Gold Hair: What once was just a beloved metal has quickly turned into one of the trendiest colors the past few seasons. From jewelry and laptop cases to home goods and hair colors, rose gold is the It color we’re all not-so-secretly obsessing over.
Single Process: One and done, meaning you can get your desired hue in just one sitting.
Soft Jet: A toned down version of the blackest of black hair. When asking your colorist for this hair color or bringing it to life yourself, understand that when you look in the mirror you’ll catch glimpses of a blueish tint that softens the traditionally harsh black. Trust us: This is a color that looks good on everyone! Want to give it a try at home? Use the L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Color + Shine System in Deep Blue Black. Get ready to fall in love!
Sulfate-Free: Easily one of the most need-to-know terms in this guide. Sulfates are detergents found in everything from household cleansers to shampoos. If you have color-treated hair, consider trying this sulfate-free shampoo L’Oréal Paris EverCreme Deep Nourish Shampoo, which is formulated with apricot oil.
Tiger’s Eye: Topping 2017’s Hot List, this hue is known for its combination of balayage coloring that mimics the palette of the popular stone.
Tone: Essentially the adjective that describes a hair color. While there are black, blonde, brunette, and red hair colors, tones break it down even further. Think: soft jet black, platinum blonde, strawberry blonde—you get the idea.
Tortoiseshell: Similar to tiger’s eye, tortoiseshell dye jobs coat strands with a mixture of hues ranging from gold to dark brown to give the appearance of a slightly subtler, natural-looking ombré.
Warm: The other side of the tone spectrum. Where cool refers to blues, purples, and greens, warm tones lean towards yellows, oranges, and reds. The same way cool tones look best on opposing skin tones, warm hair colors look best on cooler skin tones.
Whew! This is a lot to remember—we know! So, keep this handy hair dictionary bookmarked for your next hair appointment and you’ll be a salon interpreter in no time!