Foilyage, balayage, and highlights are all popular terms in the world of hair color right now. But to a non-hairstylist, how does one determine the difference between the three, and know which to ask for when booking an appointment? Let’s clarify and get you in the know!
Highlights, Balayage, and Foilyage
All three of the above-mentioned services are techniques used to add lightness to the hair. Your stylist will decide which service to do based on your desired look.
Highlighting is a technique that involves sectioning out weaves or slices of hair, painting on color, and encapsulating them in tinfoil or other thermal papers to achieve lighter colors. Typically, you will get a more uniform look from highlighting and there will be a more noticeable demarcation line as your highlights begin to grow out.
Balayage (pronounced ba-lay-age) comes from the French word “to sweep” or “to paint”. The effect is very soft and mimics the way the sun would lighten your hair if you spent a day at the beach. Unlike traditional foil highlights, where the color is evenly saturated from roots to ends, balayage is painted on in a gradient effect. The result of balayage is a lived-in hair color, with low maintenance due to its soft grow-out. See our article on balayage here for more info.
By not using tinfoil, the level of lightness in balayage is not as high as when using foils. Before the invention of foilyage, stylists struggled to get blondes light enough. Warm blondes were easy to achieve, but icy cool blondes became difficult. A new method needed to be created to help get hair to a coveted lighter and cooler blonde tone.
The Creation of Foilyage
Foilyage was invented to combine the best of the balayage and highlighting worlds. Foilyage achieves low maintenance, lived-in colors with a soft and natural grow out, just like balayage. By adding tinfoil to encapsulate hair color, higher levels of lift and lighter colors of blondes can be more easily attained.
What is Foilyage?
Foilyage follows methods similar to balayage. A sweeping technique is still used to give a gradient effect. With foilyage the hair is wrapped in tinfoil, as opposed to processing in open air or being wrapped in saran – adding tinfoil, allows for maximum color lift. This allows for creating cooler hair tones, like platinum, which are in high demand these days.
Foilyage vs Balayage
As we’ve learned earlier, foilyage is going to get blondes blonder than what is possible with balayage. If you desire an uber blonde tone, this is the service you need to ask for.
In general, foilyage hair colouring is a longer process than balayage. Balayage can be a short and quick service since larger sections of hair are used. Foilyage uses slightly smaller sections of hair, and the stylist must paint each section of hair and then wrap it in tin foil. Often there is a longer processing time if you want lighter colors.
What Style is It Best For?
Foilyage is best for those wanting maximum lightness. Balayage can only lighten the hair so much, especially if you have previously colored hair. By incorporating foilyage, a stylist can achieve lighter colors much more easily achieved.
Is Foilyage Only For Blondes?
Definitely not! Stylists use this technique anytime they need more lightening power. If you have black or very dark brown hair, foilyage is a great way to add dimension to your hair.
Often times dark color can be quite difficult to lighten as darker colors have a lot of red under-pigments. This means as you lighten dark hair, you will see a lot of red. For those wanting a look with lighter brown ends, we need to lighten the hair more to remove red tones. Foilyage is great for this. By adding tinfoil over top of hair color, lighter colors can be achieved. This will create softer colors like caramel, chestnut, or mushroom.
Foilyage is also a great option in corrective color. When there is layer over layer of dark color on the hair shaft, it can be difficult to remove. But since the tinfoil amplifies the lightening affect, it is much easier to lift away dark hair color and achieve a lighter result.
Are There Variations?
Yes. You may often see your stylist backcombing your hair during foilyage appointments. This gives an even more seamless grow out. It also ensures you keep darkness at the root area. This is often called a “drop root”.
Is It For Me?
If you are looking for lighter blonde colors with very soft grow outs, or are wanting to achieve maximum lightness on dark hair, then foilyage is the technique for you!
Victoria Carlson is a master stylist who has been in the industry since 2005 and has a true passion and enthusiasm for hair and fashion. She has spent her styling career training and working in top salons in Edmonton, AB and Sydney, Australia, and is currently located at Lavish Beauty Lounge in Regina, SK. Victoria’s specialties include precision cutting, curly hair design, and braidwork. She believes continuing education is of utmost importance and is always expanding her knowledge by taking classes and staying up to date on the latest hair trends. Victoria is Unite Hair’s Regional Educator for Saskatchewan. She loves traveling the province, connecting with other stylists and sharing her passion for the brand.