Salon Dictionary: The Real Differences Between All The Colour Techniques

When you walk into a salon, you’ll probably overhear a number of terms that sound like a completely different language, or the secret code of an elite club, at the very least. Fear not: we happen to know incredible interpreter, of the celebrity hair colourist variety. We called up Rita Hazan—who has tousled the tresses of superstars like Beyonce and Katy Perry—and asked her to teach us laypeople a lesson in hair colour terminology.

No need to simply nod along at your next salon visit, here is Hazan’s breakdown of everything hair colour.


Balayage: The process of painting on highlights directly to the hair without using foil. With this technique, the coloured sections will be placed artfully around the head, delivering the look of naturally sun-kissed strands.


Foiling: Using actual aluminium foil for highlighting and lowlighting certain pieces of hair. Foils are ideal for achieving a more uniform look with colour that starts at the root.


Colour Correction: Any time you need to drastically fix a bad colour or you want to drastically change your colour.


Colour Filler: Used prior to colour application to protect and equalise the differences in areas of damaged hair for even colour results. It’s also used to correct or neutralise existing tones.


Soap Cap: A process done at the sink that uses bleach to remove colour buildup or a toner/gloss/glaze.


Glaze/Gloss/Toner: All the same—just different ways of saying it. Applied after colour, this treatment leaves hair shiny and with the colour in the proper tone of the desired shade. 


Colour vs. Double Process Colour: Colour is a single process, roots only application. Double process colour is a single process, which means changing the “base” of your colour, plus highlights.


Partial Highlight vs. Full Highlight: With a partial highlight, colour is applied to the hairline and crown of the head. A full highlight covers the entire head.


Demi-Permanent Colour vs. Semi-Permanent Colour: Both are non-peroxide colour, so they will fade and eventually wash out. Semi-permanent colour is more translucent, while demi-permanent is more opaque.


What’s your colour technique of choice? Tell us in the comments!