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Hair Salon Terminology

Updated on October 22, 2010


I’m a dude, but I don’t go to a barber – I go to a hair salon (sometimes now referred to as a hair “studio”). I have a hair style and I care about my hair. I go every 5-6 weeks and see the same stylist. I normally get my hair highlighted either with foil or a cap, depending on the length. My primary styling aid is wax, but I occasionally use gel.

Yesterday I was at the salon getting my hair highlighted and I heard a new term that caught me off-guard. The term I heard was “lowlight”. I now know what this means, but felt a little strange that after all the years of going to a salon, this was the first time I heard that term. I felt like such a hair salon amateur! In this article I’ve compiled a list of common hair salon terms so you can enter the salon fully armed!

The blond streaks are the highlights
The blond streaks are the highlights
The darker streaks are the lowlights
The darker streaks are the lowlights
Placing the hair in the foil
Placing the hair in the foil
Cap with hair pulled through a couple of the holes
Cap with hair pulled through a couple of the holes
Sitting under the dryer
Sitting under the dryer
Wax stick
Wax stick

Funny video of Schwarzenegger calling Hair Salon


Highlight – this is when bleach or a similar product is applied to the hair to lighten the color. Typically the longer the product is left in the hair, the lighter the hair will become. Some people still use the term “frosting” or “frosted tips” for highlighting, but this is an antiquated term that went out with the 80s.

Lowlight – this is the opposite of highlight. A lowlight is used to darken the hair. If you’re already blonde and would like some color, you’d get a lowlight. Or, if you got too much of a highlight and it left you too blond, you could get a lowlight to offset.

Highlight/lowlight combo – this is when you get part of your hair highlighted and part of it lowlighted. This results in your hair having three different shades – the natural shade, the lowlight, and the highlight! Pretty cool, huh?

Foil – foil is used for highlighting and lowlighting. Basically sheets of aluminum foil are used to spread the hair out on and then apply the highlighting or lowlighting solution to the hair. The foil is then folded over on itself, enclosing the hair and solution. This process is repeated to achieve the desired color.

Cap – a cap is an alternative to the foil. I typically have to get a cap for my highlights since my hair is often too short for the foil to be effective. I don’t look as cool with a cap on, but it’s effective. Basically, a really tight cap with small holes in it is pulled over your head. The stylist then uses a pin to pull strands of hair up through the holes in the cap. This often hurts. The highlighting or lowlighting solution is then applied on top of the cap.

Dryer – this is where you go and sit with your head under the blower portion after you have the highlight or lowlight solution placed on your hair by either the foil or cap method. I typically have to sit under one of these things for 5 – 10 minutes. Often my head gets really hot and uncomfortable.

Product – a styling aid, typically in the form of gel or wax

Wax – most decent products for guys now are based on wax. The cool thing about wax is it is waterproof and recyclable. If I have wax in my hair I can go out in the rain and my hair stays the same. Gel, on the other hand, gets washed out with the rain. If I’m low on money for product, I can recycle the wax too. Basically, just barely (if at all) wash your hair. The wax will stay in for several days! Wax typically comes in the form of a stick, like a stick of deodorant.

Gel – this is another styling product, but I don’t think it is as effective as wax. Gel typically comes in a type of dispenser that requires you to squeeze the gel out of a small opening, like toothpaste.

Mousse – this was that stupid stuff that foamed up like shaving cream when dispensed from a compressed container. Mousse went out with the 80s.

Spray – hair spray was that big can of stuff that you sprayed on your hair from a can of compressed air and sticky solution. The hairspray was very sticky and made everything around where you sprayed sticky too. This went out with the 80s too.




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    • profile image

      no 4 years ago

      everyone uses hair spray and mousse now

    • profile image 6 years ago

      Whoever wrote this give me the opinion the did very little research. Idiot.

    • profile image

      Tim 8 years ago

      Loved the "Arnie Vid"...very cool dude...

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 8 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi there Kea! Industry terms - what a great idea. Loved your reference to highlighting as a term out of the eighties. As a hair stylist from the seventies, I remember clearly the frosting caps and bleach along with the stacked perms and reverse highlights. Interesting how terms change with the times. I enjoyed reading your article.


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