If you feel like your salon pro is speaking another language when it comes to hair colour trends, you’re not wrong. Apart from borrowed-from-Français words (hands up if you’ve ever googled “how to pronounce balayage”), there’s the technical vocab (say, single-process vs. double-process) and the chem-class lingo (hello, disulfide bonds). Learn to say what you mean at your next appointment with our beauty dictionary for dye-hards.
How do you pronounce it?
What is balayage?
Balayage, which comes from the French word for “to sweep,” is a highlighting technique that has been around since the 1970s—and you’ve surely seen the sun-kissed results. It’s been trending ever since Sarah Jessica Parker sparked a modern balayage revival. “SJP was the first to bring the look to pop culture, to the masses, in the Sex and the City movies,” says Jason Lee, celebrity stylist and founder of Jason Lee Salon in Toronto.
How to do balayage:
“Balayage is not a look. Balayage is a technique,” explains Lee. Specifically, the technique calls for applying lightener to the surface of the hair freehand with a colouring brush, as an alternative to traditional foiling or cap highlighting. “The colourist is literally sweeping the lightener onto the hair. It gives a soft-to-stronger gradient look,” explains Lee. “You can do as much or little as you want. It’s very natural and grows out well.”
What is bonder?
If you’re wondering how to go blonde without frying your hair, the magic phrase is “bond builder.” The original, and still the most famous, hair bonder is Olaplex, which launched in 2014, earned raves from Kim Kardashian (non-sponsored, no less) and spawned a whole new category of hair treatments. At the salon, the bond builder can be placed right into the lightener, strengthening your hair during the colouring process; typically there are also maintenance products for at-home shampooing and conditioning. Beyond Olaplex, other hair bonders on the market include Wellaplex, L’Oréal Professionnel Smartbond, Redken pH-Bonder and Schwarzkopf Professional Fibreplex.
How bonder works:
First, a chemistry lesson: Bleaching, colouring or heat-treating your hair breaks its disulfide bonds, which it needs to stay supple and strong. The key ingredient in Olaplex acts like a rewind button to undo damage: It immediately re-forms those disulfide bonds by cross-linking single sulfur hydrogen bonds. In other words, your formerly fried hair is now glossy and strong again. Lee recommends his clients also treat their hair with at-home Olaplex before coming for a major colour change, like going Kim Kardashian blonde, “to prep their hair and build those bonds before we start bleaching.”
What is brassy?
“Brassy,” when used to describe a brazenly self-assured personality, sounds a little flattering. But in haircare circles, it means hair has an unwanted tinge of yellow, orange or red (à la brass, the copper-zinc alloy.) Brassiness happens when you lighten or bleach your hair without removing all the underlying warm pigments, which can show up again later as your colour fades. .Brassiness can also happen from hot tools. Especially with blondes, flat-irons can really bring the yellow out—it’s like cooking the hair.
How to fix brassiness:
Brassiness in blondes typically appears yellow, while brassiness in lightened brown or black hair skews orange or red. You have a few options for keeping your cool: You could ask your salon pro for hair toner, which is basically a demi-permanent translucent colour or glaze. (Toner can be used to cool or warm up your shade, depending on what you want.) At home, you can neutralize brassiness with tinted, colour-correcting products. Colour theory 101 explains why this works: Violet sits opposite yellow on the colour wheel, and blue opposite orange, so they cancel each other out.
What is bronde?
A portmanteau of “brown” and “blonde,” bronde is a subtle, natural-looking colour that fuses both, so it suits blondes looking to add depth, as well as brunettes wanting to illuminate their shade. “Celebrities like Blake Lively brought that into the mainstream verbiage,” says Dupuis.
How to get bronde hair colour:
With bronde, you usually have an all-over brown, with blonde highlights placed throughout to add dimension. Want to ensure your in-between colour feels fresh, not flat and mousy? “I recommend going a little deeper at the roots, then slightly lighter through the mid-shafts and the ends,” suggests Dupuis. If you’re into more drama, the new Instagram bronde trend is “toasted coconut hair,” a higher-contrast, ombré look that transitions from brunette roots to iced-out platinum blonde ends.
What is dip-dye?
Think of it as the hair equivalent of tie-dying your T-shirt: It’s a two-tone look, usually with one colour at the roots and another at the ends. So what is the difference between dip-dye and ombré? Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same look. Ombré transitions from one shade to the other (think: gradient effect), while dip-dye hair is bolder and defined by the lack of blending. “You’re getting a harsh line. It’s not blended—there’s no technique involved. The ends are just a different colour,” says Lee.
How to do dip-dye:
You can of course ask your colourist for a dip-dye (just be clear you’re not requesting ombré). For intrepid DIY-ers, you can experiment with a rainbow of at-home semi-permanent dyes, like L’Oréal Colorista. Finally, if you’re wondering if you can dip-dye dark hair by staining it with Kool-Aid (an Internet-famous technique), Lee says yes, his clients have done it—but beware, Kool-Aid might not actually fade away if you’re blonde.
What is hair contouring?
Given the popularity of contouring as a makeup technique, it’s no wonder it’s become a buzzword in hair colour, too. The purpose is about the same: It’s a way for your colourist to use lighter or darker shades (a.k.a. highlights and lowlights) around your face, to help create the illusion of custom-shaping it.
How to do hair contouring:
“As hairstylists, our general rule of thumb is to create the look of an ideal oval-shaped face, whether through cutting or hair contouring,” says Lee. For example, with hair contouring, adding a bit of “shadow” around a rounder face can help slim it out, he explains.
KIM KARDASHIAN BLONDE
What is Kim Kardashian blonde?
Hair colour chameleon Kim Kardashian has gone blonde multiple times, and the cool-toned version she debuted early this year is a shade that women come in asking for a lot, says Lee. “I think it looks great on a lot of people. It’s basically an ashed-out platinum blonde—there’s no yellow,” he explains. “It has almost a lived-in look as well.”
How to get Kim Kardashian blonde:
If you want to know how to go from black to blonde in one day, here’s a reality check from the reality star: Kim K’s colourist needed 13 hours to get that ice blonde hair, Lee says. So expect a long process, probably over multiple sessions—especially if your hair has already been dyed, since that will require lifting first. And if you’re googling, “Can I add peroxide to my hair dye?” the answer is a hard no. “Bleach and hair dye are totally two different things, so you definitely can’t mix those together. You’d probably end up with a really warm, patchy result,” warns Dupuis. She cautions against the DIY route for such a drastic colour change: “If you try to attempt platinum at home, chances are you’re not going to get proper saturation when applying the colour, which can create patchy spots, banding or breakage. A lot of things can go south real quick. I’m a platinum and even I don’t do my own.”
How do you pronounce it?
What is ombré?
Ombré is French for “shade” or “shadow,” and in hair, it refers to a graduated blending from one colour to another, typically from dark to light. “Ombré is the #1 searched hair colour term on the internet. Drew Barrymore on the February 2012 cover of InStyle totally made that huge,” says Dupuis.
How to do ombré:
“There are so many techniques to make sure it blends really well—there’s no excuse for a bad ombré,” says Lee, who generally favours using multiple techniques when colouring, like a combo of baby lights (super-fine, 2-3 mm highlights), balayage and some ombré, to create the most interesting and chicest results. In addition to different techniques, you can also pull off this trend with different colours, like pastels or rose gold. “You can update ombré, so it’s not just brown roots and blonde ends,” explains Lee.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN…
Single-Process vs. Double-Process?
Single-process refers to a colour service that does the job in one go—for example, an all-over colour treatment that lifts and deposits at the same time. In comparison, double-process calls for two steps in one session—like getting a new permanent hue, then having it toned. Choosing one over the other really depends on the results you’re trying to achieve; as a rule of thumb, the more dramatic your colour change, the more steps you can expect. For instance, going platinum blonde is typically a double-process: You need to lighten, and then use a colour to achieve the degree of coolness you want. Likewise, “most mermaid and pastel colours will require a double-process,” says Dupuis, noting that this can be harsher on hair, so ask for a bonder during your service to prevent breakage.
Highlights vs. Lowlights?
Highlights and lowlights are both used to add dimension to your natural or base colour. Highlights break up the monotony by lightening select strands, while lowlights create contrast by going a couple tones deeper than the rest of your hair. While highlights and lowlights are nothing new, there are now many different ways to achieve them, including traditional foils, and freehand techniques like balayage and hair painting. The latter is similar to balayage, but doesn’t involve the sweeping motion, so the strokes can create a more distinct highlight.
Warm Tones vs. Cool Tones?
When people arrive at the salon asking, “What colour should I dye my hair?” step one is a consultation that considers things like skin colour and eye colour, to steer you toward a hair shade that’s warm, cool or neutral. Hair hues are considered warm if their undertone leans toward yellow, orange or red, or considered cool if there’s some purple, green or blue underneath (for example, the grey-toned platinum that’s trending right now). Typically people with fairer skin look really nice in warmer tones. People with medium or darker skin look look great in cool tones. “But I also think we can totally break those rules—you can wear whatever you want, though your makeup will have to change to support the look.” That doesn’t mean you must match your cosmetics to the warmth or coolness of your new hair, but rather you can use your makeup palette to balance your overall look. For instance, if you’re very fair but opt for a rule-breaking cool hair shade like platinum, you can bring back warmth to your skin with bronzer, blush or a brighter lipstick.