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The Definitive Hair Colouring Dictionary

Did you know that increasing your vocabulary can increase your IQ?

We’re going to raise your colourist IQ through the roof by getting you across some key colouring terms:


Warm colours refer to colours which have yellow, red or orange undertones that add a rich, warm glow to your colour. All colours with golden, bronzed, chocolate, copper or red in their name are warm hair colours.


Cool hair colours have a blend of blue and green undertones that create a matte, sleek colour finish. Cool colours are ash or beige Colours.

Unwanted cool or warm tones can be balanced and eliminated using a colour with opposite tones, eg. If you have unwanted yellow or brassy tones, you can counter-balance and mute those tones by colouring with a cool based colour.

Natural or Nude Hair Colours:

Natural or nude colour refers to either your original hair pigments, otherwise known as virgin hair.  Nude hair refers to colours which look very natural and which have a neutral base with no added reflects or pigments.

Reflect or Undertones:

Reflect or undertones  refer to the characteristics within the colour which are visible in the sunlight. They are not visible in neutral colours, but any colour with a decimal point, has added reflect.

General Hair Colour Terms:


Chemical formulated in most hair colours to open up the hair cuticle to allow the colour to penetrate into the cortex of the hair. Unfortunately, ammonia may also damage hair, and due to its smell, it is necessary to use in a well-ventilated area.


Ash or ashy refers to the tone of hair colour that is cool-based with blue, violet or natural/neutral pigments. Ashy tone does not contain any warm, red or golden hues, and will counter-balance and reduce warmth in your colour.

Base colour:

The dominant colour of hair, whether natural or coloured, before any colour or highlights are applied.


Refers to unwanted warm (orange and red) tones, usually in lightened or coloured hair. Underlying brassy pigments are naturally occurring and revealed during lightening and are a key consideration when lightening.


Refers to the amount of grey that can be covered by hair colour.


Also known as activator, this is an oxidizing agent added to hair colour to “activate” the chemical process that deposits the hair colour into the hair shaft. Developers are available in different strengths. A 5 vol developer will deposit tone only. 5 vol developer can be blended with cool based colours and used as a toner, as it will deposit cool tones only. Blend any warm or neutral colour with a 5 vol to create a semi-permanent colour effect, which will temporarily boost colour and shine. A 20 vol developer is the standard used to achieve permanent colour results and grey coverage. A 20 vol developer can lift natural colour up to 2 colour levels. A 27 vol developer can lift natural colour by 2-3 colour levels, and can also achieve complete colour coverage over stubborn, colour-resistant greys which are not sufficiently covered with a 20 vol developer.


Refers to hair colour molecules entering the hair cuticle to create a change in colour or tone.


Lightening sections of hair to add the illusion of depth and dimension.

Level or the Level System:

A universal system used by colourists and hair colour manufacturers to standardize hair colour charts. Level refers to how light or dark a hair colour is—the lower the number, the darker the colour.


Depositing a darker colour into separate strands of hair, which creates the illusion of depth.

Maximum Lift:

The amount of lightening possible in different hair colouring techniques and formulas.

Patch Test:

Test usually given in the crux of the elbow or behind the ear to test for sensitivity or allergies.

Permanent Hair Color:

Hair colour mixed with a developer/activator that contains an oxidizing agent that changes the hair structure to deposit colour permanently within the hair. Permanent colour is blended with a developer which is 20 or 27 stronger to achieve coverage over greys.


Melanin protein bonds found in the cortex (the middle layer of the hair) which give hair its colour.


Also known as colour-resistant hair, this refers to grey hair that resists colour absorption. Along with the loss of pigmentation, grey hair undergoes structural changes, and grey hair can be coarser and more difficult to colour. The outer cuticle layer of grey hair is more tightly packed, making it difficult for the colour to penetrate and be absorbed within the hair. Our 27 vol developer is specifically developed to achieve complete colour coverage over colour resistant greys, so that is the best option to cover stubborn greys.

Re-growth or Roots:

The new outgrowth of hair from the scalp, noticeable when colouring hair or if colouring gray hair.

Semi-Permanent Color:

Hair color that does not require a developer/activator and only partially penetrates the cuticle washes out after each shampoo.

Single-process Hair Colour:

Refers to colouring that colours and or lightens hair in one step.


Form of hair colour application, for example balayage, foil, or single-process.

Temporary Colour:

Non-permanent colour that doesn’t penetrate the cuticle but sits in the outer layers of the hair strand, and as a result it can be washed out.


Refers to the secondary tone or “finish” of a hair colour, indicated by the amount of warmth (orange/red) or coolness (blue/ash) of the hair.


Product applied to coloured or lightened hair to neutralize unwanted tones, or refresh and enhance existing colour. Any cool based colour blended with a 5 vol developer will deposit cool tones only in the hair, muting unwanted warmth and boosting shine.

Touch Up:

The application of hair colour to re-growth, also called a root touch up.

Very happy with the results after using this product. I waited about a week before I posted a review to asses whether or not the dye would fade, but so far so good! I love the colour, and it was delivered on time. I will definitely be using this product again, and avoiding expensive salon visits!

B. Worley

I was really hesitant to try as I usually go to a professional salon to dye my hair but I was desperate for a healthier and cheaper solution as I felt like I’m spending too much time and money at the salon just to get all those chemicals in hair! I was pleasantly surprised with the results!! The colour fits me perfectly and was super easy to apply, saved me tons of time and so much money and my hair looks and feels better than ever!! Highly recommend!

L. Linden

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