Speak Like A Hairstylist: A Glossary Of Terms

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Ever feel like a hairstylist is speaking Greek to you? Sometimes it seems there’s a secret vocabulary to describe every hair situation…

But our eSalon stylists have decoded the language our clients can understand exactly what’s going on. Here are some terms that may come up during the hair color process, and how to use them like a pro!

Brassy: when hair with warm undertones is chemically lightened and begins to fade, the color may turn a brass-colored tone.

Cool: a tonal value for blonde, brunette, and red shades. “Cool” colors have blue or violet undertones. Some cool hair colors include platinum blondes, ash browns, and plum reds.

Coverage: how well a hair color covers gray hair. Most demi-permanent color formulations are too transparent to effectively cover gray hair, so it’s best to use a stronger, permanent color. Covering gray also requires a special color formulation in order to avoid flat or unnatural results.

Cuticle: the outer, shingle-like layer of cells that surround and protect the inner layers of the hair strand.

Demi-permanent: demi-permanent hair color deposits color onto the hair without lightening the current pigment at all. It does not lift out any color, but only adds more color on top, whereas permanent color lifts out the current pigment and deposits a new, permanent one.

Developer: an oxidizing agent that is mixed with a hair dye to develop the color molecules and create a change in the hair color during the application. At eSalon, we measure the strength of the developer by its volume.

Double process: a color technique used to achieve dramatic color changes, like going from dark to light hair. First, the hair color is lifted with a lightener. Then a new color is deposited onto the hair for the final result.

Ends: the remaining hair below the roots (not limited to the very ends of the hair).

Gray vs. white: stylists consider gray hair and white hair to be the same. Both refer to hair that has no more color pigment.

Level: the identification number of the lightness or darkness of hair color, with Level 1 being darkest and Level 10 being lightest.

Lift: the chemical process of taking color out of the hair to make it lighter.

Lightener: agent used to lift out the current color pigments in the hair in order to make it lighter.

Porosity: a measure of how well hair absorbs color based on the size of its pores. Hair that is very porous will absorb color more readily.

Retouch: applying hair color to just the regrowth, or the roots, instead of all over the head. This can also be called a root touch up.

Roots: the segment of hair near the scalp, where hair grows out. Also called “regrowth.”

Shine & Rinse/Emulsion: one of eSalon’s special techniques is called “Shine & Rinse,” which involves an emulsion process to add shine, soften the color application line, and remove color from your scalp. To perform the emulsion, massage your leftover hair color through the rest of your damp hair for 3 to 5 minutes, working it into a lather, and then rinse it all out. For more help, view eSalon’s tutorial video:


Single process: a single color application that changes the overall hair color, without a separate lightening step as in double processing. This works well for boosting natural color and covering gray.

Warm: a tonal value for blonde, brunette, and red shades. “Warm” colors have yellow or red undertones. Some warm hair colors include golden blondes, auburn brunettes, and copper reds.

Now you have all the insider details about hair color speak – and you’ll blend in at any salon! And don’t forget – if you’re ever unsure of your color application, just give our eSalon colorists a call. They’re on stand-by to help out with any coloring problems you encounter.

Colorfully yours,

The eSalon Team

P.S. Have you come across any other terms that just stump you? Ask your questions in the comments and our stylists will answer them!