What your Hairdresser Says vs What She Means…
A Comprehensive Glossary of

Salon Terminology

Custom Search

Words we as professionals use to distinguish “reasons” for using products, clients assume are different products. Glaze, gloss, toner, overlay… guess what… it’s all color!

Ever call your salon to book a color appointment... (you have re-growth and want it to match the ends of your hair) only to have the receptionist ask if you are having a touchup or highlights? Your first response is touchup… you need the roots done. But did you know that if you have foils done, it takes much longer to do your “touchup”?

Alkaline or acidic, these terms just tell us what we are doing with the color by adjusting the working volume or creating tone onto highlighted hair or adding shine…

Because of this communication gap I thought I would provide this glossary so that we are all speaking the same language! I hope these definitions help end confusion while booking your next appointment. either with me or at any other salon in the world.

Color Terms

Single process: any color application that blankets (covers) the entire head of hair. When changing color or first time color application. ½–hour appointment.

Touch up: any blanket color(meaning your regrowth over the entire head is blanketed in color). 3-4 weeks after initial single process was done and regrowth is about ¼ – ½ inch. ½–hour appt.

Highlights/Highlites: when foils are used to create lighter pieces in the hair. 45 mins. to 1–hour appt.

Highlight touch up: same thing. Just because you only need the regrowth done doesn’t mean it takes less time. Foil is still used, the technique is the same.

Partial or half-head foil highlight: only the crown area is receiving lighter pieces, or the frontal area, or the top and sides, etc… does not mean roots (re-growth).

Whole head foil highlight: foils are placed in the hair from the nape of the neck to the front of the head. It can be from scalp to ends as in a first time application or can only be for the re-growth. But it all takes the same amount of time to apply. 45 mins. to 1 hr.

Lowlights: same procedure as highlights, except instead of making lighter pieces, darker pieces are achieved… (same procedure, same products, different result). This is generally done in conjunction with highlights.

Baliage/striping/freehand highlight: a less obvious form of highlighting, takes less time to apply, results are less dramatic.

Toner/glaze/gloss/shiner/overlay: these all mean the same thing — a color product, either permanent, semi-permanent, temporary, alkaline or acidic, that alters the tone of the existing color, creates shine, “seals” base color, etc. These terms denote the reason we are using a product — not necessarily the product. The overall health of your hair determines what product we as professionals will choose to use.

Temporary, semi-permanent, permanent, demi-permanent:

OK, truth — these are made-up terms

so stop being so concerned about them

Temporary and semi-permanent colors generally do not lighten natural pigment. They are used mainly for shine and to go darker/deeper. They don’t penetrate into the deeper parts of the hair shaft so they generally last a shorter amount of time. They do NOT cover grey. Mainly used when the words gloss, glaze, toner are being tossed about.

Permanent color will lighten natural pigment. You must use this whenever you want to completely change your hair color. WILL totally cover grey. New growth should be retouched after 4 weeks. The color lasts well from 3-6 weeks depending how you care for your hair.

Demi-permanent colors are sort of in between. MAY cover grey, may lift natural pigment slightly, but will last much longer than semi or temporary. Color lasts about 3-4 weeks. Retouching in 4-6 weeks is necessary.

Vegi-color/Vegetable dye: And since we are on the subject of hair color product choices, I have this one pet peeve that I feel the need to address — this regards the terms “vegi color” and/or “vegetable dye”… hmmm… well... Other than henna (which by the way is HORRIBLE for your hair) or the more obvious (and historically used) choices of coffee grounds, lemon, cranberry pulp, etc., there is no such thing as true vegetable hair dye.

Every product on the market contains man-made (synthetic) materials. That doesn’t mean they don’t have vegetation-based ingredients — they do — but they are not purely vegetable products.

What this term really means is that the chosen product will not lighten your natural pigment, will be less harsh, and in most cases, will condition the hair and will not last an overly long time.

Be aware that the product choices made by your hair care professional are based on your desired end result, your hair’s porosity, and the overall health and texture of your hair. So, unless you have an allergy please leave the choice up to the professional. Trust that we will choose the proper product needed to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Terms for Degree of Curl

Permanent wave/body, wave/texture, wave/body perm: all the same thing. These terms simply specify how tight the curl result will be and how long the results should last. Although there are many different solutions that we call perm solutions (they vary in strength to coincide with the hair’s health factor) a perm is a perm. They all takes the same amount of time to wrap and apply, they all use rods (rollers), and they all process with a solution and a neutralizer.

Japanese straighter/retexturizer: this means PIN STRAIGHT hair. Can not be curled or undone. Be sure this is what you want.

Smoother/Relaxer: just what it says… relaxes unruly, curly hair. Will not make hair straight. Ever. If it does, beware. Your hair is probably going to be really damaged.

Cutting Terms

Haircut/trim: booked the same way and are the same price. Just sounds like we’re taking off less hair with a trim than with a haircut.

Layers: Now that we are on the subject of haircuts… “one layer” as in “I just want one layer in the back”… who made up this term??? You can’t have one layer so stop asking for it. You can have long layers, short layers, choppy layers, blunt layers, square layers, blended layers, but it is physically impossible to have ONE LAYER…

Terms for Hair Extensions

The different kinds of hair extensions as well as the problems associated with each are explained on the Extensions page of this site. Please click “Extensions” on the navigation bar. Additional information about creating length, fullness, highlights or lowlights without using chemicals is on the Products page.

I hope this helps to clear up any confusion and makes booking your next appointment easier for all. If you have any other questions, concerns, comments, or if I have left something off the glossary please feel free to email me at addr or leave a post on the message board.

Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoyed!


See my tips for choosing your perfect hair color,
with or without a magazine photo:

with photo without photo
Also, for hair color, see the Photos page on this site.


Niki Z
Middle East +971529212453 Available in Dubai, the UAE, Middle East and surrounding area.
USA 516-816-6452 based in AZ. Available to travel all 50 states.
Consultations via skype.
For extension training and/or application AND cut and color services

© 2008 Niki Z - salon terminology

Find out how to create your own small streams of internet income. Click here!

Recommended Products
Doha Blog

Click Newsletter above to
sign up to receive MEMBERS ONLY deals and information!