8 Hair Coloring Terms You Need to Know


Changing your hair color should be fun and exciting, but the process can be intimidating if you don’t know how to communicate effectively with your stylist. With new coloring techniques constantly changing, it can be hard to stay up to date with the lingo.

Here are the terms you need to know to get you through your next salon visit.

As the season changes, so does hair color. Before your next visit to the salon, brush up on these eight common hair coloring terms.

1. Base Color

A color that is applied all over the head, from root to tip. This creates an even base so other colors or highlights can be applied. Base colors typically look one-dimensional, but uniform.

2. Highlights

Small sections of hair are bleached, typically through the foiling method.

Full Highlights: Color is applied to every section of your hair from the hairline to the nape of your neck. Full highlights can be dramatic or very natural looking depending on the range of color.

Partial Highlights: Color is only placed on certain parts of the hair, typically around the face and near the crown. Face-framing color can add volume and body to the hair.

3. Lowlights

The opposite of highlights, this technique darkens strands of hair to add depth and dimension. This gives the illusion of more volume and is often paired with highlights to give greater contrast. Lowlights are also applied using the foiling method.

4. Toner

This semipermanent color is typically applied to wet hair after highlights to even out unwanted hues and brassiness. Toner can also be used to reduce the yellowness of the hair while bleaching.

5. Balayage

Also known as hair painting, balayage involves applying color freehand from mid-shaft to ends of the hair. This creates a more natural looking ombré effect that is easier to maintain than traditional highlights.

6. Pintura

Pintura uses the balayage technique but is explicitly for curly-haired women. The color is painted in specific patterns through the bends of the curls to give a unique dimension specific to the curl shape.

7. Tortoiseshell

Colors ranging from dark chocolate to gold are added to the hair and blended to create a gradual shift from dark at the roots to light at the ends. This creates a softer and subtler ombré effect.

8. Hand-Pressed Color

Created by Chiala Marvici, a NYC-based colorist, this technique utilizes a square of plexiglass as a palette to paint various layers of color onto the hair at once. This gives a multi-dimensional color that appears to transform as the hair moves.

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