Advice from the colour professionals on how to create highlights that pack a colour punch.
From creating drama to adding depth and dimension to your client’s hair colour, highlights can make a big impact on the finished look. We spoke with Alina Friesen a master stylist with A Michael Levine Salon Group and Wella Professionals artist based in Vancouver, Chad Taylor, co-owner of Moods Hair Salon in Vancouver, and stage artist for Joico’s national artistic team and Sean Godard, a Redken artist and creative director of colour at SalonTocci in Toronto, for their insights into colour placement and how to avoid the technical challenge of textured hair.
1. Colour placement
As Friesen explains, “colour placement determines where the eye travels when seeing the hair. It allows you to mimic light and shadow as it hits the hair, which gives you beautiful dimension.” For example, placing lighter tones on the ends, framing the face, including the fringe, and on longer, asymmetrical parts of the hair will draw the eye to those areas, while using a darker tone at the roots will give it a fuller look. “Whether you’re doing a photo shoot or a fashion colour in the salon, always tint the roots a bit deeper, it always makes unconventional colours look more natural.”
For the most natural results, Godard underscores the importance of beginning at the hairline. “I like to work horizontally moving up the sides and the back, which allows the weave [of the hair] to determine the highlighted areas” explains Godard, adding that this approach is both efficient and offers maximum coverage. Keep in mind that less is more, especially on the ends. “Natural highlights are not uniform all over the entire head,” says Godard. “I like a slightly deeper colour towards the nape of the neck to keep it natural looking.”
2. Accentuate the positive
When it comes to working with bold or pastel accent colours, including silvers and violets, Taylor says that pre-lightening the hair offers a pale base that results in an even tone. “The key with using bold or pastel shades is looking at the client’s skin and eye colour,” says Taylor. But if clients are keen on a hue that may not be ideal for them, he suggests framing their face with a few slices of their natural hair. For Godard, inlaying the accent shades is another option that creates a peakaboo effect within the shape of the cut.
3. Technically speaking
“Highlights should always have dimension,” says Friesen. “Whether they are blended or subtle or have more depth, there should always be movement in colour.” Although balayage and ombre highlights are popular in the salon, one of the more common challenges for colourists can be blending the highlights to achieve consistency in the colour and avoiding harsh lines.
“One way to avoid creating [balayage] stripes is by distributing more colour on the ends and feathering your colour up,” says Friesen. Taylor says colour bleeding can also be an issue — one that typically results from too much product at the edge of the foil. To avoid this pitfall, Taylor recommends paying careful attention to folding, which will help prevent the foil from slipping and eventual colour bleeding.
And when it comes to shorter locks, Taylor says the key is movement. “Only highlight areas where the hair moves,” explains Taylor. “Areas of scissor over comb or shorter graduation should be left as a solid or base colour.”
4. Texture trouble
When it comes to curly hair and different hair textures, Taylor, Godard and Friesen agree that it’s all about visual placement. “When you do beautiful colour with lots dimension, it gets lost in curly hair due to the texture,” says Friesen. To avoid this pitfall, Friesen begins by putting lowlights in the foil first, then incorporating balayage highlights in between. “This allows me to determine how thick or thin I want the lightness to be next to my darker tones.”
Godard reminds stylists that they’ll see more colour in textured hair because of the shape, compared to straight hair, which is flat. “For this reason, it’s important to think about the [specific texture of] the hair rather than the section on the scalp.” To achieve glowing locks with curly hair Godard suggests scrunching lightener into the ends, creates a brightener effect.
Highlighting The Trends
Here’s what these colourists are projecting as the next big thing.
1.“We are seeing a lot of shadowing, which is a gradation of colour that is a deeper [shade] in the root area and lighter at the ends. It’s a modern take on colour. Using Wella Professionals Color.id allows me to create a seamless blend without allowing colours to mix when I’m applying each one.”
– Alina Frisen, master stylist with A Michael Levine Salon Group in Vancouver
2. “We live in a time where clients are more open to experimenting with unexpected combinations. Moving into fall, warmer, richer tones with subtle highlighting techniques will keep your look current and fresh.”
– Chad Taylor, co-owner of Moods Salon, Vancouver
3. “Natural sun-kissed hair. Think sombre, which is a combination of highlights and balayage.”
– Sean Godard, artistic director for hair colour at SalonTocci in Toronto