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Balayage to Toner: Glossary of Hairdressing & Styling Terminology

When it comes to letting your hairdresser know the sort of hair cut or style you want, getting your terminology right is pretty crucial. Get ‘perm’ mixed up with ‘pixie’, and the results could be catastrophic!

Whether you’ve spotted a style you love and want to know its name, or you just want to brush up on your vocabulary before your next salon visit, we’ve put together a list of the hottest terms in hairdressing right now.


A ‘Balayage’ is a specific technique for applying highlights to hair, simply by applying the highlights to the surface of a section of hair as opposed to saturated throughout. Balayage creates a more natural-looking colour that is meant to complement your base colour, and is also the French word for ‘sweeping’ – fancy that.


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Top tip: If you’re unsure if Balayage is for you, why not have a consultation with your local stylist? They can work with you to find the perfect look for your hair colour, texture and style.


‘Bangs’ – although not as commonly used in the UK – is an alternative term for ‘fringe’, which if you’re unsure, is the front part of a haircut or style that either fully, or partially, covers the forehead. If you come across a stylist who uses this term as an alternative to fringe, don’t fear – it doesn’t have an alternative meaning.

Top tip: Considering having a fringe cut into your existing style? Or looking to change your look entirely? There are a range of fringe styles to choose from – take a look online for some inspiration, or ask your stylist what they think will suit your face shape.


The word ‘chignon’ comes from the French for ‘nape of the neck’, and means any type of bun or twist that’s worn towards the back of the head. A chignon can work as a sleek and sophisticated updo or as a loose and pretty style for everyday wear.

Top tip: Chignons can be worn in any way you like but braided styles and more ‘undone’ looks are particularly in at the moment. Your stylist will be able to tell you which type is best suited to your hair.


A big look  in the seventies (literally), feathering is a type of layering where the shorter layers of the hair are cut at an angle – making the ends of each section of hair form a V-like shape. This gives the layers a light and more ‘feathery’ look – hence the name!

Top tip: If you have thin or very fine hair, feathering can be a great way to add texture and volume to your mane. Your stylist can show you how to flick the ends of your hair out to make it look extra big and bouncy.


Graduation simply means any type of haircut and style that goes from long to short. This can include angled bobs that are longer in the front and shorter at the back, or the sort of fade you might see on a short cut or undercut. The longer your hair, the less stark and visible the graduation will be.

Top tip: Graduation is a great option for people with long hair who want layers without being left with straggly or easily split ends. If your hair tends to finish quite flat, ask your stylist for longer graduation rather than layers.


Much like feathering and graduation, a layered hairstyle is simply any style that features sections of hair at different lengths – starting long and growing shorter as you move towards the outside of the hair. Unlike feathering, normal layers don’t feature quite so much texture and can look a lot softer and more natural.


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Top tip: If you’ve got really thick hair, layers can be an excellent way to make it more manageable. Layering takes the weight out of hair and makes it much easier to dry and style – you can ask your stylist for long layers if you don’t want to go too drastic to begin with.


Arguably the style of the millennial generation, Ombre is French for ‘shading’ and describes that gentle graduation of colour seen on every Instagram It-girl you know. Usually darker at the top and lighter at the bottom, Ombre mimics grown out highlights – making it a much softer and more low-maintenance version of highlighting, as it maintains its shading even as your hair grows.

Top tip: While most Ombre styles we know and love feature brunette tops and blonde ends, the Ombre effect can be achieved with any colour and actually looks fantastic with pastel pinks or greys. Ask your stylist which shades will most complement your skin tone.


The most powerful look of the eighties, the perm has taken on a softer and more gentle approach in contemporary hair. Nowadays perms are all about getting that tousled, beach hair vibe without having to turn to the curlers every morning. The average perm lasts about six months and will give you easy texture and volume the whole time.

Top tip: Modern perms are completely customisable, so your stylist will be able to advise you on the best shape and direction for your curls. They can be as tight or as loose as you like so make sure you let your hairdresser know exactly which style you like.

Pixie Cut

Ever since Audrey Hepburn stepped out with her impossibly cute crop in the 1950s, pixie cuts have been the go-to style for the quirky and bold. Characterised by a short fringe, sides, and back, plus a longer top, the pixie cut has maintained its popularity throughout the decades for its charming and low-maintenance finish.

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Top tip: Don’t be put off by anyone who says pixie cuts are only for those with strong bone structure and fine features. Pixie cuts can be adapted to suit any face shape at all – just ask your stylist which type will look best on you.


Not to be confused with a colour, a toner does pretty much exactly what you’d expect: adds tone to your colour to make it warmer or cooler. Toners were specifically created to make dyed hair colours look more natural, but they can also correct a colour you’re not happy with, or add depth and volume to your existing shade.

Top tip: Not only are toners great for an evening out and correcting colour, they can also add brightness and shine to your dyed hair. If your tresses are looking a bit lacklustre, ask your stylist about a toner.


If you’d like a consultation on any of the above haircuts or styles, why not book online or visit your local Academy Salons hair salon today? We provide consultations, and can guide you in finding the perfect cut or style from this glossary and beyond, to suit your look.