What do these hair colours mean

Learn your balayage from your ombré & your highlights

What do these hair colours mean

There are so many colour techniques available these days it can be hard to know what they all are, let alone which one would be best for you. So we’ve put together a bit of a cheat sheet to help you negotiate your way through the world of hair colour.

But don’t worry – if you’re still not sure which one would be best for your hair or give you the look you want, we are always here to help. Your Lifestyle stylist will be happy to give you their advice.

Foils or Highlights
Foils and highlights are basically the same thing, although you may also hear the expression lowlights. Highlights add lighter shades and lowlights add darker shades to your natural hair. Sections of hair are applied with hair colour and then wrapped in foil to develop. Unlike many salons, at Lifestyle we will often use a couple different shades and apply these to different sections to give a multi dimensional effect.

A full head is when foils are applied to all the hair whereas with interim or a half head of foils just half of the hair is foiled. A half head is often combined with a root tint.


Babylights are just highlights, but it’s a name that’s been adopted by the fashion industry to describe very natural looking highlights, designed to mimic the sun kissed tones your hair may have had as a child.

Babylights work best on fairer hair as the majority of your hair keeps its natural colour and then just a few light and bright accents are scattered throughout.

A tint is also known as permanent colour and is used to change your natural colour or to cover grey (it’s easily the best way to guarantee full coverage of grey hair).

Tint is often used as one colour, although more experienced stylists often tend to blend a number of colours to create a bespoke colour for you.

If you have had a tint previously your stylist may just re-apply the tint to the re-growth – a root tint. They will then either run it through the rest of the hair towards the end of the processing time, or use a semi permanent colour to refresh the previously coloured areas. This prevents too much colour building up on the hair.

Glossing is also known as Semi-permanent Colour and is a tint that will fade slowly over time – usually after about 4 to 6 weeks. Gloss is a bit like lip gloss for your hair, giving it a fabulous shine and is a great option if your hair is lacking a bit of vibrancy.

Glossing is a great choice if you are a little nervous about colour and would like a gentle introduction but still get stunning results.

The word ombré first arrived in hairdressing vocabulary 3 or 4 years ago and means ‘shaded’ in French. It has become a very popular hair colour and celebrities seem to love it.

Ombré hair graduates in shade from darker at the roots to lighter at the ends. The change in colour is quite distinct but not nearly so obvious as with dip dye.

ombre hair colour

A couple of years after ombré came sombré – the name given to soft or subtle ombré – and it’s just that. Like ombré hair it graduates from darker at the roots to lighter at the ends but does so in a more subtle way, making the fading very natural looking. Because of the very subtle graduation in colour, sombré works really well with blonde hair as well as brunette.

Find out more about the Sombré Hair Trend here.

sombre hair colour


Hot on the heels of ombré and sombré came balayage which is another French term and means ‘sweep.’

Balayage is a bit of a combination of babylights and ombré and the colour is often hand painted on to the hair. Because balayage creates a very soft, natural look, re-growth is less noticeable, making it a low maintenance option.

Dip Dye
Dip dye is a real fashion statement but you may need to be feeling quite bold to go for it. Dip dye creates an obvious but edgy distinction between the top part of your hair and the rest and can look great with bleached, pastel or bright ends.

kylie jenner dip dyed hair

Pre-lightening or bleaching

The idea of bleaching your hair doesn’t sound very appealing, which is why we hairdressers tend to use the term ‘pre-lightening!’

Pre-lightening is a process that you need to apply if you are looking for a big colour change as it removes the existing colour from your hair, whether that be the natural colour or a dye, so that new colour can be applied.

The process these days is completely kind to your hair and won’t cause damage, but you should always have it done at a reputable salon and it’s really not recommended to try it at home.

platinum blonde
Colour correction

Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for clients to come to us after a “colour disaster” either at home or at another salon and this is where a colour correction will be necessary. We will be able to come up with a plan to put things right again, and although it may take a few processes and a couple of visits, we’re confident we’ll be able to fix most hair disasters

Patch test
A patch test is where a small amount of hair colour is applied to your skin to make sure that you’re not going to have a reaction to it.

If you haven’t had colour at a Lifestyle Salon before or in the last six months, you will need to have a patch test 48 hours before your appointment. Any reputable salon will ask for this so beware any that don’t.

We’re passionate about hair colour at Lifestyle Salons and we love introducing our clients to new techniques and shades. Hopefully this article will have cleared up some of the terminology, but don’t forget we’re always here to advise and give inspiration to our clients so that we can find the hair colour that is perfect for you.