Translucent vs. Opaque hair color

Q: I am confused about the terms, opaque and translucent. In the color classes I attended, educators used those terms in describing their line of color. I thought if the color was light it was translucent and as the colors get darker they become more opaque. The educators say “no,” their darker colors are translucent as well. Is that a good thing? Sandra, San Francisco, CA

A: The words translucent and opaque came into existence as descriptive terms with the introduction of demi-permanent hair colororants, as a means to distinguish them from their permanent counterparts. Demi-permanent colors lack the depth of coverage that can be achieved with the permanent ones, and hence they were referred to as translucent, which sounds nicer than saying “incomplete coverage”. But you have every right to be confused because the term “translucent” is used in different contexts, where all it means is “grey blending” as compared to “grey coverage”. Sometimes it is quite desirable to have a “translucent” or “blending” effect on a head of hair especially when the amount of grey hair is less than 10%. Obviously at no time you want to use hair color that deposits an opaque flat paint-like look, because there are several products on the market which deposit natural-looking opaque permanent colors with good reflectance and shine.