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"Barely There" Highlights
By Amanda Lenz, Product Club Educator (@hairstorybyamanda)

One of the most satisfying jobs of a stylist is blow-drying a client’s hair after a fresh color application, and inspecting your work for both placement and formulas. For many colorists, the satisfaction comes from creating looks so natural and organic, that the client’s hair looks as if it has been gently kissed by the sun, not artificially colored.

In my experience, through all the clients I encounter, there are some clients that are more adventurous than others. This can determine much of the work we do. But it also comes down to the type of hair color that each stylist wants to produce. I have always loved the challenge of using placement techniques, regardless of color palettes, to create a “barely there” highlight. This type of highlight adds subtle dimension, and an almost optical illusion to the existing color canvas.

Tips for Creating “Barely There” Highlights

Creating more natural-looking highlights requires a soft point of origin. There are several best practices you can follow to achieve this effect. Some of my most effective techniques include the following:

  • Using diagonal sections to create weaves or slices
  • Creating micro weaves or babylights
  • Feathering the lightener at the root of the highlight
  • Utilizing the best tools for easier application

Read on to find out more about each technique as I explain how to create this natural, organic brightness and dimension in the hair.

Using Diagonal Sections

When placing foils around the face or near the client’s part, using diagonal sections versus horizontal sections creates both movement and dimension. This type of sectioning follows the client’s head shape, which creates a natural look. Consider lightener placement around the face and on top of the head, as this is typically where the sun would naturally highlight hair.

Creating Micro Weaves

The size of a weave or slice can determine how soft or intense a highlight translates. Creating a micro weave or “babylight” creates natural dimension by using smaller, narrow strands. This look is a great way to design a super-soft hairline foil. Diagonally placed micro weaves on the hairline create a soft look that doesn’t get more natural than that!

Feathering Lightener

Foil placement, direction, and weave size can tie together to create a softened root when feathering is incorporated. When you take a rectangle foil, a square brush, and put it straight on a round head - how can that look soft?? Feather the lightener by angling the color brush on a slight slant and feathering the lightener up to the top of the foil. This little switch in application will create a subtlety at the root and an incredibly soft, gentle grow-in for the client.

Make the Right Tool Choices

An important tip to remember is to always use the correct tool for the job. As a hair color nerd, I’ve found that the technique can only be successful when you combine a great application with great tools. Using old or frayed brushes (you know the one, where you cut the little stray brush fibers off so you can keep using it) can cause major issues when creating those softened looks. My favorite color brushes are the feather bristle brushes. They have super tapered bristles that are perfect for this look and they do half of the work for you!

“barely there” highlight complete!
Next time you’re creating a “barely there” highlight, try incorporating all of the methods I mentioned, to create subtle, natural-looking highlights throughout the hair. 
Kristen Linares, Product Club Educator

Follow Amanda (@hairstorybyamanda) and Product Club (@productclub) for more expert tips on hair color education and salon business!

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