"Gloss Smudging" Is L.A.'s Secret To Natural-Looking Hair Color

Photo: Courtesy of Kari Hill.
When it comes to getting your hair colored, sitting at the shampoo bowl tends to be the best part. Not only are you in the home stretch of what can take a very long time, but your feet are up, your eyes are closed, and someone is luxuriously washing your hair. There may even be a scalp massage involved. But, it turns out, this last step can make or break how natural your color looks when you walk out of the salon. The secret? Gloss smudging.
It was Mèche Salon's Kari Hill, one of L.A.'s top blond colorists, that turned me onto the technique — and I'm in very good company. The L'Oréal Paris ambassador's client list includes Taylor Schilling, Michelle Williams, Anna Faris, Karlie Kloss, and Mindy Kaling — and they all get the same treatment.
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"I smudge everyone who walks in the door," Hill says. "It takes away the line of demarcation we all had when we got highlights when we were younger." But the best part? Any colorist can do it on any color or texture of hair.
What Is Gloss Smudging?
"Think of it almost like an eyeliner with a smudger at the end," Hills told us. "It takes out the deliberate look of the highlight at the root." Now, keep in mind this only works when going lighter, but it's not limited to blonds — even caramel or mocha highlights benefit from a good smudge.
It's incredibly simple: After the hair is lightened and the color is washed out, it's toned as normal (if needed). Then, as a very last step (and normally done at the shampoo bowl to save time), a colored gloss or toner is applied with a brush, section by section, to just the roots.
The result? A soft, natural looking finish that takes less than 10 minutes and shouldn't cost anything extra.
Ready To See The Technique In Action?
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Convinced? Here's What Your Colorist Needs To Know
First off, know that the order is the most important. As you can see in the above video, Hill starts with the hair on the crown, then does the front last, only leaving the gloss on the face framing section for a few mere moments.
And don't worry if you hate visible roots: It can be incredibly subtle. "We can choose anywhere from the lightest, subtle shadow all the way to a deeper, darker hue, like you have a natural root," Hill explains, noting that you can shadow from a half-inch (for a light shadow like Schilling's) to two inches (which will look closer to subtle ombré, like the look above).
Here's where things get really good: "It actually buys you time between appointments," Hill says. "When we first started doing it, we called it 'recession hair.'" Why? The toner used to root the look is semi-permanent, so it fades within two months and you're left with naturally blended roots in its place.
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Now that we've gotten to the root of the technique (sorry, I had to), we want to hear from you. Does your colorist smudge your roots? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, then keep scrolling to see more of Hill's work.

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A post shared by Kari Hill (@karihillhair) on

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