Hair Colour Explained!

Hair Colour Explained At McGills Hairdressing in Edinburgh

Knowing which hair colour service to ask for can be confusing, particularly with a constant flow of new trends and lingo… but at McGills Hairdressing in Edinburgh, we’re here to help! Our expert team have created a simplified guide to help explain what some of the most common hair colouring terms mean so that, when you visit our salon, you'll know exactly what to ask for.

If it’s your first time having your hair colour, or you’re still not sure what you want, don’t worry – our friendly team are always happy to answer any questions and help you find exactly what you’re looking for. During an initial hair colour consultation, our colour specialists will also explain how to keep your hair colour looking its best between salon visits.

Please note:  If you are new to hair colour or we haven't seen you in a while, you must come in for a quick skin test 48 hours before any hair colour appointment to test for any allergies.


Firstly, bleach and other highly potent chemicals should only be applied by a professional stylist - who has been trained to use only the amount necessary and in the safest way possible. However, we have seen the many times where clients have used bleach at home and visited us to put it right!

There is a common misconception that bleaching your hair will lift it to platinum blonde straight away. If your hair is already quite light to begin with then this may be possible but if you have darker hair, then it is likely that your hair will need to be bleached more than once to achieve a very light blonde shade.

Common DIY bleaching problems occur when the bleach is applied like shampoo, or without taking into account varying development times for different parts of the head. This is why it is essential to visit a professional colourist when bleaching your hair - we won't leave you with patchy hair, orange colours or fluffy, broken ends!

You may also need a toner applied to your hair after your bleaching service to remove any yellow or brassy tones. We can even add colours such as pastel shades to your hair using toners!

Highlights and Lowlights

Highlights and lowlights are a way to add depth and dimension to your hair and can be used to brighten (highlights) or darken (lowlights) your hair colour.

Highlights are added using bleach or a colour that is a few shades lighter than your base hair colour and these painted sections are then wrapped in foil. The foil helps the hair colour to develop with more intensity.

Lowlights are ideal for those with lighter hair that want to add more depth to your look or feel that your hair colour is perhaps a little too bright. These are added in the same way as highlights, but with colour that is a few shades darker than your base shade, and we can tailor the placement to your needs. 

For an overall change in your hair colour, you should ask for a full head of highlights or lowlights. For a pop of colour, then ask for a half head of highlights or lowlights and, if you want something in-between, then a three-quarter head of highlights and lowlights covers the top, sides and crown of your hair.

Balayage vs Foilayage?

Often confused with each other, balayage and foilayage are similar hair colour techniques, with a subtly different finish.

Balayage involves our skilled colourists hand-painting highlights throughout your hair to accentuate where the sun would naturally lighten your hair in a way which also flatters your features. 

'Foilayage' is a perfect blend of balayage & traditional highlights. It involves the same bespoke sweeping method used in freehand balayage, however, sections of hair are then wrapped in foils, allowing the hair to lighten further and intensifying the lifting effect of the highlights.

We can create balayage and foilayage looks using a wide palette of colours including blondes, red shades, brunettes and even fashion colours using these techniques, our expert team at McGills can create whatever look you desire.

Semi-Permanent Hair Colour

Semi-permanent colour lasts up to eight weeks and fades gently every time you wash your hair. Semi-permanent colours are ideal for those that are new to hair colour as it means you can try out a new look without a big commitment. Semi-permanent hair colour is also great for those of you that like to change your look a lot, as when it washes out you can try something different again!

Semi-permanent hair colour is ideal for adding fashion shades to your look, including pastel hair colours. However, it is worth noting that these shades will show up with more intensity on lighter hair than darker hair. Make sure to speak to your McGills colourist and let them know what you’re hoping to achieve with your hair colour, and they will explain the right products and techniques to help you get what you want!

Hair Colour Correction 

If you’ve had a hair colour disaster – at home or at another salon – don't panic, at McGills we don’t judge. We will immediately come up with a plan to help fix your hair colour problems and return you to a hair colour that you love as soon as we can.

With years of experience in hair colouring and correcting hair colour problems, we’ve seen it all, so you can rest assured knowing that your hair is always in the best hands when you come to our Edinburgh hair salon.

Book Your Appointment At Edinburgh's Top Hair Salon

Now you know the most important hair colouring terms, make sure to book in for a consultation to ask us any questions and begin your hair colour journey to achieve the look you’ve always been after! To book your appointment just call us on 0131 228 8882 or book online here.

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