From Babylights to Balayage: Know Your Highlighting Techniques
Highlighting techniques have come a long way from a rubber cap and hook – from balayage to babylights, these days there are more options than ever for colourists.
And, thanks to consumer mags and social media, clients have never been more knowledgeable about the techniques on offer and how they should look – or how they think they should look.
With research suggesting that blonde clients are the most loyal salon-goers out there, maybe it’s time to swot up on your blonde colour techniques for your clients. Here, with a little help from expert colourist Jack Howard we find out more about the most popular highlighting techniques on offer and how to achieve them for your clients.
What is it? “Babylights are superfine strands of colour running throughout,” says Jack. “This technique makes the hair look multi dimensional because the Babylights are so fine.”
How do I do it? “Babylights are done with meche or plastic wrap,” says Jack. “You can either go heavily or lightly depending on the finish you want, but the idea is they’re micro to look natural. If you go heavier it’s a stronger look but still lovely and soft. If you go lighter, it’s so fine it looks like you were born with it.
“My go-to lightener is L’Oreal Professionnel’s Platinium, which lifts beautifully but leaves hair shiny and in good condition. Maintenance wise, you’ll need to retouch every eight weeks on heavier babylights, but you can go longer (12-14 weeks) on more gentle microlights. This technique can be done on any shade, not just blondes, but I love the impact it has for blondes.”
What is it? “Balayage is a French word meaning to sweep or to paint,” explains Jack. “It allows for a sun-kissed natural-looking hair colour, similar to what nature gives us as children. There are softer, less noticeable regrowth lines – the principal idea being less is more when creating soft, natural looks.”
How do I do it? “The Balayage pieces should be very close and soft at the root leading to a thicker highlight at the ends of the hair,” says Jack. “Balayage is applied on the surface of the section and not saturated through the section until the very tips, otherwise you would have a streak of colour that isn’t vey soft at all. It can also be called a freehand technique because no foil or meche are used to create the highlights.”
What is it? “Ombré is a technique where the colour goes from darker at the roots to gradually lighter at the ends,” says Jack. “It also is a French word meaning ‘to shade’.
“The great thing about ombré is that it can be subtle or a really strong look depending on your lifestyle,” he continues. “And it’s really easy to maintain. Since the technique took off, colourists and clients have been playing around and are now really having fun with it. We can see all sorts of variations for all different taste levels.”
How do I do it? “I take a section and weave it, backcomb it and then paint on what is left,” says Jack. “I use a feathering motion, saturating the ends, laying plastic wrap over it and repeating. Only go halfway up the hair or and work with the curve of the head so that when it’s finished there is soft flow of colour from darker to lighter.”
What is it? Ecaille is a French word meaning tortoiseshell. “Consider ecaille the moody sister to ombré and bronde,” says Jack. “It’s not as as dramatic as ombré but it’s more obvious than bronde. Golden lights are mixed with darker, richer caramel tones while incorporating shades of honey, amber, golden blonde and dark brown paired with gloss.”
How do I do it? “To achieve this look I’m working with a variety of techniques,” says Jack. “These include babylights throughout for a gradual blended minimal look and a face frame of balayage around the front. Ecaille features many different shades. Some may choose to add more amber or honey tones but others could opt for darker bases and golden strands. That’s the beauty of this trend; it’s a matter of preference. The best results come from working with shades that complement the skin tone – just a few shades lighter and darker than the base to avoid a colour that’s too dramatic.”
What is it? Everyone wants to be blonde – even brunettes. Introducing bronde – the perfect infusion of blonde and brunette. “Bronde is perfect for darker haired clients who want to try out a lighter colour,” says Jack. “It can be warm, neutral or cool.”
“For years, anyone who was born with mousey hair has fought against it, either going blonde or switching all the way to brunette,” he continues. “Dark brunettes struggling with orange-toned highlights or too-light pieces against their skin can now appear healthy and natural.
How do I get it? “The key to the perfect shade of bronde is to lighten hair by freehand painting pieces making sure that the colour is softer near the mid-section and thicker towards the ends and is even all the way through,” says Jack.
“Just make sure you don’t have too much of a contrast between the roots and the highlighted ends or you’ll end up looking like you’ve had a dip-dye – this look is fresher and low on up-keep. This colour is great for people who don’t want to completely take the plunge and go either way (full blonde or full brunette) and great for natural brunettes who want a little bit of lightness. I’ve found that most celebrities sporting bronde are within two shades of their natural colour.”
What is it? Instead of a gradual fading of colour from dark at the roots to light at the ends, dip dye is much more of a sharp contrast. The dipped section can be any colour you want but vibrant shades of bright pink and My Little Pony blue are popular.
How do I do it? “Dip-dye is achieved when the ends of the hair are dipped in a pre-lightener before being coloured,” explains Jack. “Lift the hair until it’s a very pale yellow and then colour away!”
Lead image credit of Isobel Eaton