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Hair color glossary of terms

December 06, 2009

Hair color glossary of terms

Highlights Color is mixed with a developer (most often hydrogen peroxide) into a formula used to lighten hair in streaks. The mixture is applied to strands of dry hair that are then wrapped in foil. Alternatively, a cap with hair threaded through small holes can be used, but the uniform strips can appear unnatural.

Lowlights The application technique is similar to highlights, but instead of lightening strands, a darker shade than the base color is applied to hair. This technique creates a gradual transition for lighter-haired women who want to go darker.

Balayage This method, named after the French word "to sweep," requires color to be painted on hair (wet or dry) without using foils. Different shades of color can be applied to create more texture. When it's done well, hair looks naturally sun-kissed.

Single-process One color is applied over the entire head to create a uniform base shade. Single-process is the easiest technique to master at home and gives hair a shiny boost.

Double-process When you are trying to lighten hair significantly (more than two levels), a double process is often necessary. The hair is first bleached to a pale yellow base shade and then pigment is applied in a second process to obtain best results.

Temporary Available in various formulations -- foams, sprays and gels -- temporary hair color deposits pigments, but the large size of the molecules prevents it from being absorbed. It's a great way to experiment with crazy colors because the pigment washes out immediately.

Semi-permanent Because this formulation contains no ammonia or peroxide, color washes out in four to five shampoos, but the small molecules penetrate the hair shaft to last longer than temporary color. Avoid semis if you have grays -- they'll come out a different color from the rest of your hair.

Demi-permanent Ammonia-free hair colors cannot lift color or lighten hair. Instead these dyes deposit pigment through lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Demis are less damaging than permanent dyes and result in a more natural look, but these dyes don't cover grays as well as permanent formulations.

Permanent Permanent color often combines peroxide and ammonia to help dye fully penetrate the hair shaft. It's the only way to lighten hair, plus it covers grays better than other formulas. However, lifting and then adding pigment can make hair color look more uniform (think helmet hair). Plus, permanent formulations don't wash out, so be prepared to retouch growth at the roots.

-- Alexandra Drosu

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