George Papanikolas: If I had three words to describe balayage would be modern, effortless and low maintenance.
Eric Vaughn: If I had to describe foil highlights in three words, it would be classic, timeless and elegant.
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Balayage Vs Highlights
My name is Eric Vaughn. And I’m a Matrix artistic ambassador.
And a little birdie told me that you guys were kind of curious about the difference between traditional foil highlights and balayage.
Well, today I’m gonna be breaking down all things traditional foils for you guys.
We’re going to cover everything from like, what does it look like? How do you apply it? How long does it take to get? And what’s the maintenance like?
I’m going to break down all of those things for you guys on my beautiful model mannequin.
Okay, so before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s kind of sit back for a second and talk about what are highlights in a traditional sense.
So traditional highlights are when a stylist weaves or picks up hair and places into a foil for a lightening service. That can be anything from a micro weave, to a chunky highlight, all the way up to thick slices.
Okay, so now that we’ve talked about what a highlight is, let’s kind of chat about who a highlight is for.
Literally, anybody can get highlights.
Guys can get highlights, we can do highlights on fine hair, textured hair, coarse hair, more mature hair, anybody can get a highlight.
It’s all about the different highlighting technique within the foil that’s great for different hair types.
On curly hair, I like to do more of a chunky weave within my foils. So that way when the hair gets into its natural curly state, you see thick ribbons within the curls.
As to where in my lighter, more fine haired clients, little bitty babylights typically tend to be what’s more preferred, because you don’t necessarily see those thick bold ribbons of color, you see this very beautiful soft blended application.
And just like that, you can totally customize for anybody’s hair, whether they want a more subtle look or more bold look.
The thing that I love the most about foil highlights is that you can get maximum amount of lift in one session.
With balayage, you can get a fair amount of lift, but sometimes it takes multiple sessions to get where a traditional foil can get you in one to two sessions.
Whil we were doing our intro int what highlighting is I mentioned a couple different weaves that you can do within a foil. So let’s break those down so you can see.
The first one I’m going to show you guys is a chunky weave.
So I’m going to be taking thick, bolder pieces. You’ll be able to see bold ribbons of color. As I mentioned previously, this would be ideal for curly haired clients so they can see exactly how those highlights are going to look.
So I’m going to take my lightener and brush that onto the hair.
The great thing about traditional highlights is when we go into touch up for hair the next time when she’s got a little bit outgrowth, you’ll be able to see exactly where those pieces were so that way you can do an easy retouch appointment.
The next highlight that I’m going to demonstrate for you is going to be babylight.
Babylights are very popular right now. And this is exactly what a babylight looks like for those of you who have never seen one before.
Can you guys see the difference between the last chunky weave and this more subtle, fine babylight?
This is great for those clients who want to see a sunkissed effect without actually physically being able to see those ribbons of color.
A full highlight service with any type of weaved highlight throughout the entire head can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the speed of the stylist.
So when I’m doing a full highlighting service on my guest, sometimes I like to combine different weaving techniques to give it more natural effects.
So some areas I’ll go in with a more like chunky bold weave that you saw me do in the back, and then maybe on the top, I’ll do something a little more babylight.
So you’ll get more bold pops of color through the underneath, which we like to see those ribbons, with a very soft, subtle effect on top so it grows out really nice and natural.
Traditional foils that go all the way up to the root will usually need to be touched up every six to eight weeks.
Traditional highlights at home need to be maintained typically with a purple shampoo like Matrix So Silver or any color care products at home.
When you go to your stylist bring in lots of photos. It really helps us to pinpoint what your eye is drawn to. 9 times out of 10 you’ll pick a lot of looks that have th same weaving or foiling technique without even knowing it but it’s what your eye naturally is drawn to.
So bring in quite a few photos and really explain what you like about these photos. Whether it be the babylights or the chunky ribbons of color.
Be super detailed when talking with your stylist.
George Papanikolas: Hi guys, I’m George Papanikolas, Matrix celebrity stylist. I’m a hair colorist who is based in Los Angeles at the Andy Lecompte Salon as well as in New York at the Rita Hazan Salon.
In the salon I specialize in hair color, and I’m actually mostly known for the balayage technique.
It’s what most of the girls come in to see me for. It’s a lot of the celebrities I’ve worked with over the years, I’d say like the last like 15 years, usually the balayage is the one that is probably the most impactful.
It’s the one that has girls ripping pages out of magazines for and it’s really what has made me really the most in demand in the salon for.
So when people think of balayage, typically they think of the effect more than the technique when they’re coming into the salon looking for the service.
So when you leave the salon after your balayage or service, you’re usually going to have a more sunkissed effect, beachy surfer girl. There will be a lot of dimension in the hair. That’s usually what it’s known for.
And the reason is because we really target the areas where the sun would really hit the hair.
And those three areas are the face frame, the hair’s natural part and the ends.
That’s really where the sun would really have the most effect on your hair naturally. Like let’s say you spent all summer at the beach. So that’s really what as a colorist using the balayage technique we’re trying to really recreate.
So when I say effect versus technique, it’s two different things.
So when you really define balayage from the French word, it means to sweep. So that means it’s typically applied by hand, hand painted on, and what that does, you know, compared to a foil is that you have a lot more artistic freedom.
So you can focus, you know, on all this little baby hairs gradually getting thicker and heavier as you move down the hair, which allows you really to have an artistic customized effect.
What I especially love about balayage is that it works with any hair density, tone and texture. So it really has a universal appeal.
It really could apply to almost any client.
One of the reasons that balayage has a universal flattering effect on people is because it could really be dialed up or dialed down, you know, really depending on what the client really wants.
If you want to go super, super subtle, barely there, just a few shades lighter that you know, naturally would happened in the sun, that’s definitely an option if you just go totally freehand.
If you want it to be really bold, really strong, tons of high contrast, again, that could also be done because of the strategic placement.
Now the key is really, you know, playing off the light and dark. I think that’s the most important part to get the most beautiful balayage.
So you want to make sure that there’s a lot of their negative space, a lot of their natural color still there as a foundation that way, the highlights really contrast off of that, and it gives it the real pop.
Balayage is also great for a first time color client, you know again, you’re starting with a really, you know, strong foundation for the color.
So you can, the colors can really go in there, give that contrast give that dimension. But if you’re starting from an already heavily foil highlighted, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t an option for you, it just means that they’re gonna have to go in and add some of that depth first.
One of the key benefits of getting balayage versus foils is that especially if you do the freehand technique, it tends to grow out a lot softer, it has a much more, you know, balanced grow out.
You know, when you think of foils, usually the bad part about them is that you know, they they do the weave, they put in a toner to soften the root but the problem is that toner washes out relatively quickly. So in a few weeks you have a pretty harsh demarcation line.
Where with balayage, if you feather it towards the root, you get a much softer effect there and you get a little bit more depth that root as well.
So it gives you a little bit more time between your appointments, it’s a much more forgiving, you know that time between your appointment you’re not going to get a hard line and really it’s just going to make your maintenance a lot less than a typical foil highlight will.
The other benefit of you know, balayage highlights is that they usually are tend to be relatively fast. But again, it depends on which colorist and which technique you’re seeing.
But at least the approach that I usually take, I’d say you’re in and out of the salon with your highlights in about an hour and a half.
Typically, most balayages can come in about every three months, but a lot of girls especially when you’re working with your natural hair color and don’t have any gray, you know, you can see them every six months, nine months, and it usually grows out fine.
So the key at-home care tips is really keeping the hair super hydrated. You want to have a really hydrating mask. You’re also going to want to have a purple shampoo and conditioner or a blue based shampoo and conditioner. Like the Matrix Total Results Brass Off.
What that’s gonna do it’s gonna give you a really shear violet or blue based pigment and that’s going to neutralize any unwanted tones.
And what’s great about it, it’s a great home follow up service so you don’t have to go back into the salon for toners for glosses, it’s just a really easy upkeep just to keep the color balanced and exactly where you need to have it have a really beautiful end result.
Samantha is a hairstylist with over 12 years of color and stylist experience. She enjoys using her knowledge to create what her clients really want when they sit down in her chair. Her passion is creating unique looks that her clients feel great in.