Everything You Need to Know About Foilyage, Explained

The new technique delivers a beach-ready hair color.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

The world of perfectly highlighted hair is fickle. One minute, it's all about balayage, and before you know it, foil highlights are back. Right now, the trend of foilyage, a hybrid of balayage and foil highlights, is picking up steam — although that doesn't mean other highlighting techniques are over.

Foilyage is a rather intricate way of highlighting the hair and involves using a foil off the root line and a balayage technique from the mid-shaft down to the tips. While it’s ideal for those with naturally darker hair who want brightness, lightness, and the oomph of highlights without a striped or chunky look, foilyage is becoming the go-to for amplified highlights.

But before you ask your colorist to foilyage your hair at your next appointment, there's a lot to know about the method to determine if it's right for you.

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The Benefits of Foilyage

Highlight techniques differ, and what works for one head of hair may not be best for another. For example, darker hair is more challenging to lift to a lighter shade of pale, and some highlighting tactics may not make the hair light enough. Celebrity colorist Ryan Pearl explains that foils trap heat within them, so there's more of a faster lightning effect to help get the hair blonder. "Bleach lifts how it is supposed to when heated up, which is why we use foils," he says.

Foils are used on the top part of the hair, closest to the scalp, for blending at the root while leaving out the ends and 'painting' them, which creates the beachy look that foilyage is known for.

Foilyage is also great for adding dimension throughout the hair, especially at the back of the head. "I use the technique on almost all of my clients, particularly when I want to create brightness through the bottom of the hair," he says. "It's perfect for that, no matter the natural color of the hair."

Besides the beautifully blended color that foilyage achieves, a major benefit of the technique is that regrowth is well hidden because no harsh dividing line exists. Since the highlights don't sit at the root line but rather a few millimeters off it, the grow-out is more natural than traditional foils, which usually leaves a demarcation line, says Michelle Hong, founder and creative director of NYC The Team. Plus, you can stretch your color between appointments longer, since the look of foilyage is more lived-in.

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Foilyage vs. Balayage

Both foilyage and balayage have their place in a colorist's toolbox for creating a natural look with lighter ends, but your hair color and the look you ultimately want dictates which technique your colorist will use.

Balayage creates more of a subtle, sun-kissed effect, whereas foilyage produces more color pop. The application method between the two techniques is different too: balayage is a free-hand painted and air-dried approach to highlighting that concentrates on the length and ends of the hair; foilyage relies on foils at the top and balayage midway through the hair to the tips, which are generally lighter than the rest of the hair.

Although foilyage and balayage have similarities, foils make lifting the hair to the desired shade easier and keep the look natural with blended highlights. "Conversely, balayage is more artistic and can lighten the hair in specific areas to give highs and lows where the hair falls," says Hong.

Foilyage vs. Highlights

Traditional highlights and foilyage incorporate foils, but foilyage puts a different spin on things. With foilyage, there's no harsh delineation like conventional foil highlights, resulting in a far more natural and blended look.

When Pearl foilyages the hair, he first teases it to diffuse any lines. "This also creates a less contrived look than a typical highlight because the color is created off the roots rather than on it," he says.

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How to Maintain Foilyage

When preserving foilyage highlights (and lightened hair and highlights in general), many people reach for a purple shampoo to tone down brassiness and pop the brightness — but Pearl is adamant about not using one. "They flatten out the color and leave behind a casting on the hair that dries it out," he says Instead, he recommends regular glosses to refresh the color once it begins to fade, explaining, "glosses give a more customized color and a conditioning benefit to the hair, too."

Washing the hair too frequently can also dull the results of foilyage. "When you do shampoo, use a color-safe shampoo like Shu Uemura Art of Hair Color Lustre Shampoo, and don't use very hot water, which will put the color out faster," Hong says. "So will sweating and swimming." Weekly treatment masks — try Colorproof Instant Reboot Treatment Masque — and bond repair treatments like Epres, which rebond the hair’s structure to repair chemically-damaged hair, are also musts.

When it comes to heat styling, Pearl recommends using hair oils to help protect and preserve your color and hair. "Apply an oil to the hair and brush it through before applying heat," he says. "Doing this lets the added oil heat up rather than the hair's natural oils to protect the integrity of the hair and, therefore, its color."

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