What Is a Hair Gloss Treatment, Anyway?
If you want to boost your color and add shine without setting foot in a salon, then the answer is: Yes, you're definitely going to want a hair gloss. Here are the best products for doing just that.
So, you want hair that looks like you've been taking crazy-effective vitamins—and you want it in minutes. Impossible? Nope—a reality! A hair gloss treatment can give you shiny, healthier-looking locks, and it's easier to pull off at home than permanent hair dye.
Ummm, a what? Pretty much what it sounds like: A hair gloss is a temporary treatment that gives your hair a new gleam, whether you're in between dye jobs or just dealing with dull hair. There are two types: clear glosses (which just add shine) and color glosses (which add a subtle change to the color of your hair). Both are semi-permanent, meaning the results will gradually wash out with shampoo over the course of a few weeks. (Related: The Glass Hair Trend Keeps Coming Back—Here's How to Do It)
A colored hair gloss treatment can help correct the tone and refresh the hue of your hair between dye appointments (without the regrowth or damage involved in more permanent color), which is why stylists often use them in conjunction with root touchups in salons. You can choose a color that'll correct brassiness or make your shade a little richer, but you want to stick close to the color you already have—more permanent dye is necessary if you're hoping to drastically change your color or go lighter. Glosses can add both color and shine to previously colored hair as well as virgin hair.
Sound too magical to be true? Here's how it works: A gloss coats the hair and fills in raised cuticles, making the hair look smoother and, if colored, depositing a color that washes out over several weeks. More permanent formulas actually open the cuticle, allowing the pigment to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft. (Related: How to Dye Your Hair the Healthy Way)
Gloss treatments can also help prevent future color fading. "Glosses intensify shine, enhance color, and keep things from fading," says celebrity colorist Michael Canalé. "After you color your hair, your first shampoo is when you start fading, so you put the gloss over it and it acts as a barrier." The hair gloss treatment coats each strand, shielding them from environmental factors like UV rays, which fade color. As an added bonus, that protective coating can also make your hair look thicker.
Another plus: Glosses don't damage your hair the way more permanent color does. Even when used correctly, permanent dye can still come in contact with your skin and cause scalp irritation. They typically contain chemicals like ammonia, peroxide, and paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which leave hair more susceptible to damage. "Semi-permanent glosses don't penetrate the scalp," says Brittany King, a colorist who splits her time between Larry King Salon and Mare Salon. "And there's no ammonia or peroxide involved, so it's not damaging to your hair at all."
For the most noticeable, lasting results, you'll likely need to get a professional hair gloss treatment for around $50–$100. It typically involves a 20- to 40-minute process and lasts around six weeks, says King. But since a lot of salons are closed (thanks to social distancing and the coronavirus pandemic, for example), many colorists have been creating custom kits for their clients and mailing them with instructions. If neither in-salon or custom-stylist-treatment is an option, you can buy a hair gloss kit online or at a local store and apply it at home for results that'll hold up anywhere from one to four weeks.
Interested in the DIY route? Here are the best hair gloss treatments to try at home.
Kristen Ess Signature Hair Gloss
For a user-friendly option that's (added bonus!) readily available at Target, go with this Kristin Ess hair gloss treatment that comes in clear and colored variations. While in the shower, you'll combine a gloss and activator then leave the mixture on your damp hair for 10 minutes before rinsing. The results last three to four weeks.
A quick and easy hair gloss treatment with no mixing involved, this 2-in-1 product (which is available in 10 colors or a clear gloss) takes a quick 20 minutes to provide a semi-permanent shine. Pick up a matching root touch-up kit (Buy It, $30, dermstore.com) if you also want to color any regrowth permanently. (Related: The Best Root Touch Up for Covering Grays or Grown Out Highlights at Home)
John Freida Color Refreshing Gloss
When it comes to boosting your hair's hue and shine, look no further than this John Frieda color gloss kit, which is designed specifically for freshening up between appointments or at-home coloring sessions. (Meaning, if you just want to up your hair's gleam, keep scrolling.) It lasts about a week, but what it lacks in longevity it makes up for in ease of use. You just apply the hair gloss treatment in the shower, wash your hands with soap, then rinse it off after three minutes.
Ion Clear Semi-Permanent Hair Color
This $6 hair gloss treatment lasts for 10-15 shampoos—or five-ish weeks if you wash your hair every three days. Choose from a variety of shades (or go clear), apply it directly from the tube onto damp hair, then wait 25 minutes to rinse it off. (Related: How to Get Shiny Hair In 4 Easy Steps)
Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss
If you can't go to a stylist, you can still get guidance from one: Madison Reed has color pros on staff that you can chat with if you need help choosing your color (there are seven, plus a clear option) or applying the product. The brand's hair gloss treatment contains strand-strengthening argan oil and keratin. You apply it directly from the tube then wait for 25-35 minutes before washing it out.