If your hair is looking a bit blah lately and you don’t feel ready to head into a salon just yet, you might want to consider an at-home hair gloss. When used correctly, a hair gloss can give lackluster strands a quick boost of shine, and in some cases, it can refresh your color as well. But there are a few things you should know about the treatment before clicking “add to cart.”
“A hair gloss, also called a toner, is used to add shine, neutralize any colors you don't want to see (as is the case with any brassiness that’s crept in), or enhance a color in your hair,” explains Emily Cable, a stylist at Nine Zero One salon in Los Angeles.
“You can think of it as a temporary color balancer,” adds Jonathan Colombini, a celebrity hair stylist for L'Oréal Paris. “A clear gloss will just add shine, whereas a tinted gloss can also help
neutralize brassiness or add warmth, depending on your needs.”
Is a hair gloss the same as a hair glaze?
A glaze is slightly different from a gloss in that it doesn’t contain any peroxide or ammonia, which makes it a gentler (though not as long lasting) option. Think one week vs. four weeks.
“A glaze is used more as a conditioner or a conditioning treatment,” says Colombini. It can temporarily smooth down the cuticle, so your hair is less prone to tangling, frizz and flyaways.
Are at-home glosses comparable to salon treatments?
Both Colombini and Cable agree that at-home versions don’t typically last as long as salon treatments.
“When a hairstylist mixes a toner for a client, it could require multiple shades to make the perfect tone for them,” explains Cable. “Each client’s toner is customized to them specifically, which is why most at-home versions aren’t exactly comparable,” she adds.
However, “they are a great substitute for when you can’t get in to see your stylist,” assures Colombini (which is good news considering we’re a year into the pandemic).
Any tips for using an at-home gloss?
“I always shampoo the hair first and apply it to towel dried hair,” says Cable. You want to cleanse your hair thoroughly and “make sure to squeeze out any excess water before applying the gloss all over,” adds Colombini.
Though a home gloss is pretty low stakes as far as these things go, it’s still chemically altering your hair, so you want to follow any instructions on the packaging to a T (lest you end up with unintended or underwhelming results).
Keeping an eye on the clock and fully applying the treatment are especially important. For example, if the instructions say to keep the gloss in for 20 minutes, then make sure to wash it out at 20 minutes, rather than 19 or 21 minutes.
As for the application itself, you want to coat every last strand of hair completely and evenly. That means applying the gloss in sections, from root to tip, and having a backup bottle ready if you have particularly long or thick hair.
Once you’ve glossed, Cable recommends “staying out of the sun and using a leave-in conditioning spray to help moisturize, protect and seal the cuticle” to extend your shiny results.