Highlighting Techniques

Jodie Michalak
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Understanding the various forms of highlighting techniques will help you better decide what type of hair color you want and at what maintenance level.

Highlight Techniques and Styles

Highlighting techniques are what determine the overall pattern and look of a color process. Some highlighting techniques produce well-blended results while others create more dramatic effects. Before you schedule your next salon appointment, the following coloring lingo will help you better communicate your desires with your colorist.

  • Foil technique: Foil is the most popular form of hair highlighting. With this process, colorists are capable of applying several shades of color with well blended or drastic results depending on the sectioning and distance between foil application. Hair highlights, using the foil method, normally need to be touched up every 12 weeks, making this the perfect once a season color process for summer hair highlights.
  • Cap technique: For many years, the cap, or frosting technique, reined in the highlighting techniques category. If you had highlights in the seventies or the eighties, chances are you remember the cap and metal pic used to pull small sections of hair through a perforated cap. This dated application process is still used today on very short hair for ease of application. While the technique itself is effective, it can create a very dated and frosted look. If you have the means to opt for a foil application, they will be much more natural looking than highlights created from a cap technique.
  • Bayalage: While not nearly as common, bayalage, also known as the freehand highlighting technique, allows for an artful application of hair color. Rather than section hair into foils, hair color or lightener is directly brushed onto the hair to create a more expressive and natural contrast. While the bayalage technique can be a very creative form of coloring, it can go drastically wrong if sections are too large or color doesn't saturate enough to produce the desired result. While the process seems simplistic, it's best to use a professional colorist for this freehand, expressive form of hair coloring.

Consider Your Options

Before you opt for any form of highlighting techniques, meet with your colorist to discuss your options. If you have color on your hair, lifting it to the desired shade can be difficult. It's best to trust your colorist and heed their advice when it comes to the variable highlighting techniques they may consider for your hair.

Nearly anyone can opt for highlights. This much loved form of hair coloring is not only unisex, it's pretty low maintenance. Whether you're hoping to cover your gray hair or add some contrast to a bold color, highlighting techniques can help you achieve plenty of artful styles and ideas. For the truly creative, why not opt for a multitude of color applications? Rather than opt for a single use color or highlight, your colorist can blend several shades to create anything from a natural beachy look to a head-turning fashion statement.

Budget Your Look

Like anything, hair highlights require maintenance to look their best. Make sure you can afford the touch-ups before your decide on any of these highlighting techniques. Your colorist can help you find a style and maintenance level that's within your budget. Once you've got the look you love, maintain it as recommended to make touch-ups easier and less costly. In addition, treat chemically processed tresses with great care to avoid unnecessary damage and breakage.

While highlighting techniques vary, they all work with the same goal in mind: to lift the hair to a lighter level in a distinctive pattern. If you bear in mind results and looks vary, and you can achieve nearly anything with hair color. Whether you choose face brightening highlights or add a pop of drama with one bold chunk, hair highlighting makes it possible to express your personality with color.

Highlighting Techniques