Salon Talk: Learn the Lingo


When it comes to scheduling your hair appointment, you might feel a bit lost. Do you want a color touch-up, partial highlights, or a perm? You hear these terms thrown the salon, but do you know what they mean? Time allotted for each appointment varies based on service, so it is vital to be accurate with your requests while making the appointment. Hairstylists might speak a slightly different language than you, but with this guide you’ll be able to understand a little bit better.



There are a variety of products hairstylists use to change the color of your hair. Discuss the look you want with your hairstylist so he/she can decide what would be best to use.

Type of Color

  • Semi-permanent color
    This kind of color uses no ammonia or peroxide and it can only darken and/or intensify natural color. It washes out in 6-12 shampoos. This is a great way to introduce yourself to color with no commitment.
  • Demi-permanent color
    This also uses no ammonia or peroxide and it will only darken and/or intensity natural color, but it washes out in 12-26 shampoos. This is a great product for blending or “camouflaging” any gray hair.
  • Permanent color
    This product uses ammonia and peroxide so you can darken or lighten your natural color. It does not wash out and requires color touch-ups to maintain.
  • Bleach
    Bleach removes the color pigment from the hair. It is used when a light blonde color is desired. Bleach does not deposit any color pigment and can sometime leave behind a gold, orange or a red tone.


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The technique your stylist will use for applying the color to your hair will vary based on your desired end result. Do you want to see one seamless color from scalp to ends, or would you rather have a lot of dimension with different colors throughout your hair? Below is a breakdown of the options you have. Many salons charge based on amount of product used, so make sure the stylist goes over pricing during your consultation. If you have a budget, let him/her know.

Basic Coloring

  • Full color
    This is one solid color applied from scalp to ends.
  • Color touch-up
    More commonly known as coloring your “roots.” Using your existing color, your stylist will re-apply at your root area only.


  • Highlights (HL)
    The use of a color that is lighter than your overall color and is placed throughout the hair using a variety of techniques. Based on the look you’re trying to achieve, your hairstylist will change the application process.
  • Lowlights (LL)
    The use of a color that is darker than your overall color and is placed throughout the hair using a variety of techniques. Again, the application process may change based on your desired look.
  • Full HL/LL
    The aforementioned placed throughout your entire head of hair. Typically, the stylist will use foils or wax paper (no, not the kind you find at the grocery store) to apply the color.
  • Partial HL/LL
    The color placed in foils or papers from above the occipital bone and front. The placement will vary per salon, so make sure you go over your expectations during your consultation.
  • Accent HL/LL
    The color is strategically placed, generally framing the face. This kind of color service opens the stylist up to using other techniques, such as foils/paper, as well as balayage, or “painting” the color directly on the hair using a color brush. Using the balayage technique results in a softer, more natural look.

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When it comes to changing the shape of your individual hair strands, your options are fairly limited and simple. The biggest choice you’ll have to make is the size curl you want and the style of curl, and that will be decided during your consultation process.


  • Perm
    This is the process of altering the hair to add curl, wave, or body. Perms use chemicals to break down and reform the bonds of the hair. They are called “perms” because they are permanent. The curl has to be grown and cut out of the hair.
  • Temporary Perm
    A temporary perm can be used to “test drive” the look before fully committing. It typically lasts anywhere from 6-20 shampoos, depending on how on the type used. Not all salons offer this service.


  • Relaxers
    This is the process of relaxing natural curl/wave in the hair. Having a relaxer can make it easier to straighten and control your hair.

With this insight into the language of your hairstylist, you should feel more confident when scheduling your next appointment, or even stepping out to try something new!


Getting ready for a hair consultation? Be sure to check out this guide before you go!

500-Separator-CoralPhoto credits: Girl in salon adapted from Gabriela Pinto (CC); color samples  adapted from David Goehring (CC); curly hair adapted from Janice Cullivan (CC); straight hair adapted from Maria Morri (CC).



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Corinne is a part time hairstylist and a full time wife and mom from Pennsylvania. When she's not at work or chasing after her wild-child, she's busy tackling her latest craft or sewing project. She loves inspiring people to tap into their right-brain creativity. You can check out her girls' clothing at CeceLynn Design.