First For Women April 22, 2024

First For Women


Hair Glosses Are the Colorist Secret To Youthful, Shiny Hair and Vibrant Color


A simple step that makes a major impact on your hair hue

If you’ve ever had your hair colored in the salon, it’s likely that you’ve had a hair gloss (even if you didn’t know it). Often times the final step of the professional coloring process, glosses are key for enhancing shine, smoothness and even adjusting the overall tone of your hair color. And here’s the thing: There are now more at-home glosses than ever, making it easy to score all of these benefits without a trip to the salon — or the hit to your wallet. Plus, they can be used whether or not you color your hair. We tapped top colorists to explain more about exactly what hair glosses are and why it’s worth trying one — plus, they share an easy how-to and their favorite product picks.

What is hair gloss?

“Hair glosses are demi- or semi-permanent hair color. This means that they can add shine, temporarily stain or change the tone of your hair or temporarily darken it, but not lighten it,” explains Tiffanie Richards, master colorist at Louise O’Conner Salon in New York City. (This also means that they will gradually wash out and fade.) In the salon, glosses are customized with a mix of colors and tones specific for you, she says. They can be used solo, but are more often the final step, applied after color services such as highlights or even a single process to help tone and blend everything together.

Admittedly, with at-home glosses, the color options are more limited, notes Lorena M. Valdes, a colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. That being said, there are also many clear options out there, a good choice if you don’t want to alter your hair color — even temporarily — and simply add shine and vibrancy.

The benefits of hair gloss

Glosses enhance shine and smoothness, says Valdes. This is because they work by creating a coating on the strands, adds Richards, who also says that you may even notice that your strands feel healthier after using one. If you choose a colored gloss, it can also enhance your overall tone and color or potentially even darken it. For example, a gloss can make brown hair look richer and deeper.

What hair types work best for a hair gloss?

Here’s the beauty of hair glosses: “Any hair type or texture will benefit from a hair gloss,” says Richards.

How much does an in-salon hair gloss cost?

On average, a hair gloss that’s done in a salon can range from $30-$100.

How to do an at-home hair gloss

If you prefer to go the DIY route with a hair gloss, thankfully you can. But as with any type of at-home hair color product, the universal rule of thumb is to always follow the directions on any particular product you’re using. But a few general instructions to keep in mind:

  1. Start after shampooing. “Glosses typically don’t need to be shampooed out, so apply after you’ve washed and towel dried your hair,” advises Richards.
  2. Section your hair. This is especially important if you’re using a gloss that has color to it. Sectioning your hair into three to four parts will help ensure that it’s distributed evenly, says Richards. She also recommends starting at the pieces at the back of your head. Because tinted glosses have the potential to end up darkening the hair too much if left on too long, you’ll want it to sit for the longest amount of time in an inconspicuous spot, just in case this does happen. Unsure if you picked the right color? Valdes notes that you can always do a small test strand before applying all over. If you’re using a clear gloss, there’s no need to section the hair. “Simply apply it like you would conditioner, making sure your hair is evenly saturated,” says Richards.
  3. Let the gloss process. Leave the gloss on for the amount of time indicated. For context, in-salon glosses are usually left on for no longer than 10 minutes, says Richards.
  4. Rinse, then condition as usual. And if you have very fine hair or don’t always use conditioner, you can even skip that, as the gloss itself will help soften and smooth your strands, says Richards.

How often to do a hair gloss

This depends largely on the product you use, your hair color, and your shampooing habits. “If you’re shampooing daily, a gloss probably won’t last longer than two weeks,” says Richards. Those washing less often may be able to stretch that out to about a month. And for in-salon glosses, four to six weeks is the average sweet spot, notes Valdes. If you’re using a clear gloss, you can even use one weekly.

The best at-home hair glosses

Try these picks make for shinier hair color in minutes.

Best overall hair gloss

Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss

Richards is a fan of this pick. It’s available in seven different colors, as well as a clear variant, and very affordable, too. Also nice: It’s safe for both color- and keratin-treated hair.

Best shade range hair gloss

dpHUE Gloss+

Looking for a colored pick? Try this option, one of Valdes’s recommendations. There are 11 shades, including four for brown hair — plus, a clear option too. The pump-top bottle, which makes for super easy in-shower use, is another benefit.

Best drugstore hair gloss

John Frieda Luminous Glaze Clear Shine Hair Gloss

Pick up this clear choice during your next drugstore run. It’s wallet-friendly, but still delivers just as well as its pricier counterparts. Along with adding mirror-like shine, it also touts ingredients that help to fill in damaged parts of your hair, making for a smoother, sleeker texture.

Best hair gloss for dry hair

Pureology Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Hair Gloss

Richards also likes this choice, which goes above and beyond its intended call of duty. Along with the shine- and color-enhancing benefits, this is also loaded with conditioning ingredients — oat milk, camelina oil and olive oil. It also smells lovely, a mix of rose, ginger and cedarwood.

Best clear hair gloss

Ouai Hair Gloss In-Shower Shine Treatment

For those who don’t want to mess with any kind of tinted gloss, this clear one, another of Richards’s recommendations, is a surefire winner. It’s perfect for all hair types and textures and works equally well no matter whether you color your hair or not.

Best hair gloss for in-between salon appointments

Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss

The four colored versions of this gloss are meant to help enhance and freshen up your hue until your next dye job by helping to counteract brassiness in blondes, add depth to brunettes and more. Just FYI, it is a fairly pigmented product, so you’ll want to make sure to wear the provided gloves when using it.

Best hair gloss for color-treated hair

Kerastase Soin Acide Chroma Gloss Hair Gloss

Speaking of color-treated hair, Valdes also suggests this choice. It seals the hair fiber to lock in color and strengthens strands, too. The formula enhances shine, as well, and helps to tame down errant frizzies. Yes, please!

Best fast-acting hair gloss

Oribe Glaze for Beautiful Color

In a time crunch? This formula works in a mere three to five minutes. Not to mention that it’s so deeply conditioning and nourishing (credit ingredients such as passionflower and Brazil nut extract) that you actually don’t have to use conditioner after, saving you even more time in the shower.