When it comes to getting the best haircut of your life, we have a few tried and true tips that won’t come as a surprise to most:

  1. Choose a stylist you love and foster that relationship
  2. Bring a photo example of the style or color you desire
  3. Provide honest feedback to help your stylist understand exactly what you love and what you want to improve.

And alongside these important tips, the key to a great salon experience is being able to explain easily and clearly what you want to your stylist. While a picture may be worth 1,000 words, being able to talk to your hairstylist in concrete terms is probably more useful. That’s when understanding some basic hairdresser lingo becomes very helpful.

Hairstylists literally use their own language sometimes. There is so much hair terminology and phrases that they use on a daily basis, that might mean nothing to non-cosmetologists.  Do you ever wonder what some of these common phrases that hairstylists use mean?  Well,  if you said “yes,” then you’re in luck! We've compiled a list of all the hair language we could think of, to help you and your hairdresser speak the same language.

Common Salon Terminology

Baby Lights

Similar to full or partial highlights, baby lights is a lightening process in which baby fine pieces of hair are lightened for a subtle and natural look.  


A highlighting technique in which the color is hand painted onto the hair with a gentle sweeping motion. This process is different than the average lightening technique because the Meraki color expert paints the color directly onto the hair, placing the color where they see fit and using various shades to achieve a natural look.

Bangs (aka Fringe)

Face-framing layer of hair cut over the eyes. Can be side-swept and blended into layers with the rest of your hair, blunt and heavy, cut straight-across, or light and wispy/choppy through point-cutting.

Base color

Color applied at the root area or all-over before a dimensional/creative color technique is done.

Blunt Cut

A haircut with no layers, cut straight-across where the weight falls on the bottom of the hair. Also known as a “solid” or “heavy” cut —the exact opposite of a piecey look. This look can come in the form of blunt layers, blunt bangs or a simple, one-length cut. If your hair is thin, fine, or fragile, ask your Meraki Stylist for this when you want a haircut that preserves the density and overall integrity of your hair


A haircut with the weight line at your chin/just below the ears. A lob is a slightly longer version of the bob, with the weight line grazing the collarbone.

Carve and Slice'

Individual curl-cutting technique where the hairstylist assesses each curl and carves out the haircut piece-by-piece rather than just taking length off from the bottom, which in turn could lead to a stacked pyramid effect.


Contrast is a value applied to highlights. High-contrast highlights are much lighter than the surrounding hair and provide a dramatic look. Lower contrast highlights result in a more natural look.


Cool is a tonal value that can apply to blonde, brunette, and red shades. A color is said to have “cool tones” if it tends toward blue, violet or green. Cool colors include platinum blondes, ash browns, and plum reds.


Coverage is a measure of a haircolor’s ability to cover gray. Some haircolor formulations are too transparent to effectively cover gray hair, At Meraki we use only color lines with exceptional gray coverage with resistance to fading.


Dimension is a function of the range of tones in your hair. A head of hair that is all one color is said to be “flat” or lacking dimension. Your Meraki stylist can add dimension to your hair with highlights or lowlights.


Not connecting main sections of the hairstyle through seamless layers. When picked up, there will be a clear difference between the front and back of the hair or general sections.


A double-process color refers to anytime two color services are done in one visit. Generally this is done by doing the first color service, washing and drying the hair, then doing the second color. This can include lightening the hair then applying a toner, or doing a permanent color followed by a glaze.

Dry Cutting

Typically, this is a second-round of hair cutting done when hair is already styled and dry, but it can also be used as a primary cutting method that's great for attention to shape and detail. It also allows a hairstyle to be cut the way you prefer to wear your hair texture.


The term people who really mean “just a trim” need to know when they go into the salon. It’s when you literally just cut the ends of the hairs that are split or broken.—nothing else to it.

Express Highlights

Express Highlights are done by applying a small amount of foils or painted-on pieces, usually focused on framing the face.


Also known as bangs! Hairdressers often use the term fringe, while salon guests use the term bangs, but at the end of the day, they are the same thing.

Full Highlights

A lightening process in which lightener is applied to pieces of hair all over your head. Thickness of highlights is based on personal preference and can be either subtle and blended or thick and prominent.


Glazes involve using a semi-permanent color to enhance, enrich, change, match, tone down or intensify natural or color-treated hair while harmonizing contrast.


The hair graduates from longer to short. This can relate to graduating the back of a bob or 'forward grad' refers to layering around the front of the hairstyle.

Hair Painting

Hair Painting, also known as balayage, is the process of free-handing or sweeping hair color, lightener or toner downwards in soft strokes directly on the surface of the desired section. This method is used to create dimension with a natural, softer look.


Highlighting hair means isolating select strands in the hair and treating them with a haircolor or lightener to make them lighter than their base/natural color. Highlights can add dimension by contrasting with the rest of the hair and are created with foils, a cap or special combs or brushes used for “painting on” the color.



“An inch is an inch”. Refresh yourself with a ruler before you say 'a few inches!'


A cutting technique in which varying lengths of hair are incorporated into one haircut. Layers cascade from the shortest piece on top and eventually meet the longest length of your hair. This technique can be blended, piecey or blunt. They can be on the surface of your haircut or within it. You can't get one layer 'here and there' or 'just three layers.

Short layers

Short Layers are used to create a choppy cut. Alternatively, the terms “flowing, blended, and seamless” for anyone with longer hair desiring the undone, effortless, beachy look. “By keeping the layers—both face-framing and throughout the back—long and seamless, this effect is achieved.”


Lift is the chemical process of lightening the color of the hair. Different haircolor formulations have different lifting abilities.


Lowlights are created by using color with foils, caps, or painted on to darken specific pieces and create dimension. Generally low lights will be 2-3 levels darker than your basecolor and slightly warmer. This can be used for a more natural look or create accents within the hair.


A gradual change in hair color from root to end generally moving from a darker shade to lighter shade within the same color family. An obmre can be either subtle or bold.   

Partial highlights

A lightening process in which lightener is applied to pieces of hair in specific locations, such as around your hairline, on the top layers of hair or hidden underneath layers for a peekaboo effect.


Piecey Cut

A hair cut defined by separation, movement and a lack of hard lines. To achieve the look, hairdressers will often use the tips of their scissors, pointing into the hair, rather than cutting a perpendicular, straight line. A piecey look can be subtle or dramatic depending on preference.



Short haircut close to the scalp. Not long enough to be considered a bob, even if you’re not looming on Mia Farrow territory.

Point Cutting

Cutting hair with the scissors positioned vertically.


This is a hair-cutting tool used to remove volume from hair by collapsing the cut without adding layers. It can also be used to create texture. A razor works great to create movement on all hair types.


Rebalancing is the process of bringing the hair back into balance, and can be created with the combination of highlights and lowlights, and/or glazes.


A single process refers to any color service that is done in one step. This can be using a permanent color that lifts and deposits, a glaze, highlights/lowlights without toning, or a creative color service with only one process.


Can be employed as a look or a means to an end. The latter technique lifts weight from your hair, the former can be anything from half a shaved head to a sliver of hair shaved underneath the top mantle of hair. “The undercut is one of the most popular hair techniques right now. It means to cut the hair underneath slightly shorter, while maintaining length on the top. Extreme versions of this are popular with super-short pixie cuts, but the same technique can be used in a much more subtle way to remove weight and bulk in a haircut while maintaining a longer, blunt finish.”

Tapering or face-framing

Much like layers, this cutting technique includes a blending of different hair lengths, specifically around your face. Tapering can start at your jawline and meet the longest length of your hair for a subtle look or continue from your bangs to the longest length of your hair for a serious rocker-chick vibe.


Texture, as defined by the diameter of an individual hair strand, is generally described as fine, medium, or coarse. Your Meraki stylist will factor in your hair’s texture when determining your best color formulation.

Trend Pastel

Trend Pastel refers to the softened, lightened hues of colors such as red, purple, green, orange, yellow, or blue. Pastel tones of color are meant as colorants and toning shades, and are best achieved when applied to very pale blonde hair to create for example pink, lavender, mint green tones.


Tone, in haircoloring, is the term used to describe a specific color—”golden” blonde, “coppery” red, “ash” brown. Colors are divided into warm tones and cool tones.


Warm is a tonal value that can apply to blonde, brunette, and red shades. A color is said to have “warm tones” if it tends toward yellow, orange or red. Warm colors include golden blondes, auburn brunettes, and coppery

Weight Line

The part of your hair cut that holds the most weight (think of it as the base).

Weight removal

“If you have thick, dense hair and desire something lighter, looser, and more flowing, then asking your Meraki stylist to take weight out of your hair is your best bet. This is done by using the scissors or a razor to carve out slivers of hair and lighten up the overall effect.

Master these simple definitions (or, at least the ones that pertain to your next hairstyle) and tell them to your Meraki stylist to get the haircut you want. Then snap a selfie with #salonmerakinyc and show us your new ‘do because we definitely want to see it!