What's Good (And What's Not) In At-Home Hair Glosses

At-home products have been growing in popularity, but will they damage your hair? We asked the experts.
Andreas Kuehn via Getty Images

Who doesn’t want glossy hair, especially when it means your color shines through more vibrantly? Perhaps you want to give your naturally brunette hair a color boost, or maybe you’ve just had your hair colored and you want to keep your new highlights looking fresh for longer. Whatever your situation is, you might have thought about a tinted at-home hair gloss.

These products are normally quite affordable and easy to apply. But what do they really do? Are they good for your hair, or are there reasons you shouldn’t use them? We asked four hair experts to find out.

What ARE hair glosses, anyway?

There are clear hair glosses that simply condition and smoothe the hair, but we’ll be focused on the tinted versions. They contain pigment to create a nonpermanent color change, and they also condition and can add shine to your hair. The final color result depends on various factors, from your natural hair color to the amount of pigment in the product to how long you leave it on for.

Benefits of tinted hair glosses

Tinted glosses can be an easy way to play with your hair color. They’re semi-permanent, meaning the color will wash out over time (typically after eight to 10 shampoos).

The semi-permanence comes from the size of the pigment molecules, explained Guy Parsons, a trichologist, hairdresser and founder of My Hair Doctor.

“They stain the hair, they are synthetic or vegetal pigments, which are too large to penetrate the inner sanctum of the hair, so they lay on the outer layer, reflecting light and creating the illusion of shine,” Parsons said. “They act like filler does for a hole in a wall by smoothing over the outer layer of the hair.”

Experts said glosses were good for refreshing and correcting color tones (including brassy ones), as well as for increasing shine.

“Hair can end up dulling itself out from styling it with hot tools, hair dye and sun exposure,” said Jamila Powell, founder of Naturally Drenched and Maggie Rose Salon, a texture-focused hair salon in Florida. “A hair gloss will help to work against all of these factors, smoothing and conditioning the hair cuticles to restore a healthy shine and vibrancy.”

Guy Tang, a color expert and founder of #MyDentity, recommends clients use glosses between hair-coloring appointments. They are also a more affordable way to change your hair color in comparison to a full color treatment.

Who can and can’t use tinted glosses?

The experts agreed that, by definition, everyone can use tinted hair glosses.

“Hair glosses can be applied to any and all hair types and textures,” Powell said. “Hair gloss is a very universal product, so it can be used whether your hair is thin and straight, thick and curly, or anywhere in between.”

But Parsons noted that care should be taken when choosing the gloss color.

“They can really serve a purpose in terms of brunette tones, as they can enrich brown hair, and red tones can enrich red hair,” he said. “However, they should be treated with a little caution as the violet tones can easily change the color of blonde hair to a variant of violet.” He recommended taking a small amount from a tester and pouring it on white tissue to see the true color if you are blonde.

And on really dark hair, a bright color will probably not make a big difference. But Tang said you could opt for something like a dark red gloss to enhance your hair’s red tones or go for a clear gloss to just ad shine.

Clariss Rubenstein, a celebrity hairstylist, explained that hair glosses won’t lighten or lift the hair color — so as long as you use them to enhance your color or cancel brassiness, you’ll be fine. She said a gloss is the next best thing if you can’t have color correction done in a salon, but she still advised consulting your colorist first.

Can glosses damage your hair?

The experts agreed that glosses won’t damage your hair if you use them correctly. But there are a few things to be mindful of.

Hair glosses are far less damaging than regular hair dyes, but Powell still advised not using ones that are high in chemical content very often.

Rubenstein said overusing tinted hair glosses will likely result in buildup in the hair and scalp. “Some glosses can have a small amount of peroxide in it,” she said. “If used sparingly, it won’t dry hair out. If used excessively, then buildup will occur.”

What should you avoid?

Be extra careful if you are allergic to certain ingredients or color treatments. Powell advised avoiding glosses if you’ve been sensitive to other hair color treatments in the past.

A bad hair gloss may cause an allergic reaction or the color may last longer than advertised, Parsons said.

“Most importantly, you are looking to avoid PPD, a time dye molecule, which is not only more of a permanent hair color molecule but also is proven to cause allergic reaction and possible anaphylactic shock,” he said. “One should also look to anything that may allude to permanent coloring such as ammonium-based ingredients.”

Overall, the experts agreed that a tinted hair gloss can be an easy way to boost your hair color in between appointments — so as long as you don’t overuse them or aren’t allergic to them, you’ve got a green light to give glosses a try.

The tinted hair glosses recommended by the experts

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“One of my favorite hair glosses is the Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner from dpHue. It’s offered in a wide variety of colors and shades, so anyone can use it! The gloss is really effective and leaves your hair visibly softer and shinier.” — Powell

“DP Hue has beautiful colors and deep conditions. It's a great product and gives real results.” — Rubenstein

Get dpHue Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner (10 shades, plus a sheer option) for $35.
Kristin Ess
Kristin Ess
“Another one of my go-to glosses is the Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss. This gloss also comes in a ton of different colors, and the results are super long-lasting!” — Powell

Note: HuffPost’s Senior Editor of Style & Beauty is a natural redhead and loves the Copper Penny shade to give a natural-looking vibrancy when her hair looks dull.

Get Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss (10 shades, plus a sheer option) for $14.
Rita Hazan
Rita Hazan
“Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss is fantastic. It's easy to use and the result is so shiny. Her ‘Breaking Brass’ color tones in the most incredible way. Rita is the color queen and I will use anything and everything she makes. Her root concealer for between color jobs is the best (just throwing that in there!)” — Rubenstein

Get Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss (three shades) for $26.
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