You may have heard of the balayage hair color technique, and wonder what the differences are between a foil highlight. The techniques vary, and the outcome is very different. They both offer highlights, but a balayage is a free-hand paint technique often processed in the open air. The bleach contains clay to keep it from drying and a foil uses aluminum foil as a heat conductor to help the hair lighten. There is also the "Foilyage" technique which allows the hand-painted highlights to process within aluminum foil; best suited for blonde highlights.
This highlighting technique has been around for decades, you may have first noticed it on "Carrie Bradshaw" of Sex In The City. Carrie, played by, Sarah Jessica Parker, had an effortless style and hair color. Her character dawned dark roots, with light waves. The balayage has morphed over the years, many opt for a natural balayage using complementary hues such as warm brown hair with golden highlights. The stylist is able to use their creativity to paint highlights in areas of the hair that look most natural; achieving a sun-kissed look! When I balayage, I scrutinize my client's hair color and enhance the areas already lightened by the elements. I will either work with their own natural hair root or color melt their root with a shade that compliments the highlights. For subtle lifting, open-air processing is recommended. The lightener is heavy, stays in place, and is processed gently. This type of balayage is perfect for those who do not want to spend countless hours in a salon or prefer less upkeep.
Similar to a balayage, a lightener is painted free-hand throughout the head, the roots are exposed and a lightener is placed below them. The foilage is best suited for those who desire blonde highlights, but still want the effortless look that a balayage offers. Hair can then be toned and the root shifted to a lighter shade. It is common to color melt the roots to the highlights to erase imperfections and create an even pallet.
Foiling goes right down to the roots from where the hair grows. Foils blend into the roots and appear as if one was born with the color. This technique can be used on all colors from dark to light, and every hue in-between. Each packet of foils may contain different complementary colors or just a few shades (highlight/lowlight). Darker hair process evenly within a foil since the aluminum foil serves as a heat conductor.
Wrapping a foil requires lots of practice to avoid slipping and bleed marks. When using bleach, it is important to understand that it swells, keeping the bleach slightly away from the scalp, within the foil, will avoid "skunk marks." There are many ways to foil and the pattern is chosen varies from stylist to stylist. We base the number of foils on our client's desired outcome and it's common to leave hair out in-between.
The Platinum Card
The "Platinum Card" technique is done by applying foils back to back without leaving hair out. This technique is used to replace the double process bleach and helps to avoid breakage. Once the foils are processed to the desired color, the hair is washed, dried and the stylists will then apply bleach to the roots. The "Platinum Card" offers great control over the bleach, the hair is processed carefully, and works especially well for clients with lots of different color tonality.
Some clients opt for a darker root, so the roots do not necessarily need to be lightened. This is quite time-consuming, it may only have to be done once or twice a year.
Your desired outcome will factor into which technique will render the best end result. It is important to consult with your colorist, evaluate the condition of your hair, discuss upkeep and products. Do you have a favorite technique? Feel free to share your hair color and pictures below.
Note: While there is a lot of fun to be had with a hair color chart and hair dye, if you have an existing hair color on your hair, you might need to be careful on the hair color remover and its process to achieve your baseline hair color to start from. While hair color trends for 2021 or Holiday Hair Color Trends might get you ready for a fun season, taking the right precautions will get you there stress-free.