Quick Question: What’s the Difference Between Gloss, Toner, Glaze and Dye?

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Aside from the ever-changing hair color trends, there are also the types of hair color options we have to keep up with. And they depend on your varying needs. But when they all sound the same (gloss versus glaze??), it’s tough to know what to ask for. Here, we get to the bottom by outlining all of the terms below.

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what is hair gloss
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What it does: Applied in the salon or at home, a gloss adds shine and penetrates the hair cuticle to deposit a small amount of color. This brightens old hair dye or prevents it from dulling in the first place. It’s often used to neutralize unwanted brassiness, enhance natural tones and even cover grays without committing to permanent dye. And if you love your natural color but just want to boost appearance and shine, that can be done with a gloss too.

How it’s applied: Think of it as demi-permanent color that fades out over time. Either you or your hairdresser will apply it to shampooed, conditioned and towel-dried hair (never soaking wet; it’ll dilute the formula). Let it sit for about 20 minutes and then rinse it out.

How long it lasts: Expect your hair to be super rich and shiny for the first few weeks, then naturally fade back to your original sheen over the course of four to six.

Shop hair gloss: Unwash ($27); Bumble and Bumble ($34); dpHUE ($35)

what is hair glaze
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What it does: Glaze is basically a gloss with one major difference: It has no ammonia or peroxide and can help to tame flyaways and frizz. It’s basically a deep conditioning treatment that also helps to slightly boost color.

How it’s applied: You can apply an at-home glaze in place of conditioner any time your hair is feeling dull. Just shampoo and towel-dry your hair before working it through roots to ends. Let it infuse for about three to five minutes and then rinse. Easy enough.

How long it lasts: Because glaze is made without ammonia or peroxide, it sits on top of the hair and doesn’t bind as well as a gloss does. Meaning, it’s easier to wash out and you’ll only get about one week of added shine, as opposed to the four to six a gloss gives you.

Shop hair glaze: John Frieda ($12); Davines ($31); Oribe ($58)

what is hair toner
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What it does: It’s a treatment used to counteract unwanted yellow or orange tones on bleached hair, which is a crucial step in going from a dark base to a light one (aka blonde balayage on deep brunette locks). It can also come in the form of purple or blue shampoo for consistent use.

How it’s applied: Your hairstylist will typically apply a toner any time you bleach your hair to get the lighter strands to the correct shade, however you can also do it at home with the right products. After bleaching, rinsing and shampooing your hair, the toner is applied to towel-dried locks and left to soak in for anywhere between five and 30 minutes (just don’t leave it on for longer than 30 or you risk damaging your hair and/or tinting it blue or purple).

How long it lasts: If you wash your hair every day, toner will fade quickly and brassy colors will show through. But if you wash your hair once or twice a week, it should keep your hair the desired shade for about a month.

Shop toner: Matrix ($26); Drybar ($27); Joico ($34)

what is hair dye
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What it does: When you really want to go for a big change, it’s time to enlist permanent hair color. And it’s exactly what it sounds like—permanent. Using this form of dye means changing the pigment of your hair until you either chop it off or let it grow out (roots and all). Chemically, it colors hair through a process called oxidation to lift the hair shaft and penetrate the cuticle.

How it’s applied: If you’re brave (or just really precise), you can color your hair at home. But be warned, we’ve stained many bathtubs, sinks and clothes by trying to do it ourselves. The more popular method is to make an appointment for a single process at the salon. Your colorist will apply pigment directly to your dry hair and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes before rinsing.

How long it lasts: Permanent hair dye lasts until it grows out or you recolor it. It won’t wash out with shampoo, but it can fade thanks to things like UV rays and hard water, so keep it protected from the sun and think about investing in a showerhead filter or treatment filter.

Shop hair dye: Garnier ($8); Madison Reed ($25); dpHUE ($30)

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Brianna Lapolla formerly held the role of Senior Commerce Editor at PureWow covering all things shopping across beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. Now, she's putting her 12 years of...