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If you’ve spent any time getting your hair dyed, you know how much difference hair gloss can make to the look and feel of your resulting color. Yes, it adds shine, but the best hair glosses can be actually such an important step in your color routine (as in, it’s almost as important as the best shampoo and conditioner)—so finding the perfect hair gloss for your hair is key. To help you out, we spoke to Olivia Casanova, a colorist at IGK in New York City. Ahead, Casanova breaks down exactly what to look for in a great hair gloss, how to use it to enhance the look of your color at home, and her picks for the best hair glosses on the market.
What Is Hair Gloss?
"Hair glosses are typically semi-permanent hair colors that can either darken, richen, add shine or change the tone of the hair,” says Casanova. “The only thing glosses can’t do is make someone lighter.”
Who could benefit from hair gloss, I hear you ask? The short answer: Everyone. Ideal candidates for gloss are those with color-treated hair that's gone left. As in, you have blonde hair that's gotten a little brassy, or you have brunette hair that's dulled or gone ashy.
The Difference Between Hair Gloss and Hair Glaze
Simply put, the main difference between a hair gloss and a hair glaze is the potency of each product. A hair gloss is what it sounds like—a product that only touches the surface of the hair—while hair glosses penetrate strands as a semi-permanent hair color. Casanova says that the former “usually lasts around 28 shampoos,” while glazes tend to last up only to five washes or so.
Can You Use Hair Gloss at Home?
If you were looking for a super simple way to keep your hair color in check without ever having to stop by the salon, I have some bittersweet news: Casanova recommends trusting a pro to do your hair gloss for you because it’s easy to “ruin your color or damage your hair” if you happen to mix the wrong products together. But, if accessing a salon is impossible or prohibitively expensive, she recommends brands like dpHUE that have a range of hair glosses designed to be used at-home and don’t contain peroxide or ammonia.
This just means that the glosses will fade out of your hair over time. But don’t worry–that’s actually a good thing, especially if you’re in the mood to try out one of summer 2022’s trendiest hair colors this season. “If doing so, just remember to apply to clean and even sections of the hair starting from the roots to the ends. Make sure to set a timer and shampoo after, thoroughly,” she says.
Can Hair Gloss Damage Your Hair?
Hair glosses rarely cause damage to your hair if used correctly. There are forms of hair gloss—often used as a color depositing shine for salon use—that are not damaging at all. As opposed to hair toners or other types of color depositing mixtures, many hair glosses don’t require hydrogen peroxide or other types of chemical developers, so your hair will be happy.
Shop Olivia's Casanova's Favorite Hair Glosses
"As far as glazes go, I love the IGK color depositing masks, especially because they have 'fun' shades. They make it easy to experiment with color without any commitment," says Casanova. You can shop IGK Color Depositing Masks in 12 shades, including a deep purple and a bright pink.
Shop Our Editors' Favorite Hair Glosses
Best Beauty-Editor Approved Hair Gloss
"I don't like to mess with my color—I prefer to leave my fake blonde-ness to the pros. But when I'm need of a little extra shine and have no time to head to the salon, it's always dpHue to the rescue. I love the Gloss + Sheer because it's able to make my color look fresh and shiny without messing with the tone."— Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Best Hair Gloss For Fine Hair
"I am obsessed with this treatment from IGK. Whenever I want to make my hair look extra, well, expensive, I apply this to the lengths of my hair for an extra boost. It's like the healthiest hair treatment in an easy-to-apply cream. Pro Tip: Apply it in the shower and then leave it in in lieu of a leave-in-conditioner if your hair is fine or gets oily easily." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Writer
Best Hair Gloss That's Also a Weekly Treatment
You can use this at the end of a shower for enhanced shine, whether your hair is color-treated, balayaged, or au natural. The other option is to work the gel into completely dry strands and leaving it on for 20 minutes. The effect? Luminous.
Best Hair Gloss With A Two-Part System
One of the newer products in our round-up, this has become a cult favorite among hair color fanatics for a reason: It's that good. There are 11 deliciously named color options—winter wheat, anyone?—that are meant to be applied on shower-damp strands. Simply combine the two bottles and allow to set for up to 20 minutes. Noticeable results can last up to five weeks.
Best Hair Gloss for Medium and Coarse Hair
With over 4,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this gloss from Kenra is designed to smooth frizz and curls for a sillky after effect. " have thick coarse hair that is always knotted no matter if I brush it. This stuff made my hair so soft, shiny and I could run my fingers through my hair," said one glowing reviewer.
Best Hair Gloss for a Glassy Sheen
If your hair color is fresh—or you're just looking for enhanced shine—try Bumble and bumble's clear formulation. Otherwise, check out the brunette, red or two shades of blonde (warm and cool) to intensify fading pigments.
Best Hair Gloss With a Pick-Me-Up Formula
If your color is getting dull, or if your hair just needs a pick-me-up, this light formula from Pureology works on various hair colors and textures. Coat hair with a thin layer while working in through strands to penetrate deeply. Whether you’re a blonde dealing with brassiness or have dark hair that needs shine, this vegan formula is for you.
Best Hair Gloss for Relaxed Hair
Ideal for relaxed and natural hair, this coconut glossing polish tackles frizz and dullness without the excessive greasiness of an oil. No product build-up here—in fact, if you’re looking to use a heating tool, this gloss is a great heat protectant for curly and kinky hair.
Best Hair Gloss for Curly Hair
Unlike most brands on this list, Oribe has a hair gloss for the curly-haired folks, with a gloss gel that helps define hair while coating softly for crunch-less curls. The hydrating ingredients of Passionflower Extract and Cupcuacu improve strands while in use, and even after wash day.
Best Hair Gloss for Occasional Use
Keep in mind, this treatment isn’t made for weekly use. When uses properly, the gloss should last 6-8 shampoos with improved pigment that’ll give you the luxurious shine without a salon visit.
Best In-Shower Hair Gloss
This one is for the mid-lengths and ends of your hair, so skip the roots when applying this product. It's a treatment that works quickly in the shower. Just apply the gloss to damp hair and let it sit for 1-2 minutes as the water transforms the formula into a creamy texture that saturates strands to eliminate frizz and enhance your natural or salon-done hair color.
Best Splurge-Worthy Hair Gloss
This pricey gloss from Oribe will last you forever—you only have to use it in the shower once a week. Simply put it on after shampoo, let it sit for up to five minutes, and then rinse out.
Best Oil Hair Gloss
This silicone-free oil is designed for all hair types and is lightweight enough to be used every day. It also contains kakadu plum, which is specifically designed to make curly hair look its best. You can also pick it up in a mini size for $14 rather than paying $24 for the full-size version.
Best Quick-Fix Hair Bloss
This product from Amika is the perfect combination between a gloss and a mask. In short: You get the best both worlds! It's formulated with hydrolyzed flax seed which deeply penetrates the hair for a boost of moisture and shine.
Best Affordable Pigmented Hair Gloss
Each tube contains up to three treatments of these low dose, ammonia dyes—there are eight colors to choose from—which deliver noticeably enhanced color for up to ten days.
Best Hair Gloss-Conditioner Hybrid
While most of the options on this list deliver a bit of pigment, this is quite simply a high-powered conditioner formulated to deliver shine and shine alone. Just three minutes as often as you like will give you a mirror-like finish that's not one big greaseball.
Best Mousse Hair Gloss
Just the right amount of dye—there are formulas for brown, blonde, and red strands—is delivered alongside smoothing castor oil and coconut fatty acids in a satisfying mousse formula. Work a palmful of foam into damp strands and set a timer for five minutes. NB: It's gentle enough to use up to three times a week.
Best Serum Hair Gloss
While this isn't a pigment-based product, you won't get too far down the road of researching glossing treatments before some wise colorist or hair color fanatic throws this guy into the mix. A few drops worked into wet or dry hair delivers some of the most satisfying, oil-free shine out there, thanks to hydrating, sealing compounds.