Hair Gloss Versus Hair Glaze: Which One Is Right For You?

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Young woman with vibrant red hair

Image by Sergey Filimonov / Stocksy

There's no shortage of options in the hair-coloring industry, that's for certain. From temporary candy-colored dyes to oh-so-natural brush-on techniques mastered by your colorist (a la babylights), you can make your hair color just about anything with the right tools, products, and expert advice.

So one question that we hear a lot in the hair-coloring world is hair gloss versus hair glaze. What are they, and are they really *that* different? If so, which one should you ask for? Well, there are subtle differences, and it comes down to your commitment to the color. 

What is a hair glaze?

"A glaze is basically a semipermanent color that coats the hair shaft with shine and lasts up to a few washes," says celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez. As the pigment sits atop the shaft and can be made with light-reflective nutrients, they are often used as a way to add luster to otherwise dull hair. 

It's also often an at-home thing (the most common reason for in-salon glazes is someone with their natural hair color playing around with a new hue and direction; you may want to test out a new direction first, for example) and can be used weekly to keep the shine levels consistent. 

The convenience does, however, come with a major drawback: "The con for glaze is that they're not formulated specifically for you by a pro," says Rez. So while there are plenty of people out there who fancy themselves a kitchen colorist (and can probably master it pretty easily), newbies may end up picking a color with unwanted undertones or the wrong outcome. 

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What is a hair gloss?

A gloss, on the other hand, is a more involved process. "A gloss requires a developer or processing solution, and it penetrates the cuticle of hair and lasts up to four weeks; I would say about 12 to 20 washes depending on its level and tone formulation," says Rez. 

Colorists often use glosses for slight tweaks to hair color. A few examples: A colorist might recommend this to subtly enhance otherwise uncolored hair; they might add it to the top layer to add depth to the base or color-correct an undertone; they may use it to blend grays; or if you get highlights, they may brush on a gloss at the roots for a more gentle, blended transition between the scalp and streaks. 

Which one is right for you?

The bottom line is both of these are less intensive (and don't last as long) than a permanent dye or bleach, so if you are looking for something more low-stakes, both are actually good options. 

As for deciding between either, here are some general guidelines to consider:

  • If you are experimenting with a tonal change for the first time and are afraid of damaging your strands, stick to a glaze. Since it's not opening up the cuticle with a solution, there's less risk.
  • If you want a more permanent finish, a gloss is your answer. It will also give more color payoff.
  • You can ask for a gloss as part of a hair-transitioning process (say, if you change colors dramatically) to help smooth out the journey. 
  • If you want a quick shot of shine and luster before a big night, consider doing an at-home clear glaze since it will just impart the reflectiveness you're looking for without changing the color. 
  • If in doubt, you can consult a professional about your specific wants and concerns to see what's right for you. 
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The takeaway. 

Both a gloss and a glaze are about subtle tonal shifts in the hair; however, one is far more involved (as it uses a cuticle-opening processor), while the other can be an at-home project. However, if you want something that's going to last longer than a few washings or a week, stick with a glaze.  

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