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How to Speak Stylist

Have you ever left a salon wondering why you didn’t get what you thought you asked for? Does it ever seem like Stylists are speaking a different language? Well, we kind of are. The intensive education required to be a top-notch stylist or the best colorist in Columbus, Ohio (or anywhere for that matter) can often leave us with a mouth full of jargon, just like doctors or lawyers. We know it’s a lot to keep up with, so we created a glossary of ‘Stylist Speak’ to help bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding! 

Before we dive into this language lesson, it is important to note that a skilled professional will not require you to use their terms, but will do all the translating for you. One of our Columbus colorists, Sunshine, who has a particular affinity for reds, put it perfectly; ‘It doesn’t matter to me what words clients use, it’s my job as the professional to dive into what they need and are looking for. Clients worry about using the “right” terms, but a great stylist will be able to figure out what you’re looking for regardless of your hair vocabulary.’

That said, not all salons train their technical staff in translation, so the following glossary may be helpful! Here is what we will cover:


When describing hair color this word is used to describe colors that carry a blue or green tone. This does not mean platinum blonde. Ash tones will make the hair appear darker than it truly is because of the way blue and green interact with light.

Ash Blonde by Aerial Dowdy
Ash Blonde by Aerial Dowdy


A French word that means “sweeping”. With this technique, lightener or color is literally swept over the surface of sections of hair. It can become lighter at the bottom, or it can be consistent through the ends, depending on the desired result. Our stylist MJ weighed in on the benefits. “It provides natural, lower maintenance, highlighted look, without the aggressive outgrowth from traditional foil highlights.” Check out our balayage blog for more in-depth information about this technique.

Balayage application. Photo by Varinia Rodriguez
Balayage application. Photo by Varinia Rodriguez


While most industry specialists prefer the term ‘lightner,’ the term bleach is still sometimes used to describe a combination of ingredients mixed with Hydrogen Peroxide that remove pigment and can alter the protein structure of fibers.


A stand-alone service where your hair is washed, conditioned, and air-formed into a particular style. This can, but does not always, include additional thermal styling such as straightening or curling.

A blowout on Varinia Rodriguez by Jazmen Hobbes. Color by Lux Littler
A blowout on Varinia Rodriguez by Jazmen Hobbes. Color by Lux Littler

Blunt Cut

This type of cut, be it bangs or a full style, is visibly devoid of any layers. It’s designed to lay as a solid, bold line to create the illusion of denser, thicker hair.

Blunt Cut
Blunt cut by Jaime Thomas

Bob Cut

Call it a comeback, bobs are in style yet again. Bobs began in the 1920s as a bold, feminist statement. A bob cut is normally a short to medium length haircut, coming just above the shoulders. From standard bobs to French Bobs, there’s little room for error. Be clear with your stylist on how short you want it! Check out our blog on bobs, mullets, and more for inspiration!

Bob cut by Kelly gendala
Bob cut by Kelli Gendala


This is one of the most overused terms in the chair. It’s most often used to describe warm tones (yellow, orange, or red), typically when they are unwanted by the client. Instead of saying brassy, try to pinpoint the exact color you’re seeing that you aren’t fond of. Using an image or photo will support your colorist in determining how to correct it!

Before picture of a client by leigh ann gibson
Before picture of a client by Leigh Ann Gibson


When the hair snaps or disconnects from the rest of the hair strand. Breakage can occur in many different ways. Most commonly by excessive heat, use of ponytails, lightening services, and general mistreatment or neglect of the hair. It can also be caused by certain medications or hormones. 

Carmel or Caramel

We hear this used to describe a middle of the road color mainly to add dimension. Use caution with this one as caramel is not actually a color. In the colorist world, caramel refers to orange-based hair with a violet overlay. Feel confused yet? If you’re asking for caramel, you’re asking for a very warm, soft copper.

stylist term: carmel or caramel
Caramel hair by Halle Brown

Choppy Layers

Unless you are wanting a Joan Jett vibe, this is not a term you want to be using with your stylist. It refers to a very specific kind of blunt, bold, intentionally uneven layers that provides a true rock star aesthetic.

stylist term: choppy layers
Joan Jett from Google, labeled for reuse

Chunky Highlights

Think back to American Idol Kelly Clarkson circa 2003: those are chunky highlights! This look is created by placing multiple highlights back to back to create a thick, striped look. This was all the rage in the early 2000s, and we’ve seen a resurgence recently. Many modern colorists will work to avoid this, so if it’s what you’re looking for, speak up!

stylist term: chunky highlights
Kelly Clarkson from Google, labeled for reuse


This can often be confused with Brassiness. Copper means orange. It can be a combo of orange and yellow, or orange and red, but either way, orange is the primary, visible tone.

columbus ohio stylist term: copper
Davines “Copper Red” by Autumn Fisher


Not to be confused with Dryness or Breakage, Damage is not completely repairable. Damage can be done to the hair by nearly anything. Wind, sleep, ponytails, brushing, coloring, etc. Some damage can be repaired over time with careful attention, some damage needs to be cut off or it will continue to break down.


When your hair is lacking in moisture. This does not mean it needs more water, but it’s missing alternate hydration. This can be caused by under-conditioning, over-use of dehydration products such as hairsprays and mousse, untreated curls, excess sun exposure, or more.


A general term for a barbering effect where the hair is blended from very short to long. This can be done with a  Soft Fade (perfectly blended with no visible lines, closer to a “tapered look”) or a Hard Fade (less gradual, more edgy, with intentionally visible lines through the cut) so do some research into the look you want and the specialty of your Stylist. Use this term when you’re wanting to see scalp exposure.

columbus ohio stylist term: fade
(Left) Soft Fade by Tuny (Right) Hard Fade


An outdated term referring to soft, wispy texture in the hair, usually pulling back away from the face. If you look up the phrase, Wikipedia will show you a picture of Farrah Fawcett.


Tones in the hair with a yellow base to them. This is not Brassy, and it adds tons of shine to hair color because of the way yellow interacts with light.

columbus ohio stylist term: tones
Gold hair by Aerial Dowdy

Haircut vs Trim

According to MJ, “A haircut is either maintaining the shape and look a client currently has, removing as little hair as possible, or it can be creating a new shape and style by removing anything from a couple of inches to a dramatic amount of hair. A trim is an illusion meant to “maintain”. Generally a “trim” will be the same investment and time commitment as a “cut.” 


“A vegetable dye that permanently stains the hair, even if it is not visible to the naked eye,” said one of our experts, Gia. By this, she means that sometimes henna dye will only shine through in sunlight. While it can be gentle, it is impossible to remove once it is in the hair.


Any color lighter than your natural or base color applied traditionally with foils to create dimension. They can be visible throughout the entire head or specific portions of it. We asked one of our Columbus colorists, Maria to discuss different highlight services offered at Philosophi salon. “Depending on the regrowth of previous highlights and overall desired effect, a full highlight will typically get you the most coverage versus a partial, giving you a moderate amount of coverage. Our salons also offer Mini-lights, which will give you a lightening effect around your face and part or give you a few pops of blonde anywhere.”

columbus ohio stylist term: highlights
Highlights by Jazmen Hobbes


The primary protective protein found in hair. Keratin smooths out your hair and makes it easier to manage. There are a lot of products that contain Keratin. Luckily, we offer the Global Keratin (GK) treatment at Philosophi to help smooth and soften the hair without using harsh chemicals. It is amazing and lasts 3 to 5 months.


Any color darker than your natural or base color applied traditionally with foils to create depth and dimension.

columbus ohio stylist term: lowlights
Lowlights by Jazmen Hobbes


Layers can mean a lot of things, but not many things mean layers. Layering your hair consists of taking pieces shorter than the length of the hair and blending them into the haircut. These can be done using endless techniques to create completely different shapes silhouettes.

columbus ohio stylist term: layers
Modern layered “Farrah Fawcett” cut by Annah Davis

Length (Short, Medium, Long)

Jaime, one of our short hair specialists, gave some insight. “Short hair is anything above the ears, like a pixie for a fade. Medium length can be anywhere from covering the ear to the collar bone. Long hair is considered anything past the shoulder blades all the way down to the floor.”


“A higher maintenance, high contrast look, typically with a darker root that blends seamlessly or dramatically into soft or bold blonde ends. Think Khloé Kardashian.” -MJ

columbus ohio stylist term: ombre
Ombre by Aerial Dowdy

Product Buildup

The gradual building up of oils, waxes, silicones, or other ingredients due to low-quality product usage and/or improper cleansing of the hair. Buildup can help fight against frizzy curls, but it also blocks the hair from getting moisture and protein, and it can cause uneven or fast fading color. This can be visible in the way through flaking or a film causing dullness, or tangible in the way of waxy residue.


A service designed to maintain color once it’s grown out for up to 8 weeks. Color is applied at the scalp. Anything further than ¾ of an inch from your scalp results in bright or dark banding in your hair. If you want your highlights freshened up, you do not want to book for a retouch as you will not receive service on the entire length of your hair.

stylist term: retouch
Retouch by Danielle Olney


“Sulfates are chemicals used in cleaning agents to remove oil and dirt from your hair. They can be corrosive and can make the hair dry, brittle, and can fade colored hair faster,” explained one of our managers, Tori. Not all sulfates are harmful, some are even necessary. Be mindful of where you get your products. Chances are if the price point is low, so is the quality of the sulfates.

Thinning vs Texturizing

Thinning is removing unwanted bulk from the hair. Texturizing is creating additional movement or texture in the hair. Both can be done using the same tools with similar techniques, but the overall intention and placement are different.

Texture, Type, and Density

Our Artistic Director, Annah Davis gave us the lowdown. “Texture is curly, wavy, straight, or extra curly. Type is the thickness of individual hair strands: course, medium, and fine. Density is how much hair you have on your head: thick, medium, and thin. The different combos will change the way your Colorist formulates on different heads of hair to get the same result.” -Annah

Of course, if this resource does not provide what you need, our technical staff provides consultations both in-salon and by phone.  Consultations are 20 minutes and cost just $29, which may be applied to the cost of a service if you live close enough to our salons in the Short North, Clintonville, or Bexley to take advantage!

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