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 the ultimate guide to hair terminology

i am a firm advocate on the importance of understanding & educating my clients. i annually continue my education by taking classes & certifications to stay on top of this evolving industry. below is a break down of  hair terms.




Are baby-fine highlights, placed back to back with a little hair between to achieve maximum brightness.


Is the technique where lightener, or color, is applied to the open surface of the hair using sweeping strokes.

Base Color

Refers to the color starting at the root and ending at another color, highlights, or lowlights begin. It can be either the client’s natural color or dyed.


Refers to the shade value of the highlights. A high contrast is where the highlights really stand out, where low contrast leaves the highlights more natural looking.


Cool tones identify colors with a violet, blue, or green value. Blondes (platinum), brunettes (ash brown), and red (plum) shades can all have a cool tonal value.


Is a technique where the colors applied blend so flawlessly that it creates a gradient effect where you are unable to determine exactly where each starts and stops. A color melt can be done in several ways such as over highlights to create this blend or can be done with different colors on natural hair.


 Is the ability of hair color to cover gray hair. Some colors are more translucent and blend with, rather than just cover, gray.

Demarcation Line

Demarcation line where your new growth meets with your previously colored or treated hair.

Demi-Permanent Color

Demi Color contains no ammonia and uses a low-volume developer to open the cuticle and deposit color. This color will fade with time and is best for gray blending, enhancing or neutralizing natural color, toning and refreshing, and corrective work.


Dimension refers to the range of tones throughout your hair. Dimension can be created through the addition of highlights and/or lowlights.

Double Process

Double Process is  when two color services are performed in one visit. These services are done back to back, where one service is applied, washed, dried, and then the second process is then completed.

Face-Framing Highlights

Highlights placed around the front to frame the face. This is a good service for in-between partial/full highlighting sessions to give your current color more longevity.

Full Highlights

Full highlights- think full head; this is where highlights are placed from the nape to the front hairline. 


Foilayage is the technique where a balayage style placement is placed inside of a foil instead of open air or with plastic wrap. This allows for the hair to lift more and produce a lighter highlight.

Gloss /Toner

 A gloss is used to tone, neutralize, or enhance the color of a highlight or natural hair color. When hair is lifted, a raw pigment is revealed. A gloss or toner helps to customize that tone. These do fade with time and washings, so make sure to schedule follow-up glossing services to ensure the tone you want stays in the hair.

Hair Painting

Hair painting and balayage, while similar, are not the same technique. Hair painting not only is when the surface of the section is painted but the bottom side as well. When the bottom side is painted and saturated, you get more brightness at the bottom of the hair all over.


Lift is how much pigment is removed from the hair when lightened. The more lift you achieve, the lighter the hair will be. The amount of lift achieved is referred to in levels. You will achieve more lift when heat is applied or foils are used. However, your hair may have limitations to how much lift your stylist is able to achieve while keeping the integrity of your hair.


Where color is placed either in foils or painted on strands to add depth and dimension.

Partial Highlight

Is less than half of the head being highlighted. It may apply to highlighting from the crown forward, face-framing highlights, or just several highlights strategically placed throughout the head to add desired dimension.

Permanent Color

Is a type of color uses an oxidizer and ammonia mixed together with a coloring agent. They provide the grayest coverage and last the longest. If you do not have gray hair, you may want to opt for a semi-permanent because they use fewer chemicals and are a lower commitment, if you plan on wanting to change your hair color or lighten it in the future.

Root Shadow

Is a technique utilized after highlights have been rinsed out. A root shade (either a demi- or semi-permanent color) is placed at the root area to blend the root color with the highlights and/or foilayage.


Semi-permanent or vivid  colors contains no peroxide or ammonia, which means it will not penetrate the cuticle and will last only about 4-6 weeks, depending on washing frequency and at-home hair-care products. 

Single Process

Single Process is when you receive one service, such as a root touch-up.

Teasy Lights

Where the hair is backcombed and what is left is lightened and placed in a foil. The combination of backcombing and foils allow for a brighter but more diffused highlight.


Warm tones are the opposite of cool tones. They identify colors with yellow, orange, red value.


Vivids are also known as fantasy colors, fun hair color, rainbow colors, unicorn hair or mermaid hair. These colors can range from deep jewel tones, vibrant neons and soft pastel tones. Hair must first be lightened to the desired level to achieve maximum vibrancy.


Asymmetric cut

An asymmetric cut is a haircut that does not have left-right symmetry and one side is cut or appears to be longer than the other. Usually it is a combination of two separate styles, one for each side

Blunt cut

A blunt cut is lopped horizontally, straight-across leaving ends all one length and in a perfectly straight line. With this cut, all of the weight falls on the bottom of the hair, leaving a stark edge. This technique is perfect for creating the illusion of density and volume for those with thin, fine or fragile hair.


A bob is a short to medium length style where the hair is typically blunt cut straight around the head at chin or ear level. This style is a winner regardless of your hair type or face shape and is equally flattering with or without fringe (more on the fringe in a minute). The bob is anything but boring and can take on a variety of different styles, so you’re sure to find the perfect match for your personality and lifestyle.


If you find blunt boring and are looking to kick it up a notch, give a choppy cut a try. A choppy cut gets its texture from layers cut into large pieces at different lengths in defined yet uneven proportions to create an edgy look.  This bold cut can be used to create volume, definition and movement.


Commit this term to memory if you only want the bare minimum trimmed. The stylist will literally cut only the ends of the hairs that are split or broken, without making it look freshly cut. With so little hair cut the clippings resemble, you guessed it – dust.



Fringe refers to the face-framing layer of hair over the eyes. Adding bangs is an easy way to change up any cut and they’re super versatile. Fringe can be long or short and cut blunt and heavy, straight-across, choppy, angled or light and wispy, blended into layers with the rest of your hair.  



Graduation refers to a cut where the hair gradually progresses in length from short to long, ultimately creating a layered effect. This technique can be used in several ways like face-framing, at the nape or side swept bangs to give movement and structure to your cut.



Layers are shorter strands that blend into the length of your hair to lessen density and add volume, dimension and movement. If you have long hair and want a beachy, undone look, ask your stylist for long flowing layers that blend seamlessly. If a more dramatic look is what you crave, ask your stylist for distinct layers in varying lengths that do not cascade smooth (i.e., a choppy look).


lob or long bob is a lengthier variation of a bob where the hair is cut about shoulder level. If you have long hair and you’re considering a chop but want to keep some length, give a lob a try. It’s the perfect balance between short and long, and like the bob, flatters all types of hair.


Pixie cuts vary widely in length and style, but for the most part, they’re extremely short (1/2 inch to 3 inches). A pixie is typically considered a boyish cut, but wispy edges give it a feminine feel. This cut is super easy to style and thanks to its many variations, can work with any face shape.

Thinning out

If you have extra thick, bushy hair that’s becoming cumbersome to style, having some of the bulk removed by thinning it out could be your best bet. Although the thinning shears used to reduce the weight do leave some strands shorter, thinning doesn’t affect the overall appearance of the length of your hair.


The shag haircut is very rock 'n' roll—casual, mussy, and visually effortless. The typical features that make up a shag hairstyle include choppy ends, layers around the crown, and lots of texture.

The modern shag is choppy and has lots of texture but doesn't make you look like you're in an '80s hair metal band. It works on almost every hair texture and length.


An undercut is when the hair around the back and sides are shaved underneath the longer hair on top. This is a great option for clients that have heavy thick hair.

Wolf Cut

It's a modern soft, shaggy combination between a classic shag haircut and a severe mullet.

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