Hair Gloss: Everything You Should Know About The Non-Permanent Alternative To Dye, According To Hairstylists

Experts explain what a hair gloss does—and doesn't do.

I’ve never been anti-hair dye—dyeing your hair is a form of creative expression that everyone should experience at least once—but I’m also not naive about the potential damage it can cause the hair, and neither should you be.

Adding permanent dye to your hair can sometimes damage your strands, reduce your hair’s thickness, and cause heat damage, which is why—coupled with the substantial amount of effort that goes into maintaining colored hair—it's understandable why one might think that all of these risks aren't worth the reward.

The good news is that if you're wary of getting a permanent dye job, there are a few alternative methods for experimenting with color, like hair glosses.

As the name suggests, a hair gloss is a non-permanent coloring method that “glosses” your hair, says Devin Toth, a hairstylist at Salon SCK in New York City. “They have a translucent sheen to them and can be used to adjust the warmth or coolness of blonde hair. They can blend grays away and they can add tremendous depth to dull brown hair.”

Toning and glossing aren’t all this dye does. Any pesky flyaways can be tamed with hair glosses since the gloss shines hair, smoothens its texture, and eliminates nearly any frizz, celebrity stylist Kevin Kelly adds. Who knew that color could have the effects of hair oil too?

Before you cancel your next dye appointment in favor of getting a gloss, there are a few things you should know. Read on to find out if it's the right treatment for you.

What is a hair gloss?

Essentially, a hair gloss is a type of non-permanent hair dye. Rather than simply dyeing your hair a different color, a hair gloss adds shine and adjusts the color of your hair, says celebrity colorist Jennifer Korab. Hair glosses are all the benefits of hair dye without any of the risks.

The only downside, however, is that this coloring method doesn't lighten your hair. You can transform your mousy brown color into a glossier look, but if you’re hoping to completely transform your dark hair to a lighter, blonde shade, a hair gloss is not your best option, Korab adds. In that case, you might need a few rounds of bleaching at the salon.

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What are the benefits of a hair gloss?

According to Korab, hair glosses have conditioning properties, that can “help restore luster and shine to your hair [and] also help repair any summer damage.”

Unlike other hair products that offer a range of benefits but only to certain hair types, hair glosses work on every type of hair, but not every color. Kelly warns not to use hair glosses if you’re blonde, since the gloss will alter the overall color of your hair.

However, if you’re going gray, a hair gloss might be the best hair dye solution for you, says Kelly, since these will help merge the grey into your hair so that the color can be camouflaged. Essentially, hair glosses are perfect for those who only want a slight color change.

“If you’re someone who wants to dabble with hair color but isn't ready to commit to anything permanent, then a gloss is perfect for you and they're actually less damaging to your hair because they use less peroxide (developer),” Toth says.

How long does hair gloss last?

Because hair glosses are non-permanent, you can expect the color to last up to 12 weeks, according to Toth, though that timeframe dwindles the more you wash your hair. A pro-tip to making sure your gloss lasts is using a sulfate-free shampoo, Korab recommends. (There’s also the always-reliable lazy-girl method, a.k.a. dry shampoo).

Since hair glosses won’t drastically change your hair color, you also won’t need root touch-ups.

"With permanent hair color, when your non-colored regrowth comes in, there’s a strong visual contrast between your previously colored hair and your new growth that is uncolored," Toth explains. “With a gloss on the other hand, by the time your new hair grows in, the previously colored hair has faded and reverted back to its natural color.”

Can I do a hair gloss at home?

Doing any type of hair treatment at home comes with some risks, and hair glosses are no different. Korab says a DIY hair gloss treatment could result in a darker color than you want, but if you really must get the job done at home, start off with clear gloss, so that color mishaps can be avoided.

That said, you'll likely get the best results from a salon. Not only will getting a pro hair gloss be much easier, but you’ll also get that perfect tone. And in some cases you can get it done for way less than an actual dye job. Also, unlike box hair gloss where you’ll have to manipulate your hair in case the color isn't right, a colorist can always fix the color before you exit the chair, says Toth.

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